Fragile school improvements ‘must be treated with care’

Massive improvements in St Helena’s primary schools have beaten ambitious targets – but the figures must be treated with caution because of the small number of children involved, warns the island’s 2013 aid report.

Exam results for 16-year-olds have also seen radical improvement, though performance is still well below the minimum standard expected in the UK.

The report, issued at the end of the annual visit by UK aid negotiators, says: “Data indicates good progress in education this year, though we have to be careful about sample size and the fragility of the improvement suggested.

“Primary education results have exceeded targets, with over 60% of children reaching Key Stage II targets in English and science and a dramatic improvement in maths, from 26% to 55%.

“Improvements are also apparent at secondary level with 19% of students attaining a minimum of 5 GCSEs (A-C) in 2012, up from a zero rate in 2011, but with much work still to do.”

The previous aid mission agreed three years’ funding to improve education because of its role boosting economic development.

The latest report says: “We are pleased to note that this investment already appears to be showing positive results at both primary and secondary levels, though further improvements are required and boys’ attainment continues to be a concern, especially in literacy.

“More technical assistance across a range of educational areas has been agreed this year, including modern languages, science, early years and raising attainment, with additional special educational needs assistance being considered.

“Meanwhile, SHG has lowered the age at which young children can access nursery school and agreement has been reached with Basil Read [the airport contractor] to enable school leavers to continue to pursue exams whilst working.”

Further talks are expected on a proposals to reorganise schools, a new funding formula for staffing, and teacher training.

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