This post collects and analyses data about the performance of high attaining students at Key Stages 4 and 5 in the 2012 Secondary Performance Tables and Key Stage 5 Tables respectively. It also draws on evidence from the Statistical First Reviews (SFRs) published alongside the tables.
The KS4 analysis compares 2012 outcomes with those for 2011, when a high-attaining pupil measure was first introduced into the Secondary Tables.
This is a companion piece to a parallel analysis of High Attaining Pupils in the 2012 Primary School Performance Tables published in December 2012.
The commentary below highlights results – either extraordinarily good or particularly bad – from specific schools identified in the tables. There may of course be extenuating circumstances not allowed for in the Tables to justify outcomes that, at first sight, seem unacceptably poor.
I cannot always reconcile the figures in the Performance Tables with those in the SFRs, although the differences are typically small. I apologise in advance for any transcription errors and cordially invite you to correct any that you find using the comments facility below.
For those who prefer not to read the full post, I have summarised some of the key findings in the next section, following a brief reprise of the generic points highlighted in media analysis to date
Highlights of Media Analysis
The commentary since publication of the Performance Tables has focused predominantly on the following points (the figures quoted do not always reflect those actually in the SFRs):
- 59.4% of pupils in all state-funded mainstream schools achieved the benchmark of 5+ A*-C Grades at GCSE including English and maths.
- This percentage increased by 3.1% in sponsored academies, while the corresponding increase in state funded schools as a whole was 0.6%; The Department for Education’s initial press notice claimed this as evidence that: ‘standards are rising in sponsored academies… more than five times as quickly than in all state-funded schools’.
- 36.3% of pupils eligible for free school meals achieved this measure compared with 62.6% of other pupils, giving an attainment gap of 26.3%, and so an improvement of 1.1% improvement compared with 2011.
- 18.3% of pupils achieved the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), an increase of 2.7% compared with 2011. In mainstream state-funded schools however, only 16.4% achieved the EBacc, so giving an improvement of less than 1% compared with 2011.
- 23.4% of schools and colleges produced no students with AAB+ A level grades in the facilitating subjects;
- 195 secondary schools fell short of the current floor target, about 60 of them academies. There were 14 ‘converter academies’ in this position. The number of schools below the floor has almost doubled (from 107) as the threshold has been increased but, had the threshold been the same as in 2011, the number below the target would have fallen by 56.
One paper ran a headline claiming ‘Brightest Pupils “Going Backwards”’, supporting this primarily with evidence that fewer than half of high attainers were entered for the English Baccalaureate and over 60% failed to achieve it.
What truth is there in this statement and what additional evidence can be adduced to confirm or counter it? The section below highlights some key findings.
Highlights from This Analysis
This analysis suggests that:
- The proportion of ‘high attainers’ varies significantly by sector: 33.6% of KS4 students in all mainstream state-funded schools are deemed ‘high attainers’. However, 36.8% of students in academies and free schools are high-attaining, including 42.5% in converter academies alone and 42.9% in free schools/UTCs/studio schools alone. Such distinctions might go some way at least towards explaining why these categories of school perform relatively well. Rather strangely, only 89.8% of students in selective schools count as high attainers, but the comparative figure for comprehensive schools is much lower at 31.7%.
- Achievement of the 5+ GCSEs A*-C including English and maths measure is deteriorating, and relatively poor in free schools/UTCs/studio schools: 6.0% of high attainers in mainstream state-funded schools fail to achieve this measure, but that is far better than the corresponding percentages for middle attainers (44.9%) and low attainers (92.9% ). While some 480 schools achieve 100% amongst their high attainers on this measure, about 20 schools are at or below 67% and 66 are at or below 75%. This is worrying evidence of underachievement. Though converter academies score well on this measure (only 4.5% of high attainers fail to achieve the benchmark), the situation is much worse in free schools/UTCs/studio schools where 12.5% fail to do so. This is particularly surprising given the relatively high incidence of high attainers in such schools. An additional concern is that the overall percentage of high attainers achieving this measure has fallen 1.2% since last year. The fall in converter academies has been much larger at 6.9%.
