Educational attainment – Welsh Government assessment
Measuring changes in attainment is difficult due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on forms of assessment and the awarding of grades. However, evidence of inequalities for different ethnic groups and children with special educational needs in Wales persists despite commitments.
- While it is too early to fully assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on attainment, there are concerns that school closures may have widened existing inequalities. There is some evidence that inequalities in post-16 outcomes widened or reappeared in 2020/21, with a steep decline in A2 level outcomes for Black African, Black Caribbean and Black British students, reversing a rise in 2019/20. The move to online learning put certain children at a disadvantage, including those deemed to be digitally excluded and disabled children who were unable to use inaccessible online resources.
- The Auditor General for Wales has warned that changing the curriculum in Wales is not enough on its own to tackle attainment gaps.
- The overall disadvantage gap in GCSE results is higher in Wales than in England. In 2021, learners not eligible for free school meals achieved 11.5% more A* grades than those who were eligible.
- In 2021, girls achieved 10 percentage points more A*–A GCSE grades than boys. There was also an attainment gap for children with special educational needs (SEN); learners who were not categorised as SEN achieved 12.9% more A* grades.
- There is some evidence that disparities exist across ethnic groups at Key Stage 4 The latest available data shows that Gypsy and Roma children had the lowest attainment rates between 2017 and 2019. Only 11.1% achieved level 2 qualifications, including in English or Welsh and mathematics, compared with 85% of Chinese or Chinese British children, who achieved the highest figure.
- There is also some evidence that disparities exist across ethnic groups at Key Stage 2 level: Gypsy and Roma pupils and Traveller pupils had the two lowest attainment rates between 2017 and 2019.
- In April 2019, Estyn reported on educational provision for secondary school-aged Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. It raised concerns that schools do not use attainment data to inform improvement for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. There is little information about progress in implementing the Welsh Government’s Enabling Gypsies, Roma and Travellers plan.
- In 2019, children with SEN had much lower rates of attainment at Key Stage 2 than those without, but there is a wide variation between SEN types.
- While gross budgeted expenditure for schools increased by 2.8% between 2015/16 and 2018/19, this represents a decrease in real terms. A 2020 independent report found positive effects of school spending, with a larger impact for disadvantaged pupils.
- A 2018 Welsh Parliament (Senedd) inquiry into the Welsh Government’s use of additional funding for the most deprived children found that some schools were using the Pupil Development Grant to make up for what they saw as insufficient core funding. In March 2022, the Welsh Government set out the mechanisms it has for monitoring use of the funding.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on educational attainment.