NEWPORT IS "punching above its weight" by topping educational standards at key stages 1 and 2, it was claimed this week.
Heads, officials and councillors are delighted with the city's success this year in provisional assessment results, released by the Assembly government earlier this month. Meanwhile, many results in other local authorities failed to make the mark, with some down on 2006. Some said this was due to a "weaker cohort".
Seven-year-olds in Newport clinched the best results in Wales in maths with 90.6 per cent gaining expected levels, just beating Monmouthshire at 90.1. Overall, the city came out top in core subjects at KS1 (85.4) and KS2 (80.3).
At KS3 it also came in a respectable fifth (60.9 per cent) out of Wales's 22 LAs, beaten only by Powys, Monmouthshire, the Vale of Glamorgan and Gwynedd.
The results also surpassed the city council's predictions, outlined in its Single Education Plan document 2006-8, where it said Newport should achieve 77 per cent at KS2 for 2007, up from the actual figure of 76 per cent in 2005, and 56 for KS3 two percentage points higher than 2005 (54 per cent).
Heads put some of the success down to good practice schemes in the classroom. This includes new reading and numeracy strategies led by specialist staff alongside the introduction of special classes for children who have fallen behind.
Wider use of nurturing groups for primary pupils experiencing problems in main lessons is also having a two-way effect of motivating the children with difficulties while allowing their classes to run more smoothly without them.
Sian Jones, head of Duffryn Infants School in Newport, has been running a nurturing group with a teacher and teaching assistant since 2002. "It really helps motivate the children, and once they start returning to normal classes often they do not need any more support," she said.
Debra Guy, head of Malpas Court Primary, said number and reading recovery schemes had helped children achieve targets.
She said: "Our actual results at KS1 and 2 were not that high but the achievement levels were."
At St Julian's Comprehensive in Newport, head Steve Marshall said: "We were in the upper 70s in terms of percentages for maths, English and science. We have invested significantly in the number of teaching assistants and groups across KS3.
"We are also focusing on pupils whose levels of learning are not as strong and we have worked hard to deal with behavioural problems."
People have been flocking to the city from Cardiff and Bristol as thousands of new homes are being built on the site of the former Llanwern steelworks, bucking the upward trend of surplus places in schools across Wales. The city expects to have an extra 2,076 pupils in its schools by 2011 rather than fewer.
Bob Poole, Newport city council's cabinet member for young people, said: "We are punching above our weight with these results."
Wales-based Professor David Reynolds of Plymouth University said: "It was an outstanding performance in Newport."