- There are big disparities in achievement of (and entry for) the EBacc: 38.5% of high attainers in mainstream state-funded schools managed the EBacc, which means of course that over 60% did not do so. The percentage was much higher in converter academies where 49.1% of high attainers achieved the EBacc. Conversely, in free schools/UTCs/studio schools just 23.6% achieve the EBacc. There are 235 schools at which no high-attaining students whatsoever managed to secure the EBacc. No high-attaining students were entered at 186 schools. The overall percentage of high attainers with the EBacc at mainstream state funded schools increased by 1.3% compared with 2011. Although there was an increase of 3.4% in sponsored academies, there was an even larger fall of 6.3% in converter academies.
- Too many high attainers fail to make three levels of progress in English and in maths: Roughly 1 in every 6 high attainers fails to make the expected three levels of progress from KS2 to KS4 in English, and roughly 1 in 7 high attainers fails to do so in maths. This is further evidence of underachievement. There is some underachievement even amongst high attainers in selective schools. In 93 schools every single high attainer achieved the required progress in English – and the same is true of 100 schools in respect of maths. Twenty-six schools achieved this feat in both English and maths. However, there are 75 schools where 50% or fewer made the expected progress in English, and 43 schools where the same applied in maths. Middle attainers significantly outperformed high attainers at the majority of these schools. There were odd schools where even low attainers managed to outperform high attainers! The overall percentage of high attainers in mainstream state-funded schools making the requisite progress in English fell by 3.8% compared with 2011, though it improved by 0.6% in maths. This may suggest that high attainers were adversely affected by the problems over GCSE English marking.
- There were huge variations between schools in the percentage achieving AAB A level grades in the facilitating subjects, but there has been good progress against the associated social mobility indicator: Overall 7.4% of A level students in state-funded schools and colleges managed AAB+ Grades at A level in the facilitating subjects. This percentage reached 65% in the highest performing state-funded schools (which are predominantly selective). However, there were 574 schools and colleges where zero A level students achieved this measure. In every sector relatively more students achieve at least three A*/A grades at A level (regardless of subject) than achieve AAB in facilitating subjects. The gap between independent schools and mainstream state-funded schools on the AAB facilitating subjects measure is 15.1%, so there has been a 1% improvement on this social mobility indicator since 2011.
The full analysis is set out below, prefaced by some essential background information about the key measures and how they are defined.
The Key Measures and How They Are Defined
The 2012 Secondary Performance Tables provide breakdowns of performance against some measures for ‘high attainers’, ‘middle attainers’ and ‘low attainers’. These three groups are defined on the basis of prior attainment at the end of Key Stage 2.
- High attainers are those who achieved above Level 4 in KS2 tests – ie their average point score in English, maths and science tests was 30 or higher.
- Middle attainers are those who achieved at the expected Level 4 in KS2 tests – ie their average points score in English, maths and science tests was between 24 and 29.99 – and
- Low attainers are those who achieved below Level 4 in KS2 tests – ie their average points score in English, maths and science tests was under 24.
Because these calculations are made on the basis of average points scores across three subjects, it follows that ‘high attainers’ may have a relatively spiky achievement profile, compensating for middling performance in one area through high attainment in another. Conversely, learners who are exceptional in one subject but relatively low achievers in the other two are unlikely to pass the APS 30 threshold.
The ‘high attainer’ threshold is not overly demanding. The Tables attached to SFR 02/2013: GCSE and Equivalent Results in England 2011/12 (revised) show that 33.6% of all pupils in state-funded mainstream schools were within this category (33.4% of boys and 33.8% of girls). More information about the distribution of this population is provider later in this post.
The 2012 Primary Performance Tables also show that 27% of pupils achieved Level 5 or above in both English and maths, while the average points score of all pupils nationally was 28.3.
