PRIMARY school pupils in Barnsley are excelling academically but the town’s secondaries have been found to be ‘much weaker’ than their national counterparts, an Ofsted study has revealed.

The education watchdog’s annual report, which looks at schools’ attainment and inspection outcomes, reveals just 40 per cent of the borough’s secondary schools are good or outstanding-rated.

This puts Barnsley at the bottom of the Yorkshire and Humber league table, as of August 31 last year, and much lower than the 76 per cent national average.

Primary schools fare better, with 81 per cent deemed good or outstanding, which is just six per cent shy of the national average.

Figures for pupils achieving their expected standard in reading and maths by the end of key stage two, when youngsters move to secondary school, is much-improved with 73 per cent and 81 per cent recorded respectively, both higher than the national average.

However, by key stage four - the end of secondary school - Barnsley’s pupils’ attainment levels dip again in both English and maths.

‘Attainment 8’ - a score which measures the achievement of a pupil across eight different subjects - is below the national average according to Ofsted’s study.

Emma Ing, regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber for Ofsted, said: “I am pleased to report that the youngest children in the region have access to great early years provision, with nearly all the childminders, nurseries and pre-schools being either good or outstanding.

“Sadly this is not the case in the schools sector as at secondary level the proportion of schools with a good or outstanding rating remains below national level.

“Secondary schools in Barnsley are much weaker than similar schools nationally and this makes a difference for children. Going to a good school gets you to a really good place, gives you a good start in life that these children are being denied.

“I am hopeful the findings from this research will help schools break the cycle and achieve a good or outstanding rating.”

Nick Bowen, executive principal of Horizon Community College, said the Barnsley Schools Alliance - a partnership approach which sees headteachers attend monthly meetings from schools across the borough to share ideas - had made huge progress at a recent council scrutiny meeting.

He added: “We’ve made significant improvements and implemented new measures which is reflected in our progress. Barnsley was no doubt performing poorly, but now we have something to shout about and be proud.

“The Barnsley Schools Alliance has been the envy of of authorities across the country and we have had people come and see how we make it work. It’s unique but we don’t take it for granted.”

Cabinet spokesperson Coun Margaret Bruff admitted there was work to be done in boosting Ofsted ratings in the town.

“We support and challenge all schools in Barnsley to help them achieve good or outstanding ratings,” she said.

“We know there is more work to be done, but we will continue to work in partnership in the Barnsley Schools Alliance to achieve our shared goal that every child can achieve their full potential.”