BBC documentary reveals Welsh pupils falling behind England
4's The Battle
for Influence reveals GCSE results in England and Wales obtained using the Freedom of Information Act.
GCSE results for pupils in England and Wales were almost identical before the formation of the Welsh Assembly in 1999. But there is now a gap of three percentage points.
Since devolution the Welsh Assembly Government has taken an increasingly different approach to education compared to the Labour Government in England and has scrapped both school league tables and SATs.
In 1999/2000 the percentage of pupils achieving five A*-C at GCSE (or GCSE equivalents)
in both countries was just over 49 per cent. However, by 2002/3 a significant gap
had started to open up between the two countries.
In England 52.9 per cent of pupils
acheived five A*-C GCSEs - in Wales it was 51.1%.
The gap between England and Wales has grown. Figures for last year show 52.2 per cent
of Welsh pupils were acheiving five A*-C grade GCSEs but in England the
figure was 56.3%.
David Reynolds, Welsh academic and Professor of Education at Plymouth University, says: "I think there is more pressure in England on schools to improve, more top down pressure and you've of course got parental choice mechanisms operating in English big cities whereas in much of Wales parents have no effective choice."
Reynolds also thinks the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Education Authorities are not giving Welsh schools as much money as their English counterparts.
Asked about the growing gap between English and Welsh pupils, Education Minister
for Wales, Jane Davidson, says: "We are concerned, which is why we have put in place
the new programme, Raise, which is targeted at the most disadvantaged young people...
Wales had far more children living in poverty than is the case across whole other
parts of the UK."
However, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that the percentage of Welsh children living in poverty was the same as the UK average (28%).
On league table manipulation, Davidson says: "School headteachers have suggested
that because of the fact we don't have school league tables in Wales schools
don't, for example, manipulate the kind of qualifications that pupils take.
as minister I hear that but I am not necessarily seeing evidence of that
On comparing the two countries, Davidson says: "I don't run my life in a comparison
between Wales and England although the English media always want to run our lives
on a comparison between Wales and England."
And NUT Cymru Secretary Gethin Lewis adds: "What we can't do is to compare one country and another country. The unions view is that in England there is a more divisive system being encouraged, the choice agenda, with academies and specialist schools."
Wales has rejected many of the performance indicators used in England and set up its own systems.
On the importance of GCSEs, Davidson says: "I don't think education is just about the achievement at GCSE A* to C. I think education is about ensuring that you are able to grow a child from the moment they come into the education system."
The Battle For Influence: The Battle for Secondary Schools will be broadcast at 8.00pm today (Thursday 27 April 2006) on BBC Radio 4.