PUPILS IN Wales outperformed their English counterparts in science at both key stages 2 and 3 in 2006. But new data from the government also shows they are still lagging behind in both English and maths in the same age groups.
The comparisons were based on teacher assessment only in Wales and Sats results over the border. They show that at KS2, 86 per cent of pupils in Wales reached the expected level in science - known as the core subject indicator - compared with 84 per cent in England.
The Welsh results at KS3 are also slightly better, by one percentage point at 73 per cent. But in maths and English pupils were as much as 5 percentage points down on the English.
The statistics also show huge variations in teacher assessment and GCSE and A-level results in communities with the same levels of deprivation and industrial decline.
Neath is the best-performing area for GCSE results with 65.4 per cent of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades. But Swansea East comes bottom with just 38.8 per cent of pupils. GCSE pass rates went up last summer in Wales but are still lagging behind England.
Officials agree that results at KS4 could be better but claim pupils in Wales are "catching up".
Moves have already been made to improve post-15 performance with a more skills-based curriculum, along with better planning for pupil transition to secondary.
But ambitious educational improvement targets, set in the 2001 Learning Country document, were revised downwards by Jane Davidson, former education, lifelong learning and skills minister, for 2010 in a follow-up document.
Carwyn Jones, minister for education, culture and Welsh language, said this week he wanted to tackle the issue of underperformance compared with England.
"We have to believe we can do better in our heads, although it isJgetting better," he said.
Pupil performance in Wales has been published "quietly" online since league tables were scrapped in 2001. The government says the information can help the teaching profession "identify and tackle underperformance".