Schools minister gives out orders

Wakefield Fire Sevice's arson task force are cleaning up Portobello estate in an attempt to stop people starting fires.'Coun Olivia Rowley with a copy of the information pack being posted to residents on the estate.

Wakefield Fire Sevice's arson task force are cleaning up Portobello estate in an attempt to stop people starting fires.'Coun Olivia Rowley with a copy of the information pack being posted to residents on the estate.

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EDUCATION bosses in Wakefield have been ordered to do more to help poorer pupils achieve better grades.

Schools minister David Laws wrote to Wakefield Council last week to say it must do more to narrow the gap between pupils on free school meals and their peers.

Figures show that 81 per cent of 11-year-olds who are not on free school meals achieved the expected level four in English and maths in the key stage 2 exams, but the equivalent figure for those who do receive free school meals is just 57 per cent.

In a letter to the leader of the council, Coun Peter Box, the schools minister said: “Not only is the gap in Wakefield large, but it is getting worse. Indeed, Wakefield is the only authority in the country to be in this position.”

Earlier this month, the Express reported that exam results for 11-year-olds had improved overall with 77 per cent of pupils in Wakefield achieving the expected level four in both maths and English, compared to only 68 per cent last year, when Wakefield had the fourth worst results in the country.

The letter from Mr Laws MP acknowledged the improvements, but said more needed to be done.

It said: “Although there has been a significant reduction in the number of primary schools in Wakefield falling below the floor standards that were set last year, your local authority is still among those areas with the highest proportion of schools performing below the floor standard.”

Primary schools are considered to be under-performing if fewer than 60 per cent of pupils get a Level 4 in both maths and English.

Mr Laws said he wanted Coun Box to write to him ‘as a matter of urgency’ to set out his plans for improving the council’s performance, and suggested encouraging more schools to become academies as a solution.

Coun Olivia Rowley, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “There are high levels of poverty across the district and it is difficult for children to achieve if they are coming to school without warm clothes, having not eaten.

Coun Rowley said things will only get worse if benefits are cut for low earners, and that there was no evidence that academies are better then council-run schools.