With Wales eschewing the Standard Attainment Test system used in England to examine the progress of 14 year olds, teachers' assessments of the standard reached are used to measure progress.
This year's findings regarding progress in non-core subjects, reported today, show the highest ever percentage of pupils attaining level 5 (the expected level) in all subjects except for music and art, although art was an increase on last year's results.
Sadly, achievement in modern foreign languages and Welsh as a second language were significantly below achievements in other subjects (art, design & technology, music, physical education, geography, information technology and history), rating at 61% and 54% at level 5, compared to between 70 and 75% 'pass' for the remaining subjects.
The concerning element, though, is the wide variation that exists between male and female achievement in almost all subjects, physical education being the obvious exception to this rule. Masked by relatively high results for the majority of subjects, this is very clear in both modern foreign languages, where 53% of boys attain the required level, and even more so with regards to Welsh as a second language, where just 44% of boys reach level 5, much weaker than their performances in other subjects.
Similar variation exists, especially in Welsh, between different locations. Surprisingly given the possibility of hearing and using Welsh to a greater extent in the community, the 'pass' rate for pupils in Welsh speaking areas is often less than in more Anglicised areas. Hopefully, this isn't a reflection of different norms being used across Wales to establish the criterion.
The silver lining to this is that this is part of a continuing rise in the figures, one that I hope shows genuine increase in standards - something we'll discover in two years time when this cohort reaches its GCSE year.