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.