A fifth of primary children fail in the 3 R’s

One in five primary children leaves primary education without a proper grasp of the 3R’s according to the Chief Inspector of Schools, Christine Gilbert, based on results published on 19th May 2008. Results in national curriculum tests for 11 year olds show 20 per cent did not reach the level expected for their age in English and 23 per cent did not in maths. There is also a link between the 10 per cent of 16 – 18 year olds not in education, training or employment and failure to reach expected standards in basic skills at the end of primary school.

Proposals being put forward by the Chief Inspector are more regular inspections of under-performing schools and failing schools to be placed under “special measures”. While this might address problems within the schools themselves, it does not address the question “why”?

In a study carried out across 6 schools in Northern Ireland in 2003/2004, using basic tests for retained primitive reflexes in the school population, 48% of 5 – 6 year olds and 35% of 7 – 9 year olds were found to have traces of retained primitive reflexes, which should not be active beyond the first 6 months of life, and which provide signposts of develomental maturity or physical and neurological “readiness” for formal education. Reflex status was compared to educational attainment over the course of one school year in the 5 – 6 year old group. Children with the highest reflex scores performed less well on educational assessment at baseline. In other words, a high percentage of children showed signs of developmental immaturity at the time of school entry, and while this improves by 13% over the next two years, just over a third of the sample still showed signs of developmental immaturity at 7 – 9 years of age. Irrespective of teaching methods, socio-economic background etc. these children are likely to under-achieve educationally as a direct result of neurological immaturity. There is very little in the current “system” to identify or address these fundamental underlying problems.

The INPP Programme for Schools sets out to help teachers identify children for whom underlying neurological immaturity is a factor in poor attainment, and to implement a physical programme in school to improve the physical skills which are fundamental to successful learning. Details of results from the use of this programme to date can be found at: www.inpp.org.research

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