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Page last updated at 06:52 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

'Brightest and deprived lose out'

By Colette Hume
BBC Wales education correspondent

Teenagers
Some of the most deprived pupils do not have the help they need

Too many learners are being allowed to underachieve and the brightest and the most disadvantaged pupils are not getting the help they need, according to Wales' schools watchdog Estyn.

Bill Maxwell, the chief inspector of education and training said he wanted to "tackle mediocrity" and to bring the weaker providers up to the best.

Pupils who are the most able and those from deprived backgrounds are not reaching their full potential, he found.

In his annual report on education and training he said: "We need to raise expectations and motivate learners to be ambitious and to achieve the best they can."

Some pupils give their views on the quality of their education

The report highlighted deep concern over the underperformance of pupils from deprived backgrounds.

It found that at all key stages, pupils entitled to free school meals (a measure used to gauge deprivation) perform much worse than other pupils.

Estyn said that hasn't changed much in three years with the inspectorate saying the poorest pupils are falling behind similar pupils in England.

The report found that the higher the number of children from deprived backgrounds in a school, the worse the performance of all learners.

Looked-after children

A scheme to tackle the link between socio-economic disadvantage and educational under-achievement is under way by the assembly government.

Schools in the Raise (Raising Attainment and Individual Standards in Education) programme have shared £14.5m but the report says it is too early to say if this has helped.

It has called for the development of national benchmarks and targets for improvements in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

The report also says the most talent pupils are also not being given the support and encouragement they need.

"Only a minority of schools provide more able and talented learners with tasks that enrich and challenge their learning," it says.

School children sitting exams
Too many pupils leave without good qualifications, say inspectors

Overall, the watchdog found that when children reached key stage three level in Wales, they appear to fall behind their English counterparts.

Wales also fell behind England at key stage 4 (14-16).

Estyn said too many pupils are still leaving school without a good GCSE grade in key subjects.

Learning needs

Inspectors say there is gradual progress across the system, but there is need for further improvement to be made more quickly if Wales is to compete effectively.

The state of school buildings also remains a concern. Estyn says inspectors noted shortcomings in 40% of secondary schools inspected in the past year.

It also cited the issue of unfilled school places as being a major problem for local authorities.

However it praised school improvement services in local authorities and the provision for children with additional learning needs.

School leadership was also praised.

And education options for 14 to 19-year-old was growing but it expected fundamental changes with more collaboration and less competition.

Dr Maxell said: "I am encouraged by what has been achieved over the last 12 months and by the many examples of good practice which I have outlined in this report.

"These show that real progress can be made in tackling the challenges head-on.

"Now we must redouble our efforts to address pockets of weaker and more mediocre practice with the aim of eliminating underachievement throughout Wales."



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