Norfolk's 14-year-olds 'slipping back'

Norfolk's 14-year-olds, who have long been the cream of the county crop, are slipping back towards the national average after a “disappointing” performance in key skills tests, it can be revealed today.

Norfolk's 14-year-olds, who have long been the cream of the county crop, are slipping back towards the national average after a “disappointing” performance in key skills tests, it can be revealed today.

In recent years the teenagers have outshone the efforts of 11- and 16-year-olds by setting an impressive pace in English, maths and science - and in reading and writing.

This year, despite staying just ahead of the national average in most of the subjects, the gap with the rest of the country has narrowed.

The county has fallen from 57th to 68th of the 150 English local authorities after the percentage of youngsters getting the target level five or above in English stayed at 74pc, fell from 79pc to 77pc in maths and from 74pc to 73pc in science.

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The national average is 74pc for English, 76pc for maths and 73pc for science.

In reading, performance soared in Norfolk from 67pc getting the target level in 2005/6 to 72pc last year. But in writing it dropped from 76pc to 72pc.

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Out of Norfolk's 52 high schools, 23 posted improved overall results, 28 saw results dip and one remained the same.

Despite the mixed performance, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, Rosalie Monbiot, offered her congratulations to pupils, teachers and parents.

She said: “We have been working closely with schools to raise standards in English and it is good to see that we have seen progress in this area this year.

“There have been impressive improvements in reading, which put us above the national average in this area.

“We will therefore be focusing our efforts on continuing this improvement and raising attainment in writing.”

Mrs Monbiot added: “It is disappointing that results in maths and science have not maintained the upward trend of previous years and we will continue to push for improvements across the board.

“Three-quarters of Norfolk's 14-year-olds are reaching the national standard in all three of the core subjects and this is extremely encouraging for the future.”

Labour schools spokesman Peter Harwood said council leader Daniel Cox had recently pledged to get Norfolk's schools above the national average, but the dip at key stage three showed the “direction of travel” was wrong.

He accused the Tory administration of “seriously diminishing” the life chances of Norfolk's youngsters through underinvestment in education.

Mr Harwood said: “This administration had received £35m more cash this year and chose to spend just £1.9m additionally on children's services with a small amount of this going to support our schools.

“In my view the position that these figures demonstrate is one of a failing Tory administration that has its priorities away from Norfolk's public sector schools.

“So despite the hard work and support that is undoubtedly provided by the school communities themselves, the Tory pledge is hardly inspirational and seriously diminishes the life chances of Norfolk's youngsters.”

Suffolk's performance was also unspectacular this year, with English results down from 77pc to 76pc, maths down from 78pc to 77pc and science remaining at 77pc. The county is 49th of the 150 local authorities.

Cambridgeshire is 24th in the national league after English improved from 77pc to 79pc, science from 78pc to 79pc and maths dropped from 80pc to 79pc.

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