The definition of these sub-groups makes it possible to compare performance of these three groups against each other and against the national average. This enables us to reach broad conclusions about whether schools are successfully improving the performance of all pupils across the distribution, or whether they are focused disproportionately on one group or the other, perhaps in an effort to minimise the percentage of pupils not achieving the threshold performance measures.
This is particularly critical for those schools at risk of dipping below the ‘floor targets’, which determine whether or not they are vulnerable to Government intervention. The secondary floor target is for 40% of pupils in a school to achieve 5+ GCSEs at Grades C or above including English and maths. plus 70% of pupils to make the expected three levels of progress between the end of KS2 and the end of KS4 in each of English and maths.
The guidance on the Performance Tables provides a useful diagram showing the expected levels of progress for high, middle and low attaining pupils respectively. High attainers are expected to achieve Grade B or above in GCSE English and maths.
By comparing 2012 results with those from 2011, we can judge whether or not schools seem to be adjusting their behaviour, although we cannot of course establish to what extent any adjustment is attributable to the Performance Tables.
Key Stage 5
The Statement of Intent for the 2012 Performance Tables issued in July 2012 confirmed plans to introduce for the first time:
‘Percentages of students achieving three A levels at grades AAB or higher in facilitating subjects, reflecting the subjects and grades most commonly required by Russell Group and other top universities.’
The data provided gives the percentages for KS5 students and A level students respectively, and the measure is more accurately three or more A levels excluding equivalences.
The subjects covered by the term ‘facilitating subjects’ are listed as ‘Mathematics and Further Mathematics, English (Literature), Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Geography, History, Languages (Classical and Modern). A full list of the examinations that count as facilitating subjects is published amongst the technical papers supporting the tables.
Following publication of the Tables, significant reservations have been expressed about the design of this measure. The Russell Group – the organisation largely responsible for promulgating it – pointed out that:
‘It would be wrong to use this simple indicator as a measure of the number of pupils in a school who are qualified to apply successfully to a Russell Group university.
The Russell Group has published a guide called Informed Choices which lists ‘facilitating subjects’ which are those most commonly required for entry to our leading universities.
However, it’s important that students make decisions based on their individual circumstances. We encourage all prospective students to check the entry requirements for their chosen course before applying to a particular university.’
The AAB+ in facilitating subjects measure supports one of the Government’s preferred Social Mobility Indicators which compares the percentage of students attending state and independent schools respectively who achieve this measure. (In 2011 the gap was 16.1%, with 7.0% of state school students and 23.1% of independent school students achieving this measure.)
In addition there are also new other measures included in the 2012 KS5 Performance Tables for the first time:
- Average point score per student (A level, IB, pre-U and AQA Bacc) – the total number of points achieved by a student divided by the total number of students taking the relevant qualifications
- Average point score per entry (A level, IB, pre-U and AQA Bacc) – the total number of points achieved by a student divided by the total number of entries to the relevant qualifications.
- Value added score for each Level 3 qualification type
A technical note provides details of the point scores allocated to different grades in different qualifications.
Secondary Performance Tables
The Tables show that:
- 59.8% (or is it 59.4%) of students in mainstream state-funded schools achieved five or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades A*-C including English and maths. This was achieved by 94.0% of high attainers (compared with 55.1% of middle attainers and just 7.1% of low attainers.
- One school (Pate’s Grammar School, Cheltenham) is registered as having no high attaining students achieving this benchmark, but this is because it adopted an IGCSE English qualification which is not accepted for inclusion in the Performance tables. The next lowest was 3% (The Rushden Community College specialising in Mathematics and Computing) which includes 35 pupils in its high attainer cohort. Rushden is also reported to have made an idiosyncratic choice of English syllabus. (Two more schools – Culverhay and Raincliffe – are below 50%. A further 15 schools are at 67% or below and, altogether, 66 schools are at 75% or below, including several academies. Some 480 schools achieved 100% on this measure.
