What counts as being able to read, write and add up properly?

8 April 2015

"Under the last Labour government 1 in 3 of our young people were leaving primary school unable to read or write or add up properly"—Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, Radio 4 Today, 8th April 2015.

The numbers are accurate, the debate is in what "properly" means.

What the Minister means by "properly" in this context is children achieving level 4 at Key Stage 2 (which 11 year olds are expected to achieve). These children are able to "show understanding of significant ideas, themes, events and characters", write in a "lively and thoughtful" way and use "adventurous" vocabulary, and to "add and subtract decimals to two places". Almost two in three children (64%) achieved this level in reading, writing and maths in 2010.

The remaining one in three children includes those who achieve level 3 at Key Stage 2 who are by definition able to "read a range of texts fluently and accurately" and write in a way which is "often organised, imaginative and clear".

The Education Secretary has previously been rebuked by Sir Andrew Dilnot, who runs the UK Statistics Authority, for claiming that this one in three figure relates to young people "unable to read or write". We welcome the caution that's now being taken by the Secretary in saying that one in three is the proportion of children who are in her view unable to read, write or add up properly.

Update 09/04/2015

We missed out 'primary' school in the Education Secretary's quote. This has now been changed and we're sorry for the error.

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