Byline: LAURA CLARK
FRESH doubts were raised over school standards yesterday as the rise in primary test results was halted.
It was the first time since the exams were introduced six years ago that scores for 11-year-olds did not get better.
Results in English stayed the same while maths scores dipped - meaning the Government could miss one of its most important targets in the drive to raise standards.
The figures from the Office of National Statistics will damage confidence in Labour's primary school policies just as it shifts attention to tackling underachievement in the first three years of secondary education.
Education Secretary Estelle Morris said she was 'disappointed' after 71 per cent of the nation's 11-year-olds reached the expected standard - down 1 per cent on last year.
Primary schools must now pull off a rise of 4 per cent in next year's maths tests to meet targets set by David Blunkett and save his successor Miss Morris from severe embarrassment.
Mr Blunkett had promised to quit as Education Secretary if 80 per cent of 11-year-olds were not achieving the expected standards in English and 75 per cent in maths by 2002.
The latest statistics showed that English scores remained static at 75 per cent, although the figure concealed an improvement of 3 per cent in writing.
Results in the writing part of the test have traditionally lagged far behind reading, where scores this year were down one point.
Science results continued to rise, with 87 per cent of 11-year-olds now achieving target scores.
And Miss Morris was heartened by results among seven-year-olds.
The proportion of pupils reaching the expected level rose 1 per cent to 84 per cent in reading; 2 per cent to 86 per cent in writing; 3 per cent to 75 per cent in spelling; and 1 per cent to 91 per cent in maths.
Among 14-year- olds, 64 per cent achieved target scores in English - the same as last year - although there was a 1 per cent rise in maths to 66 per cent and a 7 per cent improvement in science, also to 66 per cent.
But boys failed to make any inroads into the performance of girls, who lead at all ages and in every subject apart from primary school maths. …