GCSE results in Swindon are still not good enough.

That’s the official view of Swindon Borough Council, as expressed in a report by leader David Renard and chief executive officer Susie Kemp.

But members of the audit committee said they felt it was unfair to expect the council to shoulder the burden of making improvements when it doesn’t have sufficient control of most of the secondary schools in Swindon.

The draft Annual Governance Statement, signed by Coun Renard and Ms Kemp, says: “GCSE results are currently still below the national average and overall pupil progress measures are still not good enough.”

Councillors across the political divide expressed frustration that the authority had lost a lot of it powers over secondary schools as they have become academies or free schools.

Labour councillor Kevin Small said: “I’m concerned about GCSE attainment. I want to see progress and we need to be proactive.

“But because of the independence of schools there’s a limit to how much this council can do. We are the local education authority, but academies and free schools are not under the authority’s control, and it is not in a position to look to raise standards.

“We can’t be proactive, and take control and send people into a school where standards aren’t high enough.”

Conservative councillor Nick Martin agreed, saying: “You can’t change anything, except from the inside.

“I wanted a good school for my children to be able to walk to in West Swindon, so I went on the board of governors.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education defended schools becoming academies, saying: “There are 1.9 million more children in Good or Outstanding schools compared to 2010 – representing 85 per cent of children, compared to just 66 per cent in 2010, which is in part down to our reforms.

“This includes half a million pupils now in Good or Outstanding sponsored academies that typically replaced underperforming schools.

“Academy status leads to a more dynamic and responsive education system by allowing schools to make decisions based on local need and the interests of their pupils. It allows high-performing schools to consolidate success and spread that excellence across their local area.

“Converting to become an academy is a positive choice made by hundreds of schools every year to give great leaders the freedom to focus on what is best for pupils.”

The council’s report pointed out that the Swindon Challenge has made a significant improvement in maths and English, continuing: “The Swindon Challenge board, established in March 2017, has funded a number of improvement initiatives within schools and updated the Schools Causing Concern Strategy as well as the School Improvement Strategy.

“This is now showing impact with an improvement in mathematics and English GCSE progress and outcomes in a number of schools.

“Pupil progress in mathematics was in line with the national average and the overall Progress 8 measure saw considerable improvement.”

Last year, 39.9 per cent of Swindon pupils achieved grade 5 or higher in English or maths, compared to 40.2 per cent for all English schools, but 43.3 per cent for the country’s state-funded schools.