School and College Performance Tables

The government publishes national league tables of school performance. These show how well students at each school have done in their exams at ages 11, 16 and 18.

The tables that tell you about achievement at age 16 are the secondary school, GCSE or equivalent. They are published in January for the previous academic year. These tables are the most important ones to consider when choosing a school for your child.

The best place to find the tables is on the DfE website, but they are published in most national and local newspapers when the data is released.

The tables include all schools in England, state and independent. Schools are listed alphabetically for each LEA, with special schools shown separately at the end of each list. However, the DfE website allows you to search for schools individually, giving you a comprehensive report on each school.

League tables can provide useful information to help choose the right school for your child. For example, you can compare how well all the schools that you may be interested in, have done. However, it is useful to know how to interpret the information correctly, be familiar with the tricks of the trade, and use the information in conjunction with other key resources, if you are going to get an accurate picture of a school.

If a statistic is not included, then it is currently not a statistic which necessarily gives you key information about how to choose the right school for your child.

 Quick Check

If you want to do a quick check on a school, go to the DfE website, Performance Tables (School achievement and attainment tables), secondary school GCSE and equivalent, KS4 results and check the following key statistics. The guidance video, which only lasts two minutes and 11 seconds is useful.  Don’t look at one school in isolation. Either, select local authority, or according to postcode.  If you select local authority, you get the advantage of the local authority averages.

For a quick check, just go through ‘Topline’ information.

% achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths GCSEs

The column has the local authority and national average for this statistic at the top.

This statistic is the percentage of students achieving five or more grades, A*-C at GCSE or equivalent, including English and maths GCSEs.

The GCSE grade scale runs from A* to G. However, A*–C grades are commonly regarded as GCSE passes and a D grade is generally seen as a fail.  ‘Equivalent’ means alternative qualifications, such as BTEC which have equal status to GCSE. It is important to note that a BTEC can count for up to four GCSEs. From 2014, the government will tighten up on what qualifications can be counted as ‘equivalent.’

In 2011, the highest ranking comprehensive school got 87% for this statistic.

This statistic tells you

  • how a school performs at GCSEs, including English and Maths, in comparison to the national average and its neighbouring schools

Year on year comparisons.

This table compares schools’ improvement over four years using the 5+ A* – C, including English and maths  percentage. The local authority and national average are at the top of the chart. The LEA schools are in alphabetical order.

This statistic tells you

  • if a school has improved year on year. A consistent upward trend is a good sign.
  • if a school’s results have declined year on year, it is likely that this downward trend will continue.
  • if a school is on the decline because the percentages begin above the national average and end below it.
  • if a school’s achievement is generally the same year on year. This is satisfactory, but it might suggest a school which is coasting or struggling to bring about improvement.
  • if a school has no clear strategy for improvement. If the school’s percentages are erratic, showing upward and downward swings with no clear improvement or decline, then this is a cause for concern.
  • if a school is typical of the area.
  •  if a school is improving faster than other schools, which are likely to be in similar circumstances.
  • if a school is underperforming compared to schools in similar circumstances.
  • if students at a school are generally of higher ability than the national average.
  • if a school has the capacity for sustained improvement. If the school’s percentages start off under the national average and end above the national average then this is a very good sign.
  •  if a school is on the up, although the students are not necessarily those who are going to  perform well against national comparisons. This is evident when percentages improve but are under the national average.

% of pupils making expected progress

This tells you how much progress students have made from age 11 to age 16. |It is important to take into consideration the national averages for this measurement, before jumping to negative conclusions.

This statistic tells you

  • how good the school is at fulfilling a child’s academic potential. In this respect, it is a more reliable indication of a school’s effectiveness, than the overall five or more A*–C percentage. The progress percentage should be looked at in combination with the A*–C percentage.
  • how good a school is at building on what has been achieved at primary school during Key Stage 2.

 % achieving the English Baccalaureate

The English Baccalaureate percentage is a new measure brought in in 2011.  This is a measure of how many pupils have achieved 5 GCSEs grades A* – C in English, Maths, two Sciences, and History or Geography.  Schools have not yet had time to adapt their curriculum in response to this measure, so it does not yet give a reliable, comparative picture of achievement.

% achievingf grades A* – C in English and maths GCSEs

This measure should be broadly similar to the 5+ A* – C measure.  If it is significantly lower or higher, then this is a cause for concern, because it means that pupils do better or worse  in English and maths than in other subjects, and you would want your child to do equally well in all of their subjects.

Detailed Check

KS4 Results

The key statistics here are:

% achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths GCSEs

low, middle and high attainers. 

This statistic tells you

  • whether a school is serious about all of its students, not just the high achievers. If there are inconsistencies between the three groups of attainers between their match with the national average, then the school may be just focusing on those students who are going to bolster the five or more A*–C percentage.

% achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent)

This statistic tells you

  • how reliant the school is for its results on vocational, (usually BTEC) rather than academic qualifications. If this percentage is significantly higher than % achieving 5+ A*-C including English and maths GCSEs, all qualifications  it means pupils who are achieving vocationally, are not achieving their English and maths GCSEs. This is not necessarily a cause for concern. You would have to investigate what the destinations are for the pupils, and whether they are getting suitable employment.
  • If this percentage is significantly higher than % achieving 5+ A*-C including English and maths GCSEs, all qualifications the school is likely to be suitable for pupils with a vocational rather than an academic aptitude.

Average Point Score (qualifications)

low, middle, high attainers

This statistic tells you

  • similar information to % achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths GCSEs, low, middle and high attainers but in different terms.
  • how the school caters for pupils of differing abilities, and whether all abilities do equally well.
  • how well the school does in comparison to other schools, rather than the national average.
  • a ‘ball park’ grade of what grade your child is likely to get, if you are honest with yourself about what kind of attainer they are.
  • the difference between how pupils of various abilities achieve in vocationalper qualification or GCSE per GCSE

 

Narrowing the Gap

This statistic tells you

  • the economic background of the pupils who go to the school.  ‘Disadvantaged’ means pupils who are entitled to Free school meals, or pupils who are in care. You will need to decide what kind of pupil mix you want for your child. You might want your child to mix pupils from a variety of economic backgrounds; you might want your child to mix with pupils who come from a similar economic background to your own. Pupils from more afluent economic backgrounds tend to achieve more highly at school than those from deprived backgrounds.

The key statistics here are

Exam results

Pupil Progress

These statistics tell you

  • whether the school provides equality of opportunity for pupils.  If you want a school for your child that does, you would be interested in a school where both the percentage for disadvantaged pupils, and non-disadvantaged pupils compare similarly to national averages at % achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths GCSEs and to % making expected progress

Value Added (best 8) measure

Take into consideration the VA score.  Ignore the confidence limits.

This statistic tells you

  • whether the school provides equality of opportunity to pupils. If pupils are making expected progress, value added should be 1000.  You will see that nationally, disadvantaged pupils do not achieve this. If a school is achieving better value added for disadvantaged pupils than the national, then this is a good sign. It means the school is working to ‘narrow the gap’  between the achievement of disadvantaged pupils as against non-disadvantaged pupils. If the gap between the national figure and the school’s figure is greater for non-disadvantaged than disadvantaged, this does not mean the school is favouring the latter over the former. It could mean that the school priorities reducing inequalities. If the gap between the national figure and the school’s figure is greater for disadvantaged than non- disadvantaged, then the school is not necessarily working hard to tackle inequality.

 

Pupil Progress 

The key statistics here are:

Value Added (best 8) – Prior Attainment

This statistic tells you

  • how much progress pupils make from their starting points, and whether pupils of different abilities do equally well.  1000 value added is expected progress, but you will notice that nationally, pupils do not necessarily achieve this.  As a parent then, you are looking for as high a number over 1000 as possible compared with other schools.  The better the school, the more able the school is to add value for all pupils, regardless of their different abilities.

 

Pupil Absence

The sign of a healthy school, is a school with high, above average attendance. This means that pupils want to come to school to learn. If a school’s attendance is below average, then this is potentially a cause for concern. the key statistic is overall absence.

This statistic tells you

  • whether pupils want to come to school
  • whether the school works hard to make sure pupils come to school
  • whether pupils are at school, rather than potentially engaging in anti-social behaviour

The key statistics here are:

Unauthorised absence

This statistic tells you

  • how effectively parents work with the school and their children to manage attendance.  Unauthorised absence is absence that has not been agreed by the school, or pupil absence that has not been authorised by parents. If this percentage is above the national average, then this is a cause for concern.

Persistent absence (15 or 20%)

The difference between the 15 and 20% statistic is not relevant.

This statistic tells you

  • whether the school has a problem with pupils who do not want to come to school over a long period of time. If they have, this is a cause for concern, because the longer a pupil absents themselves from school, the more likely they are to engage in anti-social behaviours.

 

School characteristics

The key statistics here are:

percentage of pupils with SEN, with statements or supported at School Action Plus

This statistic focuses on how many special educational needs (SEN) students the school has and what this means to you. SEN students with statements have more serious special educational needs than those at school action plus.

This statistic tells you

  • the more SEN students a school has, the harder it is for the institution to achieve high GCSE or equivalent scores. If the school has a higher number of SEN students than the national average, then this should be taken into consideration. If a school has a percentage of SEN students much lower than the national average, then you should have high expectations of their five or more A*–C percentage.
  • whether the school is popular with SEN students.
  • the make up of the school.

percentage of pupils with English not as a first language

This statistic tells you

  • something about the racial mix of the pupils attending the school. You have to decide as a parent what kind of cultural mix you want your child to experience at school.

 

Case Study

Summary




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