A Third of UK Children Still Struggle in the Three-Rs

A Third of UK Children Still Struggle in the Three-Rs

I was driving home from work last night, and as per usual, I tuned into the PM program on BBC Radio 4. Among the usual daily political squabbles about the Hacking Scandal, the debt crisis in America and the conflicts in Libya and Syria, there was a piece about the 2011 Sats results that caught my attention. Well, when I say "caught my attention", I actually mean that it left me reeling with anger and bemoaning the fact that we so often fail children. Let me explain...

The Sats results for 2011 were released yesterday - you can read more about it here - and the upshot of it is that although the overall number of 11 year olds who reach the minimum standards has increased a little bit, a third of them still do not reach the basic levels in either reading, writing or maths before going on to secondary education. As the journalist was explaining what these results meant, she cited the following as being the main reasons for children not attaining the basic 3Rs standards:

  • Learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia) 
  • Financially deprived backgrounds
  • Difficulties relating to English not always being the children's first language

At no point in the piece did the journalist ever mention that these failures might also be down to the teaching methods, the people who teach them, the schools they go to or even the curriculum we impose upon them. That's what got me so annoyed.

Why is it that we are so quick to put the onus of failure on to children and parents, rather than re-evaluating how we teach and what we teach?

I can remember my own time at school, and frankly, my grades were more likely to reflect how good the teacher was and how interesting he or she made the lesson, than the subject itself or my ability to grasp the concepts that were being taught.

What do you all think? I'd love to hear your thoughts and anecdotes.

2 Comments Isabelle Duarte

Posted by
Isabelle Duarte
Wed 3 Aug 2011: 4:46pm



  • Isabelle Duarte:

    Thanks for your comment Ataul. It's good to get the views of teachers in this. I love the concept of zone you talk about. Keep your comments coming.

  • Ataul:

    As a former Eng language and Maths tutor myself, I agree that teaching methods (not just related to how a concept is conveyed, but also the atmosphere imbued into a lesson) should have been on this list. The centre I taught at was in one of the most ethnically diverse areas I've seen, with a wide demographic regarding financial backgrounds too.

    I found (though I admit it's quite a small sample size and the journalist may have access to better data) that it was difficult to associate a family's wealth or poverty with how well their children learnt. It was often that kids from less fortunate backgrounds used to work harder during the sessions, but even in these cases, there didn't seem to be any direct, proven link with a family's social status.

    It's wrong that financially deprived backgrounds is on this list of 'reasons'. It might be a trend, but that's not the definition of causality.

    We used to work in teams, such that if a kid wasn't working well in our 'zone' we'd move them to a zone with tutor that either approached the child differently, or had a rapport with already.

    How disjointed my comment has been, irony.

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