County’s tiny tots show big improvement in skills

The tiniest tots in East Anglia’s schools are making their presence felt after posting a big improvement in their skills.

Four and five-year-olds in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire recorded better performance almost across the board in key skills including reading, writing, adding up, creativity and their attitudes.

But in Norfolk and Suffolk the joy at better results was tempered by the fact that they remain behind the national average in the majority of the 13 areas measured.

Early years experts in Norfolk are now looking closely at each assessment area to redouble their efforts to catch up with their rivals across England.

The findings are revealed by the Department for Education (DfE) in its annual look at the results of teacher assessments of children in their first year at primary school. Children are ranked from levels one to nine, with six the target level.

The assessments are carried out by teachers, who build up a broad picture of a child’s performance by observing their work, behaviour and interaction with other children.

Last year, results slumped in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire - prompting concerns about growing social, emotional and behavioural problems in the region’s classrooms.

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But this year, the proportion of youngsters reaching the target level six rose in 11 of the areas in Norfolk, and in 12 areas in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

And the percentage of children reaching at least level six in all 13 areas rose from 48pc to 50pc in Norfolk, from 46pc to 50pc in Suffolk and from 50pc to 55pc in Cambridgeshire.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “In the last year, we have strengthened our early years support to schools through our primary school support team and continued our support to other pre-schools and nurseries. This is reflected in both the improved results and the inspection grades Ofsted have awarded to our early years providers

“We will now look closely at the performance in individual assessment areas and schools to see how we can target our support to bring about further improvement.”

Mrs Thomas also highlighted figures showing the achievement gap between the lowest achieving 20pc and the rest.

in Norfolk, the gap has narrowed by 3.4pc to 31.6pc in a year. In Suffolk, it has narrowed by 1.6pc to 33.6pc and in Cambridgeshire it has widened slightly by 0.1pc to 32.3pc.

Mrs Thomas said: “The gap between the highest performing children and those who may find learning more difficult is better than the national average and one of the best scores in the region. This is a credit to schools and teachers who are working hard to make sure no children are left behind and are providing good levels of support to those with special and additional needs.

She added: “Last year’s results showed we had halted the dip in the scores and we have now built on that and seen a steady improvement.”