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A good idea but not new as some secondary schools are already opting to doing something similar to this already by reducing the key stage 3 curriculum in some subjects to two years (years 8 and 9).
These schools then use the time this frees up to provide additional literacy and numeracy teaching in year 7 to those pupils who need it. Though I suspect such practice at the moment only catches those with the very lowest literacy and numeracy levels where as your proposal would affect all those who fail to reach level 4 (a substantial number in some schools). Also you propose they should stay back in primary school to do this rather than undertake it at a secondary school. I think economies of scale would make the provision more cost effective if the idea was delivered in secondary rather than primary schools. These are details that I don't believe render the proposal unworkable so in my opinion they should get the yes vote though current best practice should be diseeminated more widely.

Mark Wadsworth


Any policy that opens up the discussion on the appalling standard of literacy and numeracy in this country must be worth pursuing (even though this particular policy may not be the best solution). As has been pointed out, today's 15 and 16 years olds have spent their enitre school life under a Labour government. The decision should be made by individual schools, if we still had grammar schools, then year one of secondary moderns could effectively be the remedial year.

Jack Bains

It already happens in many places - I am red faced that party members and candidates feel this is a "new" policy. Please delete this whole policy before we look really stupid!

Jack Bains

It already happens in many places - I am red faced that party members and candidates feel this is a "new" policy. Please delete this whole policy before we look really stupid!


A bit harsh Jack but I agree with proposing stuff as new that is already happening in some schools does run the risk of making the party look out of touch and ill-informed about current practice.


Jack - what percentage of pupils fail to reach level 4 at key stage 2? What percentage undertake a remdial year? It is far from common practice.



A couple of further comments/questions about your proposal.

What do you suggest should happen if pupils at the end of their remedial year have still not achieved level 4? Should they remain at their primary school for yet another year (and potentially never leave)or be allowed to progress onto secondary school at that stage. There will always be some who will probably never achieve level 4 for a whole host of reasons.

Daniel Hamilton

Excellent idea - I completely agree with the idea of remedial classes for pupils that fail to hit reading and writing targets at age 1l but could I also suggest that we think about the idea of also introducing these classes as the end of Key Stage 3 before pupils begin their A Levels.

SATs have always served as a way of monitoring the progress pupils make between KS1, 2, 3 and 4 inside individual schools, so surely it would be desirable that pupils who are not achieving the basic levels expected of them at each of these levels should be placed in remedial classes until they reach the appropriate academic level to advance on to the next, more difficult level?


Just a point of clarification Key Stage 3 SATS take place at the end of year 9. That is the stage before they start GCSE not A level courses.

The idea of holding someone back if they haven't met the grade is fraught with potential pitfalls. If we hold them back a year there is no guarantee they might achieve then. Then what? Do we hold kids back until they do achieved the expected grade? If so we could have teenagers still in infant school because they have failed to achieve level 2 numeracy and/or literacy? Such a situation is clearly not viable and would sap what little self-confidence these kids did have and they would be a disruptive influence on the younger kids in their midst.

The answer I think is to do this with setting in secondary schools. Teaching can then be tailored to the individual students ability. What if a kid achieved level 4 in literacy but not numeracy (or v.v.) would you hold them back? If so surely their literacy would not progress.

I believe economies of scale make this less viable in a primary setting. In some schools up to half the kids would have to do the year where as in others it would only be one or two. Bringing them together in a secondary would ensure there was suffecient numbers of kids for them to target suffecient resources at raising standards. Also the kid that achieved in literacy but not numeracy would not be held back in one but could receive additional help in the other.

In whatever school pupils are at they should be helping them progress from their current ability level to the next one. Not all kids progress at the same rate so setting would make it easier for to schools to target their teaching to the childs appropriate level.

My final comment is that this should be left as a matter for head teachers to decide on the best strategies to raise achievement levels in their schools. This should not be a central diktat from DfES. Share best practice and ideas by all means but leave heads free to make judgements about what is best for their school.

I do believe giving heads and teachers greater freedom (but with greater accountability) as well as more teaching and less testing have already been adopted as two of ConservativeHome's 100 policies. Not sure how this policy fits in with these as their is a risk that in contradicts both of them if not implemented in the right manner. There should be consistentcy in the principles underpinning the policies adopted.

Jack Bains

Sad to see so few posts on this one - the business regulation issue proved much more popular yesterday. Maybe the party's stereotyped image is a reality, or is it that people are out doing last minute shopping.

I agree with ChaunceyGardener this should be done in secondary schools. The current intervention stratagies should be expanded and given teeth. Drop subjects such as drama, DT, music and art for those falling behind and work in areas that can develop literacy and numeracy. Real, targetted intervention works and will solve many behaviour problems as students will be able to access the curriculum higher up in school.


