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The only way is up ... as long as the money is available

Michael Williams is head of St Francis Primary in Ely, Cardiff, the most deprived area of Wales.Based on key stage results and absence rates, Ely 3, as it is described in the Assembly government-collated index of multiple deprivation chart, is the most deprived in Wales.

Michael Williams is head of St Francis Primary in Ely, Cardiff, the most deprived area of Wales.Based on key stage results and absence rates, Ely 3, as it is described in the Assembly government-collated index of multiple deprivation chart, is the most deprived in Wales.

Michael Williams is head of St Francis Primary in Ely, Cardiff, the most deprived area of Wales.

Based on key stage results and absence rates, Ely 3, as it is described in the Assembly government-collated index of multiple deprivation chart, is the most deprived in Wales.

Mr Williams, pictured above, was only too aware of the problems he faced when he took over the school a year ago. More than half of the pupils are eligible for free school meals (52 per cent) and families struggle to afford essentials, such as school uniform. Children start school with poor language skills and low expectations - many of their parents are unemployed and drawing benefits. But Mr Williams said he was winning the war against below-average KS2 performance, high levels of lateness and parentally condoned absence. He sees getting parents on side as his biggest task.

"Some parents didn't have a good time in school and that's been passed on to their children," he said. "We've worked hard to break that cycle."

Getting to know the parents has helped Mr Williams to understand the reasons for lateness and work with it.

Over the past three years, St Francis has received pound;24,000 of Raise funding to improve reading. The knock-on effects, said Mr Williams, have helped to boost KS2 results.

But he fears what would happen if the funding was pulled, saying the only way up is with increased funding. "We are on an upward trend in terms of results, but we need more funding to give the children the best opportunities," he said.

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