“The number of 11-year-olds getting better than expected results in Sats has dropped this year.
The key stage 2 national curriculum test results, published by the government today, show that the numbers achieving “beyond expectations” level 5 dropped in all three subjects.
In English it fell from 34% to 29%, from 32% to 31% in maths and by 3 percentage points in science to 44% (48% in reading, 20% in writing).
Jim Knight, the schools minister, said: “The drop in level 5 is clearly very disappointing and we need to examine more carefully what’s behind it.”
However, the number of pupils achieving level 4 in KS2 reading, writing and maths rose one percentage point to 61% after ministers predicted a two percentage point fall.
Girls are still outperforming boys: 75% of girls achieved level 4 or above in English and maths combined, compared with 70% of boys in 2008.
In the build-up to the results, ministers had warned the removal this year of borderlining – where test scripts that fall just below level thresholds are checked – would lead to lower results.
But the number of pupils getting level 4 in English and maths has increased one percentage point to 72% compared with last year.
Some 81% of pupils reached level 4 in English, 86% in reading, 78% in maths and 88% in science. Just 67% reached the recommended level in writing.
The data was published despite only 97.1% of schools having received their full results.
Around 33,800 children did not receive English results on time and about 17,400 did not receive maths or science results.
Absence rates for pupils sitting the tests have fallen three percentage points since 1995, which may also account for the rise in results: “It is estimated that the proportion of pupils achieving the expected level has increased by 1-2 percentage points as a result,” the government says.
Teachers have questioned the quality of marking after problems with the company contracted to run the tests, ETS Europe. Record numbers of requests for remarks over disputed papers are expected, but ministers have said the exams regulator Ofqual is convinced the results are of sufficient quality to publish.
Knight said: “I want to congratulate schools and pupils for all their hard work. Over the last decade there has been sustained improvement at KS2. Compared to 1997, 101,000 more 11-year-olds are now achieving the target level for their age in English and 93,000 more in maths.
“There is still more to be done before our education system is truly world-class, and while I am pleased that there continues to be steady improvement overall, the results at the higher level show more needs to be done to improve personalised learning to ensure that all children fulfil their potential at this crucial stage.”
The shadow schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: “These are alarming figures, suggesting that fewer pupils are achieving excellence, and that pupils are not being stretched to the best of their abilities.
“Since Labour came to power, a total of over three million pupils have not obtained the basics in the three Rs, and ministers have still failed to hit targets that they promised to meet two years ago.
“We must ensure that every pupil leaves primary school able to master the basics and read properly. Only once pupils have learnt to read can they read to learn.”
ETS Europe’s vice-president, Andy Latham, welcomed the results, insisting that this year’s marking was of equal or greater quality that in previous years.
Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the results showed steady and sustained progress overall, reflecting the hard work of teachers and pupils.
“This year, as every year, the results are based on a statistically robust sample. Any claims that not all the results are available and, therefore, they should not be published should be dismissed as ill-informed nonsense,” she said.
“The fact that the administration of the tests was handled very badly by a contractor does not impact on the validity of the results. These have been independently verified by the chief statistician and Ofqual and confirmed as fit for purpose.”
John Bangs, the National Union of Teachers’ head of education, said: “I still can’t understand why the results were published in the first place. The previous decision to remove borderlining, combined with ETS’s incompetence, can only increase the size of the question mark over the results.
“Indeed, it is extraordinary that a whole range of changes, including the removal of borderlining, should have been agreed with a new and inexperienced contractor.
“While the reliability of the key stage 2 results has to be treated with a massive pinch of salt, there is no evidence of a decline in standards. Despite this year’s chaos, primary schools are doing well.”
The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the results were subject to the outcome of school appeals over marks and checking exercises in the autumn.
The outcome of the Sutherland inquiry, which is looking into the problems with delivery of this year’s Sats and the further advice from the qualifications and exams regulator, Ofqual, will also be taken into account.
The results of Sats for 14-year-olds are due to be published next Tuesday, but a final decision on timing will be taken towards the end of this week.”