CHILDREN in Barnsley are struggling to return to the education levels they were hitting before the Covid-19 pandemic - with more than a third failing to hit targets for reading, writing and maths.

By the time children leave for high school - at the end of key stage two - 61 per cent of 3,013 eligible pupils in Barnsley met the expected standard.

This is significantly worse than before three successive lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, despite government aiming for 90 per cent of key stage two children to meet the target in the three areas.

The Association of School and College Leaders said local schools are working hard to improve results, but they are ‘hamstrung’ by the government’s inadequate education recovery programme.

Tiffinie Harris, primary and data specialist at the ASCL, said the results clearly show schools are still feeling the pandemic’s effect on education.

“Schools are doing everything they can to improve results but have been hamstrung by the government’s inadequate education recovery programme following the pandemic,” she said.

“Primary schools are also suffering from a lack of funding, as well as teacher shortages that are having an impact across the education sector.

“It is very difficult to raise standards under these circumstances.

“Unless the government is prepared to make substantial, ongoing investment in education, their target of 90 per cent of children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will not be achieved.”

Nationally, just 59 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2022/23 - unchanged from 2021/22, but still well below 65 per cent in 2018/19.

The figures also show the gap between disadvantaged children and their classmates shrunk, with the proportion of disadvantaged children reaching the expected attainment across reading, writing and maths rising slightly from 43 per cent to 44 per cent.

However, special education needs pupils did see a rise in their attainment, with 20 per cent reaching the expected standard up from 18 per cent the year before.

Barnsley has a total of 78 primary schools - 34 which are council-run and 44 which are operated by academy trusts.

A Barnsley Council report added: “We know that nationally this has been a challenging three years for children, young people and their families as well as the wider education workforce.

“The gap with national at the expected standard is now widest in reading.

“Barnsley was disproportionately affected by the impact of the Covid pandemic, and in partnership with the Barnsley Schools’ Alliance, we remained focused on improving education outcomes for all children and young people but particularly the most vulnerable.

“We will continue to work with school and academy leaders to deliver our sector-led education improvement strategy, which has proved effective in driving up standards in Barnsley schools and academies.

“A number of actions will be taken to improve attainment and other areas.”