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One in four pupils record poor results

14-08-2007

One in four pupils record poor results

14/08/2007 The Irish News

Thousands of children are recording poor results in secondary school exams taken the year before the start of GCSE study.

More than a quarter of pupils sitting the voluntary tests in English, maths and science are failing to meet the required standard.

Unlike A-levels and GCSEs, the results of Key Stage 3 exams are not publicised.

However, the scores of every pupil in the north have been obtained by The Irish News - the first time such detailed data has been released.

The information, collected by the north's exams board - the CCEA - further highlights the unsatisfactory standards of literacy and numeracy achieved by many children.

Schools are given the option of entering pupils into this series of externally assessed tests at the end of their third year of secondary education.

While there is no requirement to take part, many teachers and principals view the tests as important in preparing children for the demands of GCSEs.

Results can also be used to determine whether a pupil should be placed in an academic or vocational stream.

A high percentage of grammar schools no longer enter the Key Stage 3 exams, which are due to replaced by 2010.

Most pupils who do take them sit two tests in each subject and there are about 25,000 entries.

The CCEA both provides and marks the tests.

In addition to subject tests for those that choose to avail of them, teachers also make their own assessment of pupils' performance in English, maths, science, as well as Irish in Irish-medium schools.

As in primary school, children are categorised according to the level they have achieved.

Programmes of study at Key Stage 3 range from level-one to level-eight and the government expects the majority of pupils to be working at least at level-five at the end of their third year of post-primary school.

About one in every four children failed to reach the target in English last year.

Of those assessed by teachers, 24.2 per cent were said to be below level five. The external exam found that 27.3 per cent missed the target.

More children are expected to under-perform in the tests - this is often put down to illness or exam nerves.

Examiners say the teacher-assessed element is a more accurate reflection.

Those below level five in English are experiencing difficulties with reading, writing and talking and may be having trouble with spelling and punctuation.

In maths assessments, teachers said 27 per cent of pupils were below the level expected.

The exams confirmed this, with 27.5 per cent only reaching levels one to four.

Similarly with science, more children fared better in the assessment than in the test, although about a quarter again failed to reach the required standard.

As with Key Stage 1 and 2 assessments a strong link between exam performance and social background was evident.

In English, only about one per cent of grammar students were below level five while more than 40 per cent reached the highest level possible in the exam.

In secondary schools more than 35 per cent were below level five in English with just six per cent of pupils reaching the highest level.

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