News story

Parents get more information about school performance

Coalition government publishes new data about the performance and expenditure of secondary schools in England.

Parents will, for the first time today, have more information about how schools are performing in providing a rounded academic education for children and how they spend their money.

This new data comes as part of the Department’s contribution to the Coalition Government’s commitment on transparency, openness and accountability. In addition, for the first time ever, parents will be able to use the Department’s website to create their own performance tables that rank local schools or to compare them with others.

The figures published show

  • the overall number of 5 GCSE (or iGCSE or equivalent) passes at A* to C including English and mathematics has increased again this year by 3.6 percentage points to 53.4% - around 25,600 more pupils achieving this performance measure than last year
  • 216 schools were below the new floor standard of below 35% achieving 5 GCSEs or equivalents at grades A* to C including English and mathematics and below the average levels of progression in English and mathematics
  • under the new English Baccalaureate measure, 15.6% of pupils in England achieve an A* to C GCSE (or iGCSE) in English, mathematics, sciences, a modern or ancient language and history or geography
  • 53.8% of pupils achieved the new basic measure of achieving English and mathematics GCSEs (or iGCSEs) at grade A* to C
  • academies continue to show improvements in getting 5 good GCSEs (or iGCSEs or equivalents) including English and mathematics at a faster rate of 7.8 percentage points compared to other schools, which improved by 4.5 percentage points
  • Southwark, Thurrock and Westminster are the most improved local authorities in terms of percentage of pupils achieving 5 GCSE (or iGCSE or equivalent) passes at A* to C including English and mathematics from 2007 to 2010.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

This is the most detail parents and the public have ever had about how children are performing in England’s secondary schools.

Children, parents and schools should be proud of their results, which have been achieved through all the hard work they have put in. But as the international evidence from PISA shows us, England still lags behind other nations. We have not succeeded in closing the gap and in raising attainment for all students.

That’s why we are reforming our school system by learning from the best-performing countries. In nearly every other developed country in the world children are assessed in a range of core academic subjects at 15 or 16. That is why the Coalition introduced the English Baccalaureate as a measure of performance.

The key performance measure remains the number of children who get 5 A* to C passes at GCSE including English and maths.

I am open to arguments about how we can further improve every measure in the performance tables - including the English Baccalaureate. But I am determined to ensure that our exam standards match the highest standards around the world.

Sue John, Headteacher of Lampton School in Hounslow, said:

We are pleased to support the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. Lampton is a complex, urban comprehensive academy but we strongly believe that our students should be academically stretched and have the same life chances as students from more affluent areas. It is our policy to ensure that all students have an entitlement to pursue a broad and balanced curriculum. Their prospects of social mobility are enhanced by studying a humanities subject and a modern foreign language, in addition to English, maths and science. We already know that universities value these subjects and take them into account either officially or unofficially when deciding to offer places to students.

Barry Day, Chief Executive of the Greenwood Academies Trust, multiple sponsor with academies only in deprived areas including the Nottingham Academy - which has 35% of its children on free school meals, said:

The government is sending a clear and welcome message that those of us working in education must have higher expectations for young people. At the moment far too many students, especially from more deprived communities, are pushed through courses that will not help them continue in education or get a job.

It is unacceptable that after years of big budget increase there are still a couple of hundred schools where fewer than 35% of pupils achieve 5 good GCSEs including English and maths and are failing to make an average level of progress. This level of performance should be considered a bare minimum. I know from my experience of taking over underperforming schools that there are no excuses for such poor attainment.

It’s also right that the government should be encouraging, via the English Baccalaureate, the take-up of tougher subjects like modern languages. Young people whose parents can’t afford private schools - where such subjects are offered to all as a matter of course - will see a huge benefit; and many more will be able to access courses at our best universities as a result.

School-by-school spend data

The spending data published alongside the performance data will allow parents, researchers and the general public for the first time to

  • look at how much individual schools spent per pupil last year on areas such as teaching staff, energy and catering, to judge if a school is making the best use of the funding allocated to it
  • download the raw data underlying the tables or request other data if they want to do more detailed analysis.

For example, a parent could compare how well their school performs compared to other schools nearby. They will know for the first time whether the school down the road is doing twice as well with much less money. Schools can compare how they are spending their money compared to other schools.