- In English state-funded schools, 94.3% of high attainers achieved Grades A*-C in GCSE English and maths. This compared with 55.8% of middle attainers and 7.3% of low attainers. The average figure for all pupils was 59.3%. Slightly more schools – almost 530 – managed 100% on this measure but, excluding Pate’s, Rushden was again the worst performing on 3%, followed by Culverhay on 40%. Altogether (excluding Pate’s) 17 schools were at or below 67% and almost 60 below 75%, once again including some prominent academies;
- The average point score per pupil for the best eight subjects entered (all qualifications) was 343.3 for all pupils in state-funded schools. The average for high attainers was 398.4, compared with 338.9 for middle attainers and 263.7 for low attainers. Several schools, almost all selective, achieved an APS of over 450. At the other end of the table, Culverhay came in at 273.4 and a further 40 schools were at 350 or lower. The results were similar when GCSEs only were counted, but with lower APS at the bottom of the scale. The APS for high attainers across all state-funded schools was 375.4, but 16 schools recorded an APS of 200 or lower, around half of the academies.
- The average grade per qualification was A+ in 24 mostly selective schools, yet it was below C at 10 schools. It was D at City Academy Norwich and Culverhay and D+ at the Milton Keynes Academy. If only GCSEs are counted, the average grade was E+ at Culverhay and D in three more schools. Thirty-two selective schools recorded A+.
- The average number of entries per pupil for high attainers across all state-funded schools was 12.4 for all qualifications and 9.7 for GCSEs. Colyton Grammar School entered high attaining pupils for an average 14.5 GCSEs, significantly higher than any other school, while 15 schools entered their high attainers for fewer than 5 GCSEs. When all qualifications are counted, The James Hornsby High School managed an astonishing 22.0 average entries amongst its 17 high attainers.
- Turning to the English Baccalaureate, 16.2% of all KS4 pupils in state-funded schools achieved it, but 38.5% of high attainers did so, compared with 7.1% of middle attainers and fewer than 1% of low attainers. All twenty high attainers at Tauheedul Islam Girls High School achieved the EBacc. On the other hand, no high attainers did so at 235 schools. On average across English state-funded schools, 46.3% of high attaining students were entered for all the EBacc subjects. In 186 schools no high attaining pupils were entered.
- The EBacc value added measures for high attainers show Tauheedul Islam Girls school topping the table for English (1009.5) and Beis Yaakov High school for maths (1008.0), science (1009.5) and languages (1013.4). Yesoday Hatorah Senior Girls School had the highest score in Humanities.
- In English state funded schools, 68% of pupils made the expected three levels of progress in English while 68.7% did so in maths. In English, more high attainers than middle and low attainers – 83.4% – made such progress and the same was true of maths where the comparable percentage was 85.8%. However, this means that 1 in every 6 high attainers failed to make the expected progress in English and 1 in 7 failed to do so in maths. There were 93 schools where 100% of high attainers made the requisite progress in English and 100 schools where the same was achieved in maths. Twenty-six schools achieved this in both English and maths.
- At Pate’s (see above) and Rushden, no high attaining pupils made the expected progress in English and 50% or fewer managed this at 75 schools. At Parklands High School just 8% of high attainers made three levels of progress in maths and there were 43 schools where 50% or fewer managed this. In both English and maths, the vast majority of schools where less than 50% of high achievers managed three levels of progress realised significantly higher percentages for their middle attainers. A few did so for their low attainers as well. At Milton Keynes Academy, the percentages for low attainers and middle attainers in English were 76% and 79% respectively – for high attainers it was 20%. The disparities were relatively less stark in maths.
- When it came to the value added (best eight) measure, Beis Yaakov High School scored 1065.0 for its high attainers and six more schools were over 1050 including Tauheedul and Mossbourne Academy. At Culverhay the figure was 853.7 and in 35 schools it was 950.0 or below.
Key Stage 5 Performance Tables
The KS5 Tables reveal that:
- In all English state-funded schools and colleges, 4.8% of KS5 students achieved at least AAB grades in A level facilitating subjects, and 7.4% of A level students did so. The percentage reached 65% in the top-performing state-funded schools against the each of these measures. Queen Elizabeth’s Barnet was the best-performing state-funded school in this respect. At the other end of the spectrum, 610 schools and colleges – both state-funded and independent – managed zero KS5 students on this measure. The comparable number where no A level students achieved this measure was 574. Both totals are surprisingly high.
