More pupils are reaching both the expected and higher standard in Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments (SATS), according to the government’s latest analysis. However the figures, released by the Department for Education (DfE) last week, also show that there has been a widening of the gender gap between the attainment of boys and girls.

Overall 65 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths (combined) in 2019, a modest increase from 64 per cent in 2018. Additionally 11 per cent of pupils reached the higher standard in 2019, again a small increase from 10 per cent in 2018. Girls outperformed boys in all subjects, with 70 per cent of girls reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths (combined) compared to 60 per cent of boys. The gender gap was just 8 percentage points (pp) in 2018.

Elsewhere the data shows that 51 per cent of disadvantaged pupils reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths compared to 71 per cent of all other pupils. This gap, of 19pp, has decreased from 21pp since 2016. However, the gap in achieving the higher standard between disadvantaged pupils and all other pupils has increased from 5pp in 2016 to 8pp in 2019. There was more encouraging data for pupils with a first language other than English, where the attainment gap has fallen from 4pp in 2016 to just 1pp this year. Overall 64 per cent of pupils whose first language was other than English reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths compared with 65 per cent of pupils whose first language is English.

Responding to the data Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, suggested that the performance of disadvantaged pupils is linked to government spending decisions, saying ‘They have disproportionately suffered from funding cuts not just to education, but to all the wider services that should be there to help them. Successive governments have failed to invest in those who need it the most, and now we see the result – a sustained long term gap over many years between disadvantaged pupils and pupils from more affluent families.’ On the widening gender gap he commented ‘There is a long-standing gender gap when it comes to reading and writing, which is certainly a concern, and is something teachers are constantly attempting to tackle.’

Speaking about the data schools minister Nick Gibb said ‘We want all pupils to leave primary school equipped with the knowledge and skills that will help them to be successful in the rest of their education and beyond – that’s why I’m pleased to see an increase in pupils reaching the very highest standards at the end of primary school.’ He added ‘We reformed Key Stage 2 tests in 2016 to make sure they assessed schools’ performance in equipping pupils to understand the new, improved primary curriculum. These results are testament to the hard work of pupils, parents and teachers.’

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