GCSE results gap grows between poorer pupils and classmates

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Image caption 58.8% of girls reached the GCSE core threshold - compared to 50.6% of boys

The gap in performance in core subjects at GCSE between poorer pupils and their classmates has grown, according to official data.

The percentage of Year 11 pupils receiving free school meals achieving five A* to C grades including English or Welsh and maths has fallen to 28.5%.

The gap between free school meal pupils and others is 32.3%, up 1.1% on 2016.

The Welsh Government education action plan, published last week, put reducing the attainment gap as a key aim.

It said: "Our national mission is to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence".

The latest figures offer a more detailed look at this summer's GCSE results.

They show:

  • 54.6% of pupils achieved the core subject threshold - five A* to C grades including English or Welsh and maths - compared to 60.3% last year
  • 63.6% of Year 11 pupils achieved an A* to C in English, down from 69.3% last year
  • Performance continues to be higher for boys than girls in all headline indicators - the gap is now 8.2% for the core threshold

But statisticians add a note of caution in comparisons with previous years after changes to exams, with only the new English language, maths and maths numeracy exams being counted in the latest indicators.

It comes after the GCSE A* to C pass rate in Wales fell to its lowest level since 2006 this summer after some of the biggest changes in decades to the exams system.

In Welsh as a first language subject, 73.2% got an A* to C, down from 75.1%.

But only English language and Welsh language subjects counted this time, while previously the best grade from language or literature was taken.

Two maths GCSEs were introduced for the first time in 2016-17.

Taking the best result from both exams, 62.5% got an A* to C, down from 66.9%.

A Welsh Government spokesman said policy changes had led to a discontinuity between this year and the previous year's data.

"Over the last decade the attainment gap has significantly reduced," he said.

"Raising standards for all and tackling the attainment gap is at the heart of our new national action plan for education, published last week. All policies aim to deliver on those objectives."

The Welsh Government said it was investing more than £90m a year in extra support to help the most disadvantaged pupils which was "making a real difference" in breaking the link between poverty and attainment.

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