The business types are amongst the first to complain about standards of literacy and numeracy amongst school leavers. You would have thought ways to raise literacy and numeracy standards amongst school kids would be a priority for them.

Jack Bains

I was recently at a conference on applied learning where business people were complaining that there was a lack of vocational courses in schools. When one headteacher said that one of big problems was finding work placements the employers were outraged at the thought of having to take students into the workplace. They said it was the schools job to educate the children.

  Tim Williamson

This policy proposal doesn't address the underlying faults in the primary sector. Instead, it seems to accept its inadequacy and introduce a"corrective".What prepared me and my generation for the rigours of the11+ and grammar school was 6-years at primary school.(Rather like Michael Howard and a number of those cabinet ministers who didn't go to public school.)What has changed is the way children are taught and teachers themselves are prepared for teaching. I'm a grammar school product but I'm not here to extol their virtues, great though they are, but to show that they were provided with excellent material to begin with.
It seems to me that then, the job of primary schools was to prepare pupils for a secondary education. Their job was to hand over to secondary schools 11 year-olds who were numerate and literate, with a sound basic knowledge of our pre-Norman history, UK geography and a general idea of countries of the globe. Certainly it was British-centred. And why not? It's only right that we should educate our young to understand our own heritage before we indulge in our ritual self-abasement and attempt to contrive some sort of historical and cultural equivalence to other cultures. I'm sure other countries also put their own fundamental cultures first. They are quite right to do this --- let's do the same. These pupils were ready for serious education, with all the tools they would require.Of course, this required primary school teachers to have the necessary skills and knowledge and, dare I say it, the willingness to actually inculcate some knowledge into their charges.
I attended a bog-standard Catholic primary school in Manchester. As a matter of course, we were regularly tested on our spelling, arithmetic (including a weekly mental arithmetic test) and yes, we learned our tables. Bad grammar was corrected by teachers who actually knew what it was. (Basic grammar, that is: clausal analysis came later!)
All subjects were tested annually with proper explorations of what we had actually learned and remembered. No multiple-choice answers then. Guess what -- it actually worked, without ever being intense or elitist. It was simply constant and insistent and yes, quite happy too, even for those less able. The class had over 30 forward-facing, teacher-focused pupils and I strongly suspect that the class of 1957 would, in terms of literacy, numeracy and general knowledge of this country, knock spots of most of today's output. This was standard primary schooling. Standard.
Don't blame the teachers. They too are the products -- victims -- of the 1963+ changes in the way education was organized and the relentless politicisation of education. It isn't just the abandonment of any selection based on academic ability, it's the attitude which seems to try and establish adequacy as excellence, thereby lowering standards, which makes it easy to claim that results -- and, therefore, standards too -- are improving. Teachers who were educated the "old" way despair that those entering the profession who will replace them often lack the subject grasp which used to be standard.
Before any sustainable improvement in the performance and output of secondary education is possible, it is vital to begin the rescue process in the primary sector. If children are literate and comfortable with the basic numerical functions, all subsequent learning is easier and pupils will have more enthusiasm. If they are handicapped in these areas, education suffers and the country is badly served. How can learning -- and science in particular -- flourish if pupils have difficulty with detailed texts or numbers and haven't been properly taught how to properly express themselves in writing? The solution will be painful.

Jack Bains

What happens if a child is ill on the day of the tests? Teacher assessment and tests do not always match.

Jack Bains

David Cameron's next speech: "I have three priorities for my first term: Business regulation,Business regulation,Business regulation."

It would reflect the interests of the CH readers, but probably lose the election. Let's all think about that over our turkey!

Jack Bains

David Cameron's next speech: "I have three priorities for my first term: Business regulation,Business regulation,Business regulation."

It would reflect the interests of the CH readers, but probably lose the election. Let's all think about that over our turkey!


Good idea and just common sense.


I have to agree with Tim Williamson.
This policy merely accepts the failures of too much primary education in this country. We need to address the cause not the damage.

If we can replace 6 yrs of primary education with one year of secondary then we should cut the education budget appropriately and start state education at 10!!


To begin at the end with Jonathan and Time Williamson, this policy proposal was designed to meet a specific and endemic problem with primary education: that something like a fifth of all 11 year-old children do not have the basic skills to benefit from the secondary curriculum. It is not a panacea for all the ills real or imagined in our schools.

Like Tim, I am the product of state schools: primary and grammar. My own children, on the other hand, were educated in the private sector. I think this gives me a view of the strengths and weaknesses of both, but I am sure there is much that our state schools can learn much from private schools and the lessons are not all about money. I couldn’t agree more with Tim when he says, “If children are literate and comfortable with the basic numerical functions, all subsequent learning is easier and pupils will have more enthusiasm. If they are handicapped in these areas, education suffers and the country is badly served.” I would hope that my proposal would put sufficient emphasis on attaining basic skills that this might be a result.

