Success as Welsh close on English
Welsh pupils are catching up on English children at GCSE, according to the latest performance tables for schools in the principality.
The number of Welsh students passing at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C rose by 2 percentage points to 44 per cent this year, just 1 per cent behind English youngsters.
But the tables, released this week, show that Welsh pupils continue to languish behind their peers across the border at A-level.
Education ministers in Wales were delighted with the rise at GCSE, which continues the upward trend in evidence since league tables first appeared six years ago. In 1993 only 37 per cent of Welsh pupils achieved five top passes. Two years ago, 41 per cent did.
But at A-level this year, the average point score per Welsh pupil remained static at 16, significantly lower than the 18.6 achieved by English students. The score is calculated by a sliding scale according to grade, ranging from 10 points for an A to two for an E.
Professor David Reynolds of Newcastle University said the improvement at GCSE showed that in Wales, as in England, there was now a big difference between high and low-performing schools.
Traditionally Welsh schools had scored broadly similar pass rates at GCSE, while there had long been a much wider range of results in England, he said. "Ten years ago there were not many really high-scoring schools in Wales, those hitting 60 or 70 per cent pass rates."
"Now the ceiling has risen while the floor has stayed pretty much the same, so the results have improved relative to England where they have hit a plateau in the past few years. And often the engine for the overall improvement has been Welsh language schools."
The highest-placed maintained school in this week's tables is Cardiff high. Nearly 75 per cent of pupils at the school in a prosperous area of the city scored at least five A*-C grades .
Headteacher Mike Griffiths said that while the success reflected the dedication of staff and children, the ability of this year's pupils had been obvious when they arrived.
"I will be much happier when the performance tables are printed alongside 'value-added' information to put them in context."