Call to end ‘conspiracy to cover up’ school results

July 21, 2011 1 Comment »

The vast gulf in the GCSE results of  Cardiff’s high schools can be revealed  today.

New figures show almost all of  15-year-old pupils at the city’s  best-performing schools achieved five  A*-G grades in last summer’s exams,  while at other schools the pass rate  was just two thirds.

Statistics also reveal Cardiff’s  schools are trailing those of similar  sized authorities, including Bristol,  Plymouth, Brighton, Wigan and Newcastle upon Tyne.

The data was requested by a senior  Cardiff councillor who last night  called for an end to the “conspiracy to  cover up” the performance of the  city’s schools.

Councillor David Walker, leader of the Conservative group,  wants the results of individual schools  to be made freely available.

He claims “total openness” with  pupils and parents will help dispel the  “air of complacency” about performance.

The data shows schools with the  highest number of pupils achieving  five A*-G grades were St Teilo’s High  School (99%), Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg  Glantaf (98%), Radyr Comprehensive  School (98%) and Corpus Christi High  School (98%).

At the other end, Llanedeyrn High  School recorded 78%, Rumney High  School (77%), Glyn Derw High School  (76%), Llanrumney High School  (75%) and Willows  High School (66%).

Union leaders last  night said it was no  surprise that those  schools with the lowest pass rates also  had the highest  number of children  entitled to free  school meals – an indicator of social  deprivation.

They also said any  move to reintroduce  league tables based  on exam results – abolished by the  Welsh Government in 2001 after pressure from the sector – would be divisive and create competition.

Coun Walker, however, said publishing the data would help identify  schools as underperforming and  provide a reason to give them extra  funding and resources, while their  head teachers should be “challenged”  to lift standards.

The Lisvane councillor believes that  with targeted support there is no  reason why children from lower socio- economic areas cannot achieve the  same grades as pupils from wealthier  families.

“I am concerned that there seems to  be a conspiracy to cover up the performance of Cardiff schools, in particular at Key Stage 4,” he said.

“I would like to see some form of  reporting of schools’ performance,  whether that is in a league table or  some other form is for others to decide.

“I don’t see any reason why pupils,  parents and the general public cannot  see how our schools are doing.

“There is a culture of complacency  and of keeping  people in the  dark. This would  give everybody in  Cardiff an incentive to raise their  game.”

Data obtained  by Coun Walker  shows 61.4% of  Cardiff pupils  achieved five  A*-C grades at  Key Stage 4.

Cities statistically similar in  England, meanwhile, achieved higher  results. These include Derby (76.5%),  Coventry (80.8%), Bristol (70.9%),  Plymouth (77.3%), Doncaster  (81.7%), Bolton (79%), Brighton and  Hove (68%), Wigan (74.7%) and Newcastle-upon-Tyne (79.3%).

“There are other cities with similar  socio-economic issues as Cardiff and if  they can achieve 80% then why can’t  we? That blows away the theory that  children from those backgrounds that  are not wealthy cannot do well,” Coun  Walker said.

“I don’t think we have ever faced up  to our performance. We have not ever  challenged that performance or asked  the questions as to why we are not  doing as well as we could.”

Education Minister Leighton  Andrews is already drawing up  plans to introduce a system that  will group secondary and primary  schools into bands reflecting their  outcomes and progress, taking account of socio-economic circumstances.

Unions are awaiting more details on  the scheme before giving their support, but have said it must not be in the  form of league tables which still operate in England.

A Cardiff council spokeswoman  said school performance data was  readily available on the Welsh Government’s website and from individual schools, which publish their performance in annual report to parents.

She said: “The analysis of Cardiff’s performance against that of a number of English authorities confirms that there is a need to continue work to improve achievements at Key Stage 4 but this is a challenge that the whole of Wales needs to address.

She said: “The gap in performance  between Wales and England has  widened in the last few years and  there are important questions that  need to be asked about the differences  in policy and distribution of resources  between Wales and England.”

She added: “The inspection framework in Wales makes judgements on a Wales basis only.

“It is important, therefore, that the Council does this also in its reporting on performance. However, the Council believes that comparisons beyond Wales are helpful and will continue to do this in its future reporting.”

Teaching unions rejected  Councillor Walker’s call to  reintroduce some kind of league  tables.

Anna Brychan, director of NAHT  Cymru, said: “League tables don’t  show you anything that we don’t  already know. They are destructive  and useless for parents.

“But if he (Coun Walker) is  proposing identifying those  schools which need additional help  then that is something we would  be interested in looking at.”

Rex Phillips, of the NASUWT in  Wales, said the Key Stage 4 results  were a “crass” way to measure the  performance of schools and should  not be looked at in isolation.

But he also backed Coun  Walker’s call for extra support for  struggling schools. This, he said,  could only be done by scrapping  formula funding and giving more  power to councils.


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One Comment

  1. David Walker July 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    I recall being clear that I was not calling for school league tables but more openness about the results acheived by young people in schools.People can make their own judgements about the results published, it is not right to make that data difficult to access.
    My main concern is the low level of expectation made of school pupils from areas with socio economic challenges.
    There are schools in England with 40% of pupils in receipt of free school meals where 85% of pupils get 5A*-C against a Cardiff average of 61%. There is a huge challenge to us all to do much better.

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