Village schools are top the class in the latest league tables of pupils' performance.

All south Craven's, plus Steeton and Silsden's primary schools and middle schools in Haworth and Cullingworth meet the grade in the government's annual test of 11-year-olds. Catholic schools also surpass the government's targets in the three core subjects of maths, science and English.

But most of Keighley's inner town schools - Calversyke, Grange, Highfield, Swire Smith and Worth Valley middle - all fall below the national average in the tests.

In North Yorkshire-run schools, only Cowling just fails to reach the government's targets in one subject. The remaining south Craven primary schools are all well above average.

Alan Robertshaw, head at Kildwick Primary School, says: "We are very pleased with the results, but I think too much can be read into them, especially for a small school like ourselves. The teachers know what the children are achieving anyway."

But in the Bradford district it's a different story. Six of the Keighley's 15 middle and primary schools lag behind in all three core subjects.

The bare statistics don't tell the full story, however, says Calversyke Middle School head David Brett.

He says it is unfair to pit different schools against each other, although the tests do allow parents to see how their children's schools have improved over the past 12 months.

"The school has done very well, and we have doubled the exam scores over the past three years," Mr Brett adds. "We put in a careful programme of teaching, homework clubs and an action plan. As a result of the work we have put in we have seen improvement across the board.

"We are not complacent, however, and we are always looking to improve the provision for our students."

The tests make no compensation for students off ill or on holiday - which had a 'devastating effect' on results at Eastburn Junior School. Head Elizabeth Pratt says the absence of two pupils on test day knocked the school's results back by 15 per cent - to below the national average.

Nor do the tests take students' social or cultural background into account, something which schools in impoverished areas or where there is a large proportion of ethnic minority pupils say is not fair.

"The last Ofsted report we had was very encouraging," says Zafar Ali, chairman of governors at Highfield Middle School, which has a large Asian intake. "The government did highlight some of problems and we have been tackling them. We will be discussing the test results at next month's governors' meeting."

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