POORER school pupils living in Monmouthshire are being left behind by their peers with the county’s attainment gap the highest in Wales.

Only 18 per cent of pupils receiving free school meals (FSM) got A*-C grades in at least five GCSEs in 2017/18, making Monmouthshire the worst performing authority in Wales.

Meanwhile almost two thirds of non-FSM pupils reached the Level 2 inclusive threshold, which requires top marks in English, or Welsh first language, and Mathematics.

This means FSM pupils are less than half as likely to succeed as those who are better off, according to Welsh Government figures.

READ MORE: 'Significant' changes to GCSE grade boundaries blamed for low marks in Monmouthshire

Labour councillor Dimitri Batrouni said this was “undeniable evidence” that children from poorer backgrounds are further disadvantaged under Conservative-controlled local authorities like Monmouthshire.

“These results are nothing short of a disgrace,” said the leader of the Labour opposition group.

“Monmouthshire also have had the worst attainment gap in Wales for the past four years.

“Tory councils have let down teachers, parents and, most importantly, their poorest children

“Monmouthshire is failing to provide the necessary support to our schools through relentless cuts, undermining the capacity of our hardworking teachers to provide the extra support these pupils need to achieve their potential.”

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Councillor Richard John, cabinet member for children and young people, said too few FSM pupils were securing at least five good GCSES “despite the best efforts of teachers, parents and learners”.

But he criticised Cllr Batrouni for “failing to recognise” that being FSM eligible hides a range of complex challenges that affect the progress of vulnerable learners.

“This Conservative-run Council is continuing to increase funding for schools because education remains our top priority,” said Cllr John.

“This year, we have made money available specifically to assist vulnerable learners in Year 11 with additional revision sessions and personalised support.

“This is despite Monmouthshire receiving the lowest per head funding of any council in Wales as well as the deepest budget cuts from the Welsh Government.

“Perhaps Cllr Batrouni may want to have a chat with his Labour friends in Cardiff Bay about this rank unfairness to Monmouthshire children.”

A Welsh Government spokesman that a child’s ability to fulfil their academic potential should not be determined by social or economic circumstances, such as where they live or parental income.

“Tackling the attainment gap and raising standards for all pupils is at the heart of our National Mission for education,” he added.

“That is why we have expanded the Pupil Development Grant and continue to reduce class sizes.”