Michael Gove added:

Publishing all this information is a dramatic step change in the accountability of the school system. The aim of publishing the school-by-school spending data is not to point fingers, but to ensure we better understand how the best and most effective schools achieve what they achieve with the money and resources they have.

The coalition government has protected the overall school budgets for the next 4 years and are investing an additional £3.6 billion, which includes the pupil premium targeted at disadvantaged pupils. We need to ensure that every pound is spent as effectively as possible and the best way of doing that is by shining a light on the best practice within the existing schools system, allowing headteachers, governors and parents to learn from the best.

We hope this data, along with the new performance measures, will drive forward an appetite for people to ask for more data. The Department for Education will make available to whoever asks for it data so that people can construct their own performance tables based on a range of measures they want.

This is one of the exciting things the coalition government is doing - empowering parents, the profession and wider public to judge schools in the way they consider appropriate.

William Simmonds, Chief Executive of the National Association of School Business Management, said:

NASBM welcomes the publication of the school spending data. It’s an important tool in helping parents see how their child’s school spends their money, so they can be confident it has supported teaching and learning. The data also helps schools compare themselves to others in similar circumstances, continually encouraging them to make efficiency savings. The role of the school business manager is crucial to a well financially managed school - that is why it is important that all schools have access to one to ensure that best value is achieved and that money is delivered to the frontline for the benefit of the pupils.

Notes for editors

Read the statistical first release showing the Key Stage 4 and 5 results on the DfE’s Data, research and statistics website.

 The new floor target for secondary schools

Schools are defined as being below the floor if

  • less than 35% of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 (KS4) are achieving 5 or more GCSEs A* to C (or equivalents) including English and mathematics GCSE, and
  • they have below average percent of pupils at the end of KS4 making expected progress in English (national median is 72%), and
  • they have below average % of pupils at the end of KS4 making expected progress in mathematics (national median is 65%).

It does not include independent schools, closed schools, special schools, schools with fewer than 11 pupils, schools with lost results and schools that are not published in the performance tables.

 Drop in academic subjects

In recent years there has been a huge drop off in the number of children studying academic subjects. In 2004 around 15,000 non-academic qualifications were taken in schools. By 2010 this had risen to around 575,000 - mostly at age 16 - a 3,800% increase.

The number of children taking any GCSEs in science or a modern foreign language has fallen:

  • science (single, double or additional sciences) fell by roughly 60,000 between 2006 to 2007 and 2009 to 2010
  • since 2000 the number of pupils doing a modern foreign language (MFL) has dropped by a third. For the first time French has fallen out of the top 10 GCSE subjects and numbers taking fell by 6%. The numbers taking German fell by 4.5%.

The situation is worse for the poorest - in 2009 just 4% of children on free school meals took chemistry or physics. Fewer than one in five did history and fewer than 15% took geography or French. Just 24% of FSM pupils entered an MFL subject, compared with 43% of non-FSM pupils doing likewise.

 International baccalaureates

In France all children take the ‘Brevet des Colleges’, which assesses French, mathematics, history/geography/civics and a modern foreign language.

In Asia there is typically assessment of the whole core curriculum at GCSE level. In Singapore, for example, all pupils must take English, another language, mathematics, science, humanities, plus one other subject. And in the United States nearly all schools have mandatory assessment during high school in mathematics, English, science and social studies including history and politics.

 More data, greater transparency

Releasing these new data sets are part of the Department’s contribution to the coalition government’s commitment to greater transparency. All the school spend data for LA-maintained primary and secondary schools is also being made available in raw format so that it can be manipulated according to people’s interests and needs.

This is just the beginning of a move towards greater openness with government data on education. In the future, parents, school staff, researchers and statisticians will have

  • access to a single site to look at a range of school attainment data
  • the ability to easily compare data for a number of schools across England
  • the capacity to create their own database applications or link to our data, as the data will be stored differently.

In the meantime, researchers and statistician can request the raw data on school attainment from the Department. For example, if someone wanted to find out how many schools get GCSE history, they can ask for that data and then rank the schools on that basis. Requests can be made by emailing attainment.statistics@education.gsi.gov.uk

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