Wales Online is reporting that the value of Wales’ flagship school improvement strategy has been called into question after new figures revealed only a marginal increase in the proportion of pupils obtaining a key GCSE benchmark this summer.
Official data obtained by Plaid Cymru shows improvement in the 40 secondary schools enrolled in the multi-million-pound Schools Challenge Cymru (SCC) initiative was just 0.3% better than those not involved, despite them receiving intensive support and monitoring.
Responding to a written question from Plaid’s education spokesman Simon Thomas, Education Minister Huw Lewis said the proportion of SCC pupils gaining five A*-C grades including English or Welsh and maths (Level 2+) had risen from 44% in 2014 to 46.5% this summer.
But the 2.5% increase is only slightly better than that recorded in non-SCC schools, which did not benefit from extra resources and tailored support.
Collectively, schools not involved in the flagship £20m scheme improved their Level 2+ score from 60% last year to 62.2% in 2015 – a rise of 2.2%.
The figures are more stark when Level 2+ performance is broken down by pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) – a measure of poverty.
The performance of pupils eligible for FSM in SCC schools improved by 2.8% this year to 25.5% (up from 22.7% in 2014), while those not involved in the programme saw FSM performance rise by 3.9% to 35.1% (from 31.2% last year).
Mr Thomas, Plaid AM for Mid and West Wales, said: “…The Labour government’s flagship SCC programme was intended to deliver swift, sustainable improvement to schools that face challenges – but it hasn’t delivered the results…”
Wales’ answer to successful ‘challenge’ programmes launched in London and Manchester, SCC was launched last year and promised that 40 ‘Pathways to Success’ schools would benefit from a share of £20m…
There are many schemes trying to copy the impact of the London Challenge, but still much disagreement over what was actually responsible for its success.
On the surface, these figures from Wales do not look very encouraging – maybe we are expecting too much too soon – but are there any insights or feedback you would add?
Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…
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