MONMOUTHSHIRE council’s leader said he has “every confidence” its four schools’ GCSE performance will improve – after a blunder meant it responded to a councillor’s criticisms with irrelevant education statistics.

Councillor Peter Fox was responding to figures that Monmouthshire children’s results are in the bottom quarter of Welsh schools for 15 and 16-year-olds who achieve five GCSEs at grade G or higher.

He told a council meeting that he takes “no pleasure in where we sit on these benchmark tables” but attacked the Labour administration in Cardiff, which he said has led Wales “to the bottom of the heap” of OECD education figures.

The authority sought to clear up confusion over statistics released a fortnight ago responding to criticism from the Labour group’s leader, Cllr Dimitri Batrouni, who said it was “failing our children and limiting their life chances”.

Cllr Fox said the statistics’ release were either “misguided” or a mistake.

The council had said a fortnight ago that its GCSE performance was “massively above” the Welsh average.

But a council spokesman said: “Cllr Batrouni is right to point out that in our group of comparative schools, determined by levels of Free School Meal entitlement, our current level of performance sees us having 4 (100%) of schools in the lowest quartile for performance at Key Stage 4 Level.

“Our recognition and understanding that in both absolute and comparative terms our performance is still a long way from our expectations and this drives the improvement activity in our schools.”

Cllr Batrouni said he welcomed the amended statistics but was “disappointed” an apology had not been offered.

He said: “I am glad the Conservatives have changed, after some pressure from the Labour group, their response to the GCSE results story. Their new response reflects the gravity of the situation.

“However, I am disappointed they haven’t apologised to the people that matter – the residents of Monmouthshire. Their initial response was false, dismissive and misled the public. The Conservatives should have the courtesy to apologise to them.”

Earlier in the meeting, the cabinet member for schools and learning, Liz Hacket Pain, admitted the council has a way to go to improve She said: “We know we have shortfalls – that’s why we’re in special measures.”

But she said it was important to recognise only one person from its comprehensive schools in Caldicot, Chepstow, Monmouth and Abergavenny left with no qualifications last year.She said of the 917 children who took their GCSEs last year, 846 got five graded A*-G.

Of the other 71 children, 70 had attained other qualifications.