Report warns of 'worrying trends' as Bradford pupils' results are among worst in country (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Report warns of 'very worrying trends' as Bradford's primary school pupils' reading and maths results now among worst in country
THERE are "very worrying trends developing" in the academic performance of children in their final years at primary school in the Bradford district, a committee will be told next week.
A breakdown of last year's Key Stage Two results show that gaps between Bradford and the national average are rising in the basic skills of maths and reading, and Bradford now lies in the bottom five of 152 local authorities for both subjects.
The warning follows a detailed annual analysis of school exam results which will be discussed by the Council's children's services scrutiny committee next week.
The report looks into how the district's schools performed last year, major issues schools are facing and what is being done to improve standards in the district.
Councillor Ralph Berry, the Council's portfolio holder for children's services, said there was a raft of measures in place to help improve the achievement of Bradford's young people, and there was a major push to prepare them for education even before they start school.
And politicians in the main three groups agree that parents need to play a much bigger part in their children's education before results significantly improve.
Although there are promising signs in some areas, the report describes the 2013 results for children sitting their final exams before they move on to secondary school as being "particularly disappointing".
Gaps between Bradford and the national average narrow in foundation stage when children first start school, but widen in tests for Key Stage One, taken by children aged six and seven, and Key Stage Two, taken by children aged eight to 11.
There is also "particular concern" about the pupils' performance at opposite ends of the scale of academic ability which range from children with special educational needs and those described as being the most able.
The district's primary schools are also seeing mixed results in Ofsted inspections. In July 2012, 65 per cent of Bradford's primary school pupils were taught in schools ranked as "good" or "outstanding" by Government inspectors, and while that figure rose to 82 per cent by the end of the last school year, it had fallen to 74 per cent by last month.
In most age groups throughout primary and secondary school, the best performing ethnic group are Indians, with Pakistani heritage children performing below the Bradford average.
Discussing Key Stage Two results, the report says: "In writing, Bradford's results have kept pace with national improvements but in reading and maths the gaps between Bradford's performance and the national figures has widened, leading to a decline in Bradford's rankings against other Local Authorities.
"This places Bradford in the bottom five local authorities in reading and maths."
Twenty four schools are now below the minimum Government standard for primary schools. The Department for Education has previously said that if these schools did not improve they could be forced to become academies.
Cllr Berry said the issues highlighted in the report were ones that the Council and schools had already recognised and were tackling head-on.
He took part in an open Education Forum, where parents could raise issues about education at City Hall yesterday, and one of the main topics for discussion was maths.
Cllr Berry said it was important that the best performing schools were recognised, and their practices were shared with other schools.
He added: "We have to make sure each school is working with its children, parents and community, and that schools have the extra support to do that. We have provided additional money for school improvements.
"There is no point in trying to shy away from some of these problems. By the time you get to Key Stage Four a lot of these issues have ironed out.
"We have to deal with a lot of issues early on, that is why we have supported projects like the National Literacy Hub and the Canterbury Imagination Library.
" A lot of the issues are to do with what the Born in Bradford Project has already highlighted, like the amount of time young people spend exercising and how much interaction they have with parents, things that will eventually help them in school.
"Something needs to be given by everyone to prepare children for schools. Schools and parents have to give them consistency, encouragement and support if we want children to do better.
"We have to get our young people ready for school, as well as improving the schools they go to.
"We are absolutely clear what our schools have to do. Ultimately it is about the quality of teaching."
He pointed out that in some schools in the city there was a large transient population, and at schools like Whetley Academy many pupils stayed for only a few years before moving on to other areas.
David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, said: "English and maths are crucial to get a firm foundation.
"I'm sure in Bradford we have excellent examples of schools that are teaching these subjects to a high standard, and what we've got to do is share these techniques. Collaboration is far more important than competition."
Debbie Davies, the Council's Conservative group education spokesman, also felt that what pupils did out of school was just as important to improve standards.
She said: "Whatever they do at school needs to be supported at home. Maybe parents need more help with finding ways to do that.
"Parents should be encouraged to take their children to the library. There is only so much teachers can do in schools a most children learn a lot from home life. Their early years are absolutely vital and they need to love learning."
Kris Hopkins, Keighley Conservative MP, said: “Increasingly educational attainment levels was the absolute priority for me when I was Council leader and it must remain the priority for the district if it is to achieve its potential.
" We fought very hard at that time to win back the right for the Council to educate our children, and we cannot let them down.
"The current leadership of Bradford Council must use all resources at its disposal to respond to the educational challenges faced and responsibility also lies with parents.
"It is not just about sending our children off to schools. It is also about becoming personally involved in their educational development by assisting with reading and other forms of study at home to ensure they do their very best when in school.”
Councillor Malcolm Sykes, chairman of the scrutiny committee that will discuss the report, has already produced a 16-point plan to improve the performance of the district's schools, and he said he will continue pushing these points, even when schools do improve.
"These results just make these points more important and they are going to be followed through on," he said.
Cllr Sykes said one of the recommendations is that the Council looks at more than just league tables and exam results to see how schools are performing.
"I want us to be able to flesh out the things that schools do well that are sometimes ignored in reports like this," Cllr Sykes said.
"Just because Bradford isn't performing well in all areas doesn't mean that people aren't trying their hardest. The figures aren't the best, but we are hoping for a better result this year, we have to keep battling on."
The scrutiny committee meets at City Hall on Tuesday at 4.30pm.
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