Children Young As Five Could Be Ranked In League Tables

The academic achievements of children as young as five could be put in league tables, ranked against their schoolmates, according to new plans being discussed by ministers.

The Government has put forward proposals for new measures which would see youngsters put into 10% bands or deciles, based on their achievements.

Parents would be told their child's position, for example that they are in the top or bottom 10% in the country, for a particular subject.

The move is one of a package of measures set out by ministers which they say will help to raise the bar on achievement in primaries and ensure that youngsters are ready for secondary school.

Schools face being labelled as under-performing if they fail to ensure that more pupils reach higher standards in English and maths tests and 11-year-olds will be expected to gain higher results in their national curriculum tests.

Primaries will need to make sure that more of their pupils are reaching these new tougher standards, or face instant Ofsted inspections and being singled out for improvement measures.

The Government is also consulting on bringing in a new "baseline assessment" to ensure children are making progress, which could be "a simple check of a child's ability" in their first weeks of compulsory schooling, or maintaining existing teacher-marked tests at age seven.

The current system requires that children reach Level 4 in English and maths at the end of primary school, with primaries expected to ensure that 65% of their pupils achieve this standard. They are also measured on the progress they make between ages seven and 11.

But ministers are proposing that from 2016, schools will need to have at least 85% of their students reaching the new higher standard.

The plans, outlined by Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, contain measures to scrap national curriculum levels and introduced a new scoring system which is used in international tests.

Primary schools are also set to be given hundreds of pounds more for each poor child to help improve standards among disadvantaged youngsters.

Clegg announced that the pupil premium - cash for disadvantaged school-age children which is aimed at raising achievement - is to rise to £1,300 per eligible primary pupil in 2014/15 compared to £900 this year.

"Every primary school should strive to make its pupils ready for secondary school by the time they leave. All the evidence shows that if you start behind, you stay behind. A better start at secondary school is a better start in life.

"I make no apology for having high ambitions for our pupils. But for children to achieve their potential we need to raise the bar - in terms of tests, pass marks and minimum standards. I am confident that primary schools and their pupils will meet that challenge."

He added that the increase in funding, alongside education reforms will "help ensure that all pupils are ready to reach their full potential in secondary school."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said: "Our primary schools have made huge gains over the last decade and are capable of going further still if measured fairly and treated respectfully. Additional pupil premium funding may also help counter-balance cuts elsewhere.

"The Government has a fondness for testing young children in the belief that the tests create reliable measures of performance. They don't. And, by relying only on what can be measured, they risk missing what matters. There is far more to being 'secondary ready' than a score on an hour's test. A teacher's judgment, built up over four years, has much to contribute."

His comments were echoes by Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

"It is difficult to see how a 25% increase in the primary floor standard between 2010 and 2016 could be realistically achieved without wide-scale teaching to the test and other inappropriate drilling techniques," she said.

"Given that approximately 20% of children have some form of special needs, this new target will doom many of them to 'failure'.

"Considering that half of all secondary schools are now academy status, often through coercion or force, an increase in floor targets for the primary sector is surely nothing more than a further land-grab for the academies programme."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The Government needs to be cautious about potential unintended consequences arising from a number of the proposals it has announced today.

"School level assessments are fine in principle but in the context of current high stakes accountability, with no framework for support or provision of resources, the outcome is likely be a bureaucratic nightmare for teachers which could undermine high standards."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: "The problems with the tests at the end of primary school are well documented. Most secondary schools re-test pupils at the start of year 7 because they don't trust the accuracy of data they have to work with. A fairer, more accurate way of measuring pupils' ability at the end of primary school is certainly needed.

"I am not convinced that ranking 11-year-olds will help to raise standards. There are better ways of making it clear to parents and children what they should be achieving at the end of primary school.

"I worry what will happen to those children who have tried hard yet are told that they are in one of the bottom bands. Children at that age mature differently and their confidence can be easily damaged. It could make secondary teachers' job in building self-esteem and confidence even more difficult."