- The average point score per A level student in state-funded schools and colleges was 736.2 and the average point score per entry was 210.2. Colchester Royal Grammar School managed an APS of 1393.0 per student while The Henrietta Barnet School managed 275.2 per entry. Six institutions managed an APS per student of less than 200, four of them academies. The APS per A level entry was below 100 at two institutions, one of them an Academy.
Statistical First Releases
Alongside the Performance Tables, several associated statistical publications were released. These included:
These provide some further detail about the achievement of high-attaining students.
Key Stage 4
SFR02/13 (Table 1D) shows the proportion of students in state-funded schools making the expected 3 levels of progress towards GCSE English and Maths having achieved a Level 5 in their KS2 tests in those subjects (so this is different to the ‘high attainers’ progression measure in the Secondary Performance Tables).
Although 76.9% of pupils made the expected progress in English and 79.7% did so in maths, that means 1 in 4 students did not make the expected progress in English and 1 in 5 did not do so in science. Although progression rates are higher for those with Level 5 than for those with lower levels, this outcome still leaves something to be desired (especially since a minority of these students did not even manage a C grade at GCSE).
Tables 6A and 6B show performance by types of school and the admissions basis of schools for different ‘attainment bands’ which do coincide with the definitions of high, middle and low attainers employed in the Performance Tables.
- Whereas 33.6% of students in mainstream state-funded schools (31.1% in all state-funded schools) meet the ‘high attainer’ criterion, fewer (32.0%) students in local authority maintained schools are high attainers, while the percentage in academies and free schools is 36.8%, quite a significant difference in favour of the latter. The figure for sponsored academies is just 20.9%; conversely, it is 42.5% for converter academies and for free schools, UTCs and studio schools 42.9%. These advantages in favour of free schools and convertor academies might be expected to have a significant impact on the overall performance of those schools.
- The high attaining band (described here as ‘above level 4’) registers 94% achieving 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths, whereas the comparable figures for types of school are local authority maintained – 93.5%, sponsored academy – 91.5%, converter academy – 95.5% and free schools/UTC/studio schools – 87.5%, This would suggest that, while converter academies are reaping the benefits of a larger cohort of high attainers, the same cannot be said of free schools, not yet at least. The differences are broadly similar on the GCSE Grades A*-C in English and maths measure.
- The overall percentage of high attainers achieving the EBacc in state-funded mainstream schools is 38.5%. This drops to 35% in local authority schools, but is as low as 21.1% in sponsored academies and as high as 49.1% in converter academies. In free schools, UTCs and studio schools it is only 23.6%. So, whereas converter academies have a sizeable lead over schools remaining with the local authority, sponsored academies and free schools are a long way behind.
- Turning to the progress measures in English and maths, we find the figures for ‘above Level 4’ in mainstream state-funded schools are 83.4% and 85.8% respectively. This drops to 82.5% and 84.4% in local authority maintained schools. Converter academies are at 86.7% and 90.2% respectively, but sponsored academies manage only 76.0% and 77.8% respectively. Free schools, UTCs and studio schools are way behind on English, at 68.1%, but much more competitive in maths at 87.5%. This might suggest that UTCs are over-focused on maths, or that their intakes are heavily skewed towards those with spiky prior attainment profiles that favour maths and science over English. It would be helpful to see disaggregated figures for free schools.
- These tables also provide breakdowns for all these measures for comprehensive and selective schools. Not surprisingly (albeit rather oddly), 89.8% of students in selective schools are classified as ‘above Level 4’, whereas the percentage for comprehensive schools is 31.7%. Selective schools do substantially better on all the measures, especially the EBacc where the percentage of ‘above Level 4’ students achieving this benchmark is double the comprehensive school figure (70.7% against 35.0%). More worryingly, 6.6% of these high-attaining pupils in selective schools are not making the expected progress in English and 4.1% are not doing so in maths. In comprehensive school there is even more cause for concern, with 17.7% falling short of three levels of progress in English and 15.3% doing so in maths.
