Educational attainment at age 11

The proportion of 11-year-olds not meeting expected standards in reading and maths is half what it was 15 years ago and lower than at any point since then. Gaps persist, however, between pupils eligible for free school meals and other pupils.

Progress in educational attainment at age 11 picked up in 2014, having slowed in 2013 after 2012 saw the largest fall in the proportion of children not achieving the expected standard (Level 4) in reading and maths since 2000. Nonetheless, progress in maths is continuing at a steady pace while the proportion lacking the required standard in reading fell 3 percentage points in 2014 after a slight rise in 2013.

Some 14 per cent did not achieve the expected standard in maths while 11 per cent did not achieve it in reading. In both areas this marks significant improvement over the past 15 years, particularly for maths, which has fallen from 31 per cent in 1999. The proportion lacking Level 4 or above in reading has halved from 22 per cent in this period. While educational attainment in reading has fluctuated over the past few years, maths has seen a steady improvement. As a result, there has been convergence to the point where the differences in attainment by subject are much smaller than in the past.

Despite these decreases, the second graph shows that gaps persist between pupils who are eligible for free school meals and those who are not. For both girls and boys, pupils eligible for free school meals are almost twice as likely not to achieve the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics as those who are not eligible. Some 41 per cent of boys and 32 per cent of girls eligible for free school meals did not achieve the expected standards, compared with 21 per cent of boys and 16 per cent of girls not eligible for free school meals.

The graph also shows that there is an attainment gap between boys and girls at age 11, with girls out-performing boys whether receiving free school meals or not. The gap is more pronounced, however, between girls and boys eligible for free school meals, at 9 percentage points, than between girls and boys not eligible for free school meals, at 5 percentage points.

Indicator: 31A

Indicator: 31B

about the indicator

Level 4 is the level that children are expected to reach in the Key Stage 2 assessments in the final year of primary school (year 6). Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments are based on the outcome of national curriculum tests in reading, maths, grammar, punctuation and spelling and teacher assessments.

The first graph compares the proportion of children failing to reach Level 4 in reading and maths at Key Stage 2 (age 11) in national curriculum tests for all mainstream schools. The second graph shows, for the latest year, how the proportion of children failing to achieve Level 4 in reading and maths tests and in teacher assessments of writing at Key Stage 2 varies by the gender of the pupil and free school meal status.

To be eligible for free school meals, parents have to receive means-tested out-of-work benefits, i.e. they have to be workless. While this is the best available proxy measure, it excludes children in low-income working families – around half of the children in low-income households.

Reliability rating: high. This indicator uses administrative data collected over a long period.

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