Bradford is still languishing at the bottom of the class according to national league tables for education released today. Out of 36 metropolitan councils the city comes below average in a series of performance indicators compiled by local government watchdog The Audit Commission for levels of service provided in 1998. Education Reporter Lyn Barton looks behind the statistics.

WHEN IT comes to one key area - standards achieved by 11-year-olds - Bradford is right at the foot of the table.

According to the Audit Commission, this is how Bradford performed:

Only 26 per cent of pupils gain five or more GCSE at grade A*-C, third from bottom and way below the average of 36 per cent.

Bradford is bottom of the league in the number of pupils attaining level four at Key Stage Two with 52 per cent. A decrease of one per cent from last year.

Around 38 per cent of primary school classes have more than 30 pupils. The average for other metropolitan councils is 30 per cent.

Spending per head on primary school pupils is £1,506, compared to the average for metropolitan councils of £1,603.

Bradford is third from bottom in terms of spending on secondary school pupils in metropolitan districts with £2,102. Only South Tyneside and Wakefield scored lower. The average is £2,255.

Some 72 per cent of under-fives are in council-run schools compared with an average for all metropolitan councils of 76 per cent.

The figures have improved from last year in some respects. Then Bradford was bottom of the league for spending on primary and secondary school pupils with figures of £1,427 and £1,991, respectively.

In 1997 the district also had the second lowest GCSE pass rate at grades A*-C.

In terms of standards for 11-year-olds, measured by the number attaining level four at Key Stage Two, Bradford has actually dropped to bottom from second to bottom last year.

However, this year has seen an improvement by one per cent on the number of under-fives in schools from 71 per cent to 72 per cent.

Councillor Jim Flood, Bradford Council's education committee chairman, said a move from a three to a two-tier system would do much to tackle issues raised by the commission.

"All league tables should be taken with a full cellar of salt although in broad terms they can paint a useful picture," he said.

"The trends are generally in the right direction. We started the schools review knowing what the problems were and I am confident the reorganisation will do more than anything else to deal with these issues."

Education ministers are due to give their decision on the review within the next few weeks.

A spokesman for Bradford's education department added that the news was not all doom and gloom. The high proportion of classes with more than 30 children was a statistic already out of date as the Council has been given funding to take on another 66 teachers.

The spokesman added that a central part of the schools review was to address poor results at Key Stage Two and GCSE level.

Currently Bradford pupils move school in the middle of their Key Stage Two work and again before they sit GCSEs, unlike most children in England who move from primary to secondary schools, without going to a middle school.

Opposition groups said the performance indicators showed that persistent under-funding in education led to poor results.

"If the education department was a business, these indicators year on year would mean the bosses would be down the road with their P45s," said Coun David Ward, the Liberal Democrat group's education spokesman.

Coun Dale Smith, Conservative group education spokesman said performance indicators didn't lie and proved Bradford still had a long way to go. "We cannot afford to be below average. We must at least aim to be average."

Ian Murch, of the NUT, said a handful of performance indicators did not always show the bigger picture of what a local education was doing. Apparent low level of spending per pupil population masked high levels of spending repairing and renovating school buildings for example, he said.

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