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‘Deprivation’ warnings as two in five Norfolk children fail basic skills

PUBLISHED: 18:58 21 January 2020 | UPDATED: 18:58 21 January 2020

Areas of rural deprivation are affecting Norfolks childrens struggle to achieve basic skills, a councillor has warned. Photo: PA

Areas of rural deprivation are affecting Norfolks childrens struggle to achieve basic skills, a councillor has warned. Photo: PA

Areas of “rural deprivation” are affecting Norfolk’s children’s struggle to achieve basic skills, a councillor has warned.

Figures published by Ofsted have revealed that more than two in five primary school pupils in Norfolk are struggling to meet standards in maths and English.

The schools regulator published its annual report on the national state of education, which found just 59pc of Norfolk youngsters were meeting targets in reading, writing and maths.

And "pockets of deprivation" has been highlighted as a factor in pupils being left behind, with the national average proportion of pupils reaching the expected Key Stage Two (KS2) standard at 65pc.

READ MORE: 'Real nemesis' of below average performance by Norfolk's 11-year-olds

Independent Norfolk county councillor Sandra Squire. Pic: Norfolk Independent Group.Independent Norfolk county councillor Sandra Squire. Pic: Norfolk Independent Group.

Sandra Squire, independent county councillor, said the figures were a key part of understanding the attainment gap between male and female pupils in the county.

"Yesterday we were looking at the gap between girls and boys and that is important but when you look at our girls' results they are not that great either," she said.

"We need to look at the barriers to education and how we can improve them."

READ MORE: Call for investigation into why Norfolk schoolchildren score below average

Ms Squire added: "I don't think it's necessarily a reflection on schools or teachers - it's a reflection of social mobility and society in Norfolk as a whole.

"I don't think you can point the blame at schools in particular. We all need to work together to fix it."

And the councillor, who leads the independent group at Norfolk County Council, said deprivation was a key issue in education, and added: "We need to start looking at how deprivation affects communities. [It's] not just in urban areas. There are pockets of deprivation in rural areas.

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"There's not so many services out there. We need to look at it more holistically rather than point the finger at schools."

Data released in the annual report showed 69pc of pupils in Norfolk are achieving expected standards in KS2 reading, compared to 71pc in Suffolk, 74pc in Essex, and 73pc in England.

While figures for maths attainment show 74pc of Norfolk's children reaching the expected standard versus 76pc in Suffolk and 79pc in Essex and England.

READ MORE: Revealed: How your child's primary school performed in latest tests

To achieve expected scores, pupils must score more than 100 in reading and maths tests.

At the end of August 2019, 85pc of schools in the East of England were deemed good or outstanding by the regulator, versus 86pc nationally, with 85pc of school's in Norfolk hitting the top two grades.

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What did Ofsted say?

The region's Ofsted director highlighted "significant weaknesses" in special educational needs provision across the East of England.

Paul Brooker said the annual report showed social care and education remained "strong" and "serves its pupils well".

He said: "Most of our primary and secondary schools are at least good."

He added: "It's no surprise to see primary schools in Essex, Hertfordshire and Southend doing well, but inspection outcomes in places like Bedford and Cambridgeshire still lagging behind."

He added: "As a region, we remain concerned about how well we support our most vulnerable pupils, particularly children who have special educational needs and/or disabilities and pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. We still don't do well enough here.

"Our area-wide inspections of special educational needs provision highlight significant weaknesses right across the region."

What about the gender gap?

The report comes after the county council pledged to close the gender gap among reception year pupils.

And Sandra Squire, who proposed the motion on boys and girls attainment at a full council meeting, said the gap in achievement became wider towards the end of children's primary school years.

She told councillors Norfolk ranked 144th out of 152 local authorities at KS2 in 2018, putting Norfolk in the lowest 6pc of all local authorities.

She added: "[The gap] can be particularly troubling at the end of KS2.

"Secondary school is very different to primary school and some children take some time to adjust.

"The gap between girls and boys widens and once it gets to the end of primary school it's quite wide."

And Ms Squire added: "One of the things that came up was just how important it is for fathers to read to their sons. It can take just ten minutes and it can make such a difference."

What did the council say?

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council said: "We continue to work with schools and academies to support improvements in all key stages.

"There have been improvements in the proportions of pupils reaching a good level of development, and Key Stage 4 outcomes are in line with national figures.

"Key Stage 2 outcomes remain a focus for us and for many schools and academies."

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