HC Deb 06 January 2004 vol 416 cc292-3W
Mr. Gibb

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many pupils have taken Key Stage 3 tests early as a result of the Express Sets initiative referred to in the Green Paper, "Schools: Building on Success"; and if he will make a statement; [144488]

(2) if he will make a statement on the progress achieved in securing increases in the extent of setting within subjects as set out in paragraph 4.33 of the Green Paper "Schools: Building on Success". [144492]

Mr. Miliband

For 2003 and previous years there has been no readily available means of identifying pupils who took individual subjects or all three Key Stage 3 tests early. However, from 2004 onwards it will be possible to identify these pupils and allow evaluation of any projects encouraging the implementation of a shorter Key Stage 3.

Data from lessons observed by Ofsted shows that there has been overall increase in setting at Key Stage 3 from 32 per cent. in 1998/99 to 36 per cent. in 2001/02. Setting has also increased within subjects at Key Stage 3 over the same period, although the extent of the increases varies from subject to subject.

It is not possible for the Department to determine readily whether schools' decisions to enter their pupils for the Key Stage 3 tests early, or increases in the use of setting, have been influenced by national or local initiatives or which of those may have been contributing factors. It is for schools to make decisions about early test entry and whether and how to use pupil grouping to best meet the learning needs of their pupils, although through the Primary and Key Stage 3 Strategies and in our Gifted and Talented programme we will continue to offer guidance and support on classroom practice. We are also exploring through a small project different models for a shorter Key Stage 3, designed to promote pupil motivation, engagement and progression, and to open up curricular flexibilities pre and post-14 through completion of the Key Stage 3 programme of study in two years.