A number of contributors suggested that remedial teaching should take place at secondary school rather than primary as I suggested. My only concern would be that these classes should genuinely offer remedial education, not be some sink into which difficult children are dumped. I think that is more likely in a primary than a secondary school.

ChaunceyGardener and a number of others quite rightly ask about those pupils who after a year’s remedial teaching still don’t reach the expected standard. Personally, I would not favour keeping a child in primary school for more than one additional year. I don’t believe that the number of such children would be large, but clearly their needs would then have to be addressed in the secondary system.

ChaunceyGardener also raises the localism question and, as you can see from my original post, it is one that I too am concerned about. I am sympathetic to the idea that decisions such as this should be taken at the lowest possible level. Over the past ten years we have had a belly-full of Whitehall dictat in our public services. I am not, however, convinced that it can be left to an individual school or head teacher. We might, on the other hand, be prepared to finance a number of education authorities to pilot this proposal.

clive elliot

This is a good idea and I voted for it. Being a school governor in Surrey I recognise the problem which Richard seeks to solve. Basically it's caused by the change away from phonic to look-and-say methods of teaching reading, and a similar absence of logic imbuing 'progressive' methods of teaching of mathematics over the last 30 years. Being partly rectified now, even this idiotic government has seen through the educational establishment.

It's right to keep children down who haven't reached the standard required to benefit from secondary school, and a child who remains in the same condition after the extra year obviously needs to go to a special kind of school where those particular problems can be addressed by specialists. This would also have the benefit of keeping their disruptive tendencies out of the way of all the other kids and make teachers' lives a little easier.

Monica Waters

Jack Bains identifies the underlying problems with current primary methods: they lack rigour, sensible physical organisation in the classroom (do we know how many neck afflictions result from children twisting to face the teacher....?)and are based on an anti-elitist ideology.
As he rightly notes, primary education needs basic reform. As an experienced GCSE examiner in English,I see, annually, the increasing deficiencies in our children's basic literacy attainments. Four decades ago, teachers decided, on the basis of their leftist 'wisdom', that all varieties of spoken and written English were of equal communicative merit,and all children endowed with equal ability. From that point standards of spoken and written English began their inexorable decline.
In the 'old-fashioned' primary classroom described by Mr Bains, children who understood and responded quickly, easily and coherently were publically praised by the teacher. Their work was posted on walls as evidence of success. In the present classroom, where one teacher is supposed to provide 30 children with 'individualised' learning, a child never sees the 'best' work - such a paradigmatic method would be far too 'elitist'!
It follows that children have nothing to aim for, no tests to pass, because, of course, we cannot have failure, which would reduce a child's 'self-esteem'.
An extra primary year might be useful, but not if based on the standards of literacy and numeracy currently accepted. Both KS2 and KS4/GCSE levels of attainment, as defined in the National Curriculum are ridiculously low. Those relating to English are virtually identical with the requirements for English Literature, having little reference to grammatical knowledge. The assessment criteria themselves need to be radically re-written. Correct and clearly differentiated levels of achievement should be statutorily prescribed. 'Pass' and 'fail' should be restored as acceptable (and expected )pedagogic terms of description. 'Vouchers' for 'gifted' children should not be necessary in an education system which truly reflects the differential abilities of those entering it.

H Nahmmacher

Time has now passed since Monica's comment, and children and parents nationwide will now have found where their children will be going in year 7. My daughter has been very lucky, spending her time at a state primary school in Wandsworth, London - deemed to be 'Outstanding'/Grade 1 by Ofsted. In year 6, the Head managed to budget for an extra teacher, and so reduced the class sizes to 17 each (3 to 4). The first part of this year has been spent in preparing for 'The Wandsworth Test',for entrance into Secondary schools, the second half, for her SAT.
Unfortunately, in spite of getting 85%+ in her tests, she was turned down by all 4 of her selections - just out of catchements, and with that considered, not high enough score.
Panic, and efforts to find any angle at appeals, all round - or we fear she will be sent to the sink-school; Grade 3 listed/Gang culture/Children escorted to classes etc(19% manage Eng. & Maths).
After the above, my point is one can have an excellent primary system, with great teachers, small classes, et c, and get a decent, if not spectacular, test result, but all this is for nothing if the local LEA - Wandsworth here - simply don't come up with the goods for year 7; my daughter was not the only one in her class with this problem - the 3rd or 4th, and all with good marks.
It's an extremely decent sentiment - practical too - to get all children up to the right grade before Secondary school, but ought children above the average(in my daughters mock SAT,she is got 4B/4A/5C a couple of months ago) be thrown back?/Should it be ensured places are available for each pupil,without a huge 'Ofsted'/Ability leap ie culture shock.
Back to the appeals process now - another form of culture shock!

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