Primary schools slip in rankings

Sonia Sharp
Sonia Sharp

SHEFFIELD’S 11-year-olds failed to push forward in their final primary school tests last summer - leading to a slump in the city’s national rankings.

The number of pupils reaching required standards in both English and maths stalled at 71%, up just 1% on last year, according to performance tables published today.

It brings to a halt three years of steady improvement following the rock bottom showing of 2007, when Sheffield was in 147th place out of 150 local authorities.

Sheffield’s ranking this year is 130th, down from 116th place in 2010.

The city remains 3% below the national average, which remains the long term target for Sheffield’s 112 primary and junior schools.

But education chiefs say other indicators are overwhelmingly positive, leading to expectations that improvements will resume in 2012.

Although 5,500 children took this year’s SATs, experts in the Town Hall are focusing attention on just 165 pupils whose performances failed to match expectations.

Maggie Williams, lead council officer on school standards, said research showed that children had to make steady progress in each year group if they were to make the grade at the end of their primary careers.

“We keep data on the performances of each individual child in the city and it is our duty to challenge schools if pupils are not making the required progress,” she said.

Mrs Williams said final calculations could show the city’s pass rate had improved by 1%, but that was not good enough. “We need to improve by 2% a year at least if we are to catch up on national figures.”

When calculations are made to take into account levels of disadvantage, the city would rank 105th if it was fully punching its weight. If youngsters did achieve the national average, Sheffield’s ranking would soar into around 70th place.

But executive director of children’s services Dr Sonia Sharp said there were a number of other positive indicators which showed the city was still heading in the right direction.

“Last year we had 20 primaries failing to meet minimum Government targets of 60 per cent of pupils passing both English and maths - this year that figure will be down to below 16,” she said.

“Another good sign is that 67% of our schools are now rated good or better by Ofsted inspections.”

Also encouraging for the council are improved performances by children eligible for free school meals – up 5% – and pupils with special need, up four.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “We should not forget that a number of schools in the city have worked extremely hard this year and their individual performance results show this.

“However, overall Sheffield’s position is not a good one and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We all need to pull together to work even harder if we are going to stand any chance of overcoming this hurdle.

“We will be doing everything we can to help those schools which may need an extra push to get the results they are capable of.

“We do need to aim to improve on our position in the league tables by next year but the focus should not just be about league tables. We need to get the right results for all of our children.”