It might surprise some people, but two of my favourite websites are gogwatch.com and glasnost.org.uk, and I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone. One read through their bizarre cocktail of anti-Welsh prejudice, insults, delusion, misinformation and unbridled fantasy should be enough to persuade any normal person that a Welsh-medium education will be good for their children.
The main contributor to these sites wants to convey the impression that Welsh-medium schools do not have better examination results than other schools, and is particularly fond of quoting statistics which are supposed to back this up ... although usually without providing any links to the sources of his information. I have a rule on this blog that anyone who leaves a comment is free to express any opinion they wish; but if they want to quote statistics to support the point they are making, they need to provide links to them so that readers can see if what they are saying is true.
My favourite poster has fallen foul of this many times before, yet couldn't resist doing it again in response to this post from last week. After one false start, he surprised me by eventually providing one link which was presumably meant to support his claim that WM schools do not produce better examination results. This is what he said:
Chicken, Michael, you know very well that my figures are correct....what you don't like is that they show YOU to be misleading your acolytes. See no statistics: post that!
Key stage 4 Benchmarking information.
Get it? 88% of pupils in WM schools under 15% FSMs
41% of pupils in EM schools under 15%.
So let's look at the documents on the page he linked to and see if what he claims is true or not. The key information is in tables 9 and 10 on page 3 of this spreadsheet. To make things easier I have highlighted the better results in green and the worse results in pink in this image from it, click to enlarge:
Six different ways of measuring examination performance at the end of Key Stage 4 are shown in these tables. In simple terms, this is what they mean:
Level 1 Threshold ... five GCSE passes at any grade
Level 2 Threshold ... five good GCSE passes at A*-C grade
Level 2 Threshold including English or Welsh First Language and maths ... self explanatory
Core Subject Indicator ... Level 2 Threshold including English or Welsh First Language, maths and a science subject
Average Wider Points Score ... an overall measure that includes all qualifications gained, including grades
Average Capped Wider Points Score ... as above, but limited to the best eight qualifications
The official definitions are more complicated because they include equivalents and discounting, but everything is explained here.
In overall terms, Welsh speaking schools (the table is based on the 1996 definition, which is wider than the current definition of Welsh medium schools) achieve very much better results than other schools, as we can see in the right hand columns. However schools with fewer students receiving free school meals always tend to do better in academic terms than schools which have more students receiving them, so in order to make a like-for-like comparison the results have been benchmarked against FSM entitlement in 5% and 10% bands.
As we can see, Welsh speaking schools in the 10-15% and 15-20% bands do better than other schools in those bands. It is only in the least deprived schools, those with fewer than 10% receiving FSMs, that English speaking schools tend to do better; but even in this band the picture is varied. As a generalization, it's probably fair to say that English speaking schools in this band do better on the narrower range of core subjects (English, maths and science) but that Welsh speaking schools do better across a wider range of subjects.
If we are forced to give a simple Yes/No answer to the question of whether Welsh speaking schools do better when FSM entitlement is taken into account then the best, if not the only, way to do it would be to exclude all the schools with over 20% on FSMs because there are currently no Welsh speaking schools in those bands. We can then work out the relevant percentages because the tables show the numbers of students in the schools in each band, although the calculation may not be precise because the percentages in the original tables are rounded.
Level 1 Threshold ... Welsh 96% ... English 95%
Level 2 Threshold ... Welsh 76% ... English 74%
Level 2 Threshold including English/Welsh & maths ... Welsh 60% ... English 57%
Core Subject Indicator ... Welsh 58% ... English 56%
Average Wider Points Score ... Welsh 493 ... English 441
Average Capped Wider Points Score ... Welsh 338 ... English 330
So the answer to this question is an unequivocal Yes. Under all six measures Welsh speaking schools do get better examination results than English speaking schools, even when FSM entitlement is taken into account.
Although it's nice that Welsh speaking schools produce better results than their English speaking equivalents, I would only want to repeat what I said in the earlier post on primary education.
These differences in performance are marginal. The more important difference is that in WM schools children are taught Welsh to first language standard, but in other schools they are generally taught only to second language standard. However in both WM and EM schools, English is always taught to first language standard. Therefore the main advantage of WM education is that children become competent in both English and Welsh, rather than just in English.
It is not impossible for children to become competent in Welsh if they go to an EM school, but it is less likely. For all practical purposes, WM education is the best way of ensuring that your child is fully bilingual in Welsh and English.