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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    In Wales, English medium schools HAVE to include Welsh in lessons - even in Geography for example. It's called 'Incidental Welsh' and Estyn grades schools on this. Is 'Incidental English' included in Welsh Medium schools I wonder?
    In Wales, English medium school pupils HAVE to learn Welsh and take a half GCSE in it - regardless of if they want to or not.
    Democratic? Fair? Productive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Vaughan Gething answer is similar in culpability to the answer given by Mark Drakeford when questioned in assembly yesterday about the 30 deaths from Infection in N Wales highlighted recently.

    Not me or my government dot gov

    So when does it become a WG problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    "50% more FSM pupils reach the 5 A*-C at GCSE threshold (including maths & English/Welsh) in England than in Wales"

    If the Welsh GCSE option was removed, a like4like comparison just using English & Maths would almost certainly reveal an even lower relative performance in Wales.

    Wales has produced a generation of school leavers who are semi-literate in 2 languages, unemployable, & will stay poor!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    WG has dug itself into a deep hole and getting deeper as their endeavours to create bilingual nation where the education is used to that aim has abysmally failed with immense collateral damage - CHILDREN They must say NO to Welsh Language Commissioner and other WL vested interests Freedom of Choice is the key word and no more essential bilingual teachers in EM schools or public employment

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    After 13 years of devolved responsibility for Education to the Labour run Welsh Assembly Government, is it not fair to attribute some of the outcomes to that same government? It's quick to claim any credit, digging it out of the most obscure places, but it needs to take responsibility for it's 13 year experiment in deliberately being different to England. WAG = Welsh Language Assembly Government.


Comments 5 of 132



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