The truth is we need to do better

4th July 2008 at 01:00
The Assembly government said this week that instead of comparing pupil achievement generally with England's, we should think regionally
The Assembly government said this week that instead of comparing pupil achievement generally with England's, we should think regionally. It suggested it would be more helpful to compare the number of pupils achieving expected levels in maths, English and science to those areas which have a closer socio-economic make-up to Wales, such as Yorkshire.

It is fair to say that if we look closely at last year's key stage 3 results, then Wales, although still tailing the table, was closer in maths to the West Midlands or Yorkshire (page 1). In comparison, the more affluent South West of England scored 11 percentage points higher than the Wales average of 70 per cent.

This would be a valid argument if it were not for the brilliant performance of Wales's 11-year-olds at KS2. In this age group, we scored higher than any English region in the same subject, coming in at 80 per cent - 3 points higher than Yorkshire and Humber and also up on the South West.

So what is going on as our 11-year-olds become teenagers? Surely these huge differences in achievement levels with England between different age groups cannot be explained away simply by saying the figures are flawed and the two nations, with their different testing systems, cannot be compared? If that's the case, why is our government publishing these figures at all?

The simple truth is that Wales is not progressing as fast as England at KS3 and 4. There are probably a myriad of reasons for this. But what is certain is that further investigation is required.

Hopefully, work with schools under the School Effectiveness Framework will shed some light on the matter. Meanwhile, Wales must celebrate its achievements. Educational standards are rising generally, but we are not progressing at KS3 and 4. And we should stop making excuses.

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