Teenage literacy levels improve

Teenagers’ literacy has improved over the past decade, a major study of GCSE exam papers has found.

The study by Cambridge Assessment, an education department at the University of Cambridge, found pupils taking 16+ English exams in 2004 performed better in a wide variety of areas compared to their counterparts in 1994.

Alf Massey, head of evaluation and assessment at Cambridge Assessment, said that there had been significant improvements in spelling for lower grade candidates over the last decade, proving that “it was possible to turn a corner”.  Punctuation and grammar had also improved.

The report says the change should be greeted as “evidence of the success and hard work of teachers and educational managers” and a “vindication” of the efforts of the architects of recent policies aimed at improving literacy. 

Neil McClelland, director of the National Literacy Trust, said the findings resonated with the message coming from secondary schools that overall literacy rates were improving as the National Literacy Strategy started to take effect. 

However, as the study was released, provisional figures released by the Department for Education and Skills revealed that the number of 11-year-old boys reaching satisfactory levels in reading, writing and maths fell this year.

Only 51% of boys achieved level 4 at key stage 2, a fall of 1% on last year’s figures. Girls in the same age group continued to out-perform boys, with attainment levels in 2005 rising one point to 63%.

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