Poorest pupils in Wales fail to match English at school


Alan Milburn may be a former Labour cabinet minister, but today's "state of the nation" report by his social mobility and child poverty commission won't make pleasant reading for his party colleagues in Cardiff Bay.

Some of the comparisons between educational performance in Wales and England will also make bleak reading for parents of children in Welsh schools.

The report suggests the poorest children in Wales are significantly less likely to do well at school than children from similar backgrounds in England.

Pupils eligible for free school meals in England are 50% more likely to obtain five good GCSEs than their counterparts in Wales.

The report concludes that the gap between the most disadvantaged students and the rest is also higher than in England. "Wales performs less well than all regions in England, including comparably deprived regions like the North East."

It says: "Comparing just the population of children eligible for free school meals across England and Wales shows that 50% more FSM pupils reach the 5 A*-C at GCSE threshold (including maths and English/Welsh) in England than in Wales - although, at under two fifths of all children, the absolute level remains unacceptably low in England as well."

The report paints a bleak picture of school performance in Wales: "At age 5 the poorest children from Wales are a little behind the poorest children in England in vocabulary skills, but by age 7 a notable gap has opened up.

"By age 7 the word-reading ability of children in Wales is behind that of children in England and Scotland, irrespective of whether they are from families with relatively low or high incomes."

The Welsh government's deputy minister for tackling poverty, Vaughan Gething, said: "This report is an important contribution to how we help the poorest in our society. It says we are doing many of the right things and acknowledges that the rest of the UK could learn from what the Welsh government is doing, especially our efforts to make the experience of poverty less damaging to children and the way we represent school performance information.

"However, we are not complacent and tackling poverty is a daily battle where we can't afford to take our foot off the pedal. We are determined to do all we can and to use our resources to help those from our least well off communities to make sure they have the same opportunities as the rest of society. A key part of this will be breaking the link between poverty and poor educational attainment and helping children have the right start in life through our Flying Start programme.

"I believe we are doing more and going further than the UK government or any of the other devolved administrations in our efforts to tackle poverty. We are doing this against a tough backdrop, with cuts to welfare, the cost of living rising and a sluggish economy. Despite this we are unwavering in our commitment to do all we can."

Mr Gething may have been focusing on what the report said about poverty, but its conclusion that the poorest kids in Wales fail to match the modest school achievements of their counterparts in England will worry parents and politicians alike.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    OK, first schools I checked, both in same village, funding from your report, data from last Estyn inspection:

    Ysgol Ifor Bach (208 chn)
    23.11 Child per teacher
    31% Free School Meals
    30% Special educational needs
    2951 pounds per pupil

    Cwm Aber Infants and Juniors (265 pupils)
    21.2 cpt
    34% FSM
    18% SEN
    3460 ppp

    Average WM Primaries Caerphilly: 2742 pp
    Average EM Primaries Caerphilly 3246 pp

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Like for like you say>? After you compared a 150 pupil primary school with high special educational needs to a 1,100 secondary school with virtually none?

    Tell you what, give me a few mins and I'll do some true like for like comparisons...

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    ... #88, like for like WM is funded in excess of EM schools, you might also check the teacher - pupil ratios between WM and EM schools.

    We have a disgraceful state of affairs in our education system and you defend the indefensible.

    I have to leave the debate ... travelling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    As for the schools you picked to compare John:

    YG Beaumaris - primary school with 35% special educational needs
    St Cennydd - Secondary school with 6.8% special educational needs

    The schools have nothing in common whatsoever - the language of education is not what causes the funding difference.

    I can find no evidence of a language premium. Anyone care to provide me a link to prove its existence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    John, your figures prove nothing. Anyone can pick and choose statistics to back up whatever they want - look at these Caerphilly schools...

    Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Allta - 2,749 pp
    Greenhill Primary School - 4,869 pp

    Ysgol Cwm Rhymni - 4,074pp
    Pontllanfraith Comp - 4,973pp

    Blaenau Gwent (1 Welsh Medium school) - 4,690 pp
    Caerphilly (13 Welsh Medium schools) - 3,634 pp

    Lies, damn lies and statistics

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    84 I can only suggest that you contact the WAG. I am sorry that you are so prejudiced that you cannot or will not accept the truth.

    As I said in # 82 WM education receives a pupil premium over EM and that should be a source of shame for all of us - unless you believe that English speaking pupils should be disadvantaged

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    My #85 should read

    School funding examples :

    scoll is a teaching method.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Scoll funding examples :

    By area:

    Isles of Anglesey £4513
    Caerphilly £3634

    By school

    "Ysgol Gynradd Beaumaris" (Angelsey) £4724 per pupil
    "St Cenydd Comprehensive School" (Caerphilly) £4175 per pupil

    All the stats are available at


    The figures do not lie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    82. No you are wrong. Welsh speaking children receive no premium. You are talking out of prejudice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    ... WAG decides on funding, EM receives less, WM receives more, difficult to refute the political bias ...,

    ... even more difficult to debate the issue without the threat of burning on the "political stake" with a placard signed "anti-welsh" around your neck !

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    81 You are wrong on every count. The amount per pupil is identical in Wales and England. The WAG divert the £600 for several reasons none of which bear scrutiny

    According to WAG figures (if you believe them) WM receives a pupil premium over EM.

    I have said it before "we should, as a nation, be ashamed that the WAG deliberately disadvantage children in EM"

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    "That would be the £600 per pupil per year that is diverted from EM education to WM education"

    An outright lie. If you examine the funding per head of WM schools you will find that the funding is comparable and in so many cases WM schools receive LESS than EM schools in their area.

    £600 is the ave difference between Welsh pupils and English pupils and has nothing to do with Welsh whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    76 Woodsey - You have told us in the past that you are a parent and from memory at least one of your children went to Uni. That Uni, you told us, is in England.
    Is that what you mean by WM parents supporting their children? Or is the University he attended better than those in Wales despite the lack of courses run in the WM in England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    ... #76, you write :

    "WM parents are more supportive of their children"

    That would be the £600 per pupil per year that is diverted from EM education to WM education, WM parents are not more supportive, they gain unfair financial advantage in education.

    How much better would the EM education be with an extra £600 per pupil stolen by politics, where has it been spent ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    To blame this poor performance on the Welsh language is willfully ignorant and prejudiced. It is a shameful perspective and ought to be consigned to history for the sake of reason and rationality.

    Wales' public services are bloated and inefficient. We have too many local authorities. We should whittle them down to just 5. By only retaining the best talent we will have a more functional system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    .. #69, merthyrmarkf, that lack of dissent or variation in the welsh language debate, is a modern day heresy, fortunately the fate of Joan of Arc is not on the statute books, but for politicians it is the kiss of death to question any form of support for the language.

    The report by Alan Milburn is unlikely to be debated, because it hold evidence that WM damages certain children's education !

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    We have a caring Gov in London
    Re :Language. Because you speak Welsh you are responsible for the Education system. Think people are clutching at straws. Perhaps it may be due to the fact that WM parents are more supportive of their children. Re: Funding most WM schools are former EM schools e.g. Maesteg, Cymmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    No not informed and entertained, just entertained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    #69 "wish I could afford private"

    So do I, but I fear our fate is sealed. We'll just morph into the bland, homogenised bottom-dwellers that the erstwhile "working-classes" of Britain seemed destined to become.

    Still, with Graham Norton, Alan Carr and Road Wars on TV right now, it's good to know that those who TRULY shape the thoughts of the nation are keeping us informed and entertained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I can go back that far as well. It may have been more widely spoken then but usage was in decline.
    Education however was the envy of many.
    I agree education standards declined but the acceleration of educational decline is responsibility of wag. Welsh usage continues to decline. The reasons are widely understood but ignored


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