THE number of pupils making progress in reading and maths in the district's primary schools has increased - but Bradford Council admits it has to "close the gap" with the rest of the country.

Nationally, the results have improved twice as much as in Bradford - a situation described as "deeply concerning" by critics.

Preliminary figures for this past summer's Key Stage 2 SATs have been released, and show improvements on the previous year.

Of the 6,643 pupils who sat the exams in Bradford, 88 per cent made the expected two levels of progress in reading, up from 87 per cent last year. In writing the figure was 92 per cent, the same as in 2013. And in maths the number was 88 per cent, up from 87 per cent last year and 80 per cent five years ago.

The proportion of pupils in Bradford achieving a Level 4+ in reading, writing and maths has also increased, up from 69 per cent in 2013 to 71 per cent this year. Nationally this figure rose from 75 per cent in 2013 to 79 per cent this year.

Final figures and tables will be released in December.

One Conservative Councillor has said better use of the district's libraries could help Bradford close the gap on national averages.

Earlier this year, councillors had raised concerns over the performance of children in Key Stage 2, especially in maths and reading.

Michael Jameson, Strategic Director Children’s Services at the council, said: "This is very provisional data, so we need to treat it with care.

"Clearly in key areas we are heading in the right direction. Nevertheless it seems national results have improved at a faster rate, so we need to focus on accelerating our improvements through strong support and challenge to our schools.

"To that end we are proactively reviewing how we work with schools to ensure we are doing absolutely all we can to speed up our improvements."

Cllr Ralph Berry, Executive Member for Children's' Services, said the results were encouraging, adding: "It is also good to see, for instance, that we have reversed last year's decline in the reading test, with a modest rise in the proportion of pupils achieving Level 4 or above.

"However we are urgently looking at our partnerships with schools to ensure we are working smartly and efficiently with them to accelerate our improvements."

Cllr Debbie Davies, Conservative spokesman for education, said: "I am deeply concerned that Bradford is not even keeping up with the national figures, never mind closing the gap, particularly in reading.

"Reading is a skill for life and vital for all school subjects and quite frankly we should be doing better. I'd like the Labour council to take this issue more seriously and focus on children developing a love of books from an early age as otherwise it is too late.

"We have some fantastic projects and facilities in the district but we need to make better use of them. We have some wonderful under utilised public libraries and I feel sure more could be done to encourage schools to work in partnership with our libraries."