Croydon was named the worst borough in London for literacy in an Evening Standard reading campaign this week. The Council however refutes their figures.
The Evening Standard said that 47% of all 11-year-olds in Kenley, Croydon, achieved only Level 3 or below in their Key Stage 2 reading exams. The expectation under the National Curriculum is that the average pupil achieves level 4 at Key Stage 2.
In a letter to the newspaper, Croydon councillor Tim Pollard claims these statistics give readers a false impression about his local authority.
“The figure amounts to data from only two of six primary schools in Kenley, one of which is for children with special educational needs,” he writes.
That year tests at the remainder of schools were boycotted by teachers, Pollard says. When these factors are taken into account, they indicate that the actual figure in Kenley was much better than represented, with only 10% at Level 3 or below rather than 47 per cent.
According to the ES, in Heathfield, 35% achieved Level 3 or below.
Pollard says this was also in fact 10% that year. The inconsistency was again due to the inclusion of a special schools and a number of other schools boycotting the exams.
Schools in both wards actually perform better than the national average of 17% and the Croydon average of 15%.
“Regrettably, although Croydon explained this to the Standard, the accurate information was not reflected in the article and this has caused considerable anxiety among local residents,” affirms Pollard.
“While it’s good to see the Evening Standard throwing its weight behind a campaign for improved literacy, perhaps it could also look at its own numeracy skills?”
The newspaper has yet to comment on the matter.
However according to a local residents forum: Inside Croydon, the council has no room for complacency. National Research findings in February show that children who use a library are twice as likely to perform better at school than average readers. Residents complain that there is significantly insufficient library service in the area.
Parents of under 11-year-olds wishing to visit a library would need to commute by car or bus to Caterham on the Hill or Purley. In Kenley’s Sanderstead library, only one librarian for children is on duty just once a month.
Achieving a saving of £350,000 per year in staff costs, Croydon has already reduced the number of qualified librarians under the guise of an ‘internal reorganisation.’
According to Inside Croydon, Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for customer services culture and sport, has publicly denied that there is a statutory requirement to provide libraries, and her department has overseen the dismissal of a number of Croydon’s library staff.