FSM statistics cause alarm in Wales

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

Children on free school meals in Wales are up to four times less likely to top the class in national tests, according to new government figures.

Overall the performance of eligible free school meals (FSM) pupils is lower than their non-eligible counterparts in national reading and numeracy tests taken by children from years 2 to 9.

The new figures were revealed as teaching unions gave a stark warning to the National Assembly that after a decade of austerity continued budget cuts are having a real impact on learning, with bigger classes, less subject choice, more pressure on teachers and some even having to teach more subjects which are not their specialism.

The Welsh government statistical report which was based on the performance of pupils in last year’s tests concluded that “FSM pupils are between two and three times more likely to achieve an age-standardised score below 85 in the national tests” and “between two and a half and four times less likely to achieve an age-standardised score above 115 in each of the national tests”.

A score above 115 indicates test results that are higher than those for most children of the same age while a score below 85 indicates test results that are lower than those for most children of the same age.

But as schools in Wales have lost more than 1,400 teachers in the last eight years while pupil numbers fell by just 29, unions say there is no doubt that schools are under more pressure than ever and teachers have less time as workload increases.

Giving evidence to the Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, NASUWT Cymru said most of the 1,400 teachers lost went through “natural wastage”, with schools not replacing all who leave and retire, but other posts had been lost through redundancy.

Dilwyn Roberts-Young, general secretary of UCAC, said the effect of cuts can be felt in classrooms: “We are looking at bigger classes and that means less opportunity to work with pupils and increase in workload in terms of planning and assessment.”
In the secondary sector it means the range of subjects is less,” he stated.


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