Thousands of children begin secondary school each year without the reading, writing or maths skills needed to make it through. The Herald's 'The Primary Issue' is the first of a series that looks at what more can be done to raise achievement for all Kiwi kids.
Primary school pass rates have virtually flatlined despite an six-year government literacy and numeracy "crusade" costing more than $250 million. Data shows a quarter of children entering high school are below the National Standards in reading, writing and maths.
Of the almost 60,000 students who began Year 9 last year, 17,900 were unable to meet writing requirements, 18,500 were behind in maths, and 12,700 could not read at the expected level, meaning they would have to be rapidly "caught up" to have any hope of passing a high school qualification.
The figures at a glance
• Pass rates lifted an average 1 per cent across reading, writing and maths over the three years to 2014
• Writing had the lowest proportion of children at the standard, with 71 per cent achieving at or above expected levels. Maths had 75 per cent and reading 78 per cent. The Government target is 85 per cent.
• Maori and Pasifika students made slightly larger gains than the average - between 2 and 3 per cent over the three years - but lagged by up to 20 percentage points behind their Pakeha and Asian peers.
• Boys were, on average, eight percentage points behind girls.
• The largest differences were between the rich and poor. For example, only half of children at a Decile 1 school had the required maths competency by their last year, compared to 80 per cent at a Decile 10.
• There was a drop-off in achievement after Year 4 across all subjects, matching trends identified in other national and international surveys