Educational Attainment and Welsh Local Authorities

Both the Williams Commission and Estyn assert that educational attainment in Wales would be increased if local authorities were larger. This evidence provides a clear refutation of that assertion. 

Wales has a sophisticated performance indicator of attainment in schools through the banding system which weights achievement at GCSE with indicators of social disadvantage. No indicator is a perfect measure and this one will no doubt be improved with experience; but it is useful indicator which is informing the management of performance. 

The following table provides an average figure for the school bands in each local authority area. This provides an indicator of the quality of challenge and support provided by the local authority. Band 1 is the highest performance; band 5 the lowest. 

Local Authority                     Average School          Population

                                                Band 2013 

Anglesey                                 1.8                                 69,900

Neath Port Talbot                   1.82                             139,900

Denbighshire                           2.12                               93,900

Swansea                                  2.36                             238,700

Ceredigion                              2.43                               75,300

Flintshire                                 2.5                               152,700

Gwynedd                                2.57                             121,500

Conwy                                    2.72                             115,300

Vale of Glamorgan                 2.87                             126,700

Newport                                  3.12                             145,800

Rhondda Cynon Taf               3.16                             234,000

Bridgend                                 3.25                             139,400

Torfaen                                    3.29                               91,200

Pembrokeshire                         3.37                           122,600

Carmarthenshire                      3.38                            184,000

Powys                                     3.38                             133,100

Wrexham                                 3.44                             134,100

Caerphilly                                3.46                             178,800

Monmouthshire                       3.5                                 91,500

Cardiff                                     3.55                             345,400

Blaenau Gwent                       3.75                               69,800

Merthyr Tydfil                          3.75                               58,900 

A review of the table will quickly lead to the view that there are large and small local authorities at the top and bottom of the table. For those of us who enjoy statistics – using the standard Pearson correlation coefficient to test for any linear relationship it is calculated that r=0.08. This means that the correlation is very weak but that in this set of data smaller authorities on average perform ever so slightly better than larger authorities. Basically it accords with the international research that scale is not a determinant of performance in local authorities.



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