We can compare some of the key statistics above with the comparable figures for the previous year, 2010/11:
- The percentage of students within the ‘high attainer’ category in all maintained mainstream schools was 33.6% in 2011/12 and almost identical at 33.5% the previous year.
- In 2010/11, the percentage of high attainers achieving the 5+ A*-C GCSE including English and maths measure in maintained mainstream schools was 95.2%, so has fallen by 1.2% in 2011/12. The figures for sponsored academies and converter academies in 2010-11 were 93.1% and 98.4% respectively. Assuming these are strictly comparable, it means that, whereas the percentage in sponsored academies has increased by 0.4%, the percentage in converter academies has fallen by 6.9%, no doubt as a consequence of the large increase in the number of converter academies.
- The overall percentage of high attainers achieving the E Bacc in state-funded mainstream schools was 37.2% in 2010/11, so in 2011/12 there was an increase of 1.3%. In sponsored academies the percentage of high attainers achieving the E Bacc increased by 3.4%. In converter academies, the percentage fell by 6.3%, again presumably attributable to the significant increase in the number of such schools.
- For the progress measures in English and maths we find that, in 2010/11, 87.2% of high attainers in maintained mainstream schools made the expected progress in English, and 85.2% did so in maths. This means that, in 2011/12, the percentage of high attainers making the expected progress in English fell by a worrying 3.8% but in maths it increased by 0.6%. GCSE English marking is once more most likely to blame.
- Interestingly, in 2010/11, the percentage of high attainers in selective schools sat at 90.3% while in comprehensive schools it was 31.6%. So, in 2011/12, the percentage in selective schools has fallen by 0.5% and the percentage in comprehensive schools has only fallen by 0.1%. On the EBacc measure, the percentage of successful selective school high attainers has fallen by 0.2%, whereas the percentage of successful comprehensive school high attainers has increased by 1.4%, so comprehensive schools are just beginning to close the gap. The percentage of high-attaining students failing to make the requisite progress in English has increased dramatically from 3.5% in 2010/11 to 6.6% in 2011/12. In maths the proportion of those failing to make such progress has also increased, from 3.4% to 4.1%. In comprehensive schools the percentage failing to make the required progress in English has also increased by 3.9%, while in maths there has been a fall of 0.8% in the percentage failing to make such progress. This would again suggest a problem with English in 2011/12.
Unfortunately SFR04/2013, containing information about GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics, provides no breakdowns whatsoever to help establish how the performance of high attainers varies according to gender, ethnic and socio-economic background.
This remains a significant lacuna in the Performance Tables as well. It would be particularly helpful to see data for high attainers eligible for free school meals and/or the Pupil Premium, so that we can establish whether attainment gaps are being narrowed regardless of prior attainment, or whether improvements disproportionately favour one group over the others.
Key Stage 5
The remaining SFR05/2013 on A level results in England contains information about the proportion of students achieving 3 or more A levels with A*/A Grades as well as AAB+ in the facilitating subjects. Key points include:
- Across all schools and FE sector colleges, the percentage of students achieving 3 or more A*/A Grades at A Level (including Applied and Double Award A levels) is 12.8%. This is a fall of 0.3% compared with 2010/11. Slightly more male students than female achieved this (13.1% against 12.6%).
- Across all schools and FE sector colleges, the percentage of students achieving AAB grades or better is 20.5% (so 1 in 5 of all students). Slightly more female students than male achieved this (20.9% against 20.0%).
- The comparable percentage of all students achieving at least AAB in the facilitating subjects is much lower at 9.5% and male students were again in the ascendancy: 11.5% compared with 8.2% of females. Hence more students achieved the 3+ A*/A measure than achieved the AAB+ in facilitating subjects measure.
- 31.6% of students in independent schools achieve 3 or more A*/A Grades – so almost one-third of all students – whereas the comparable figure in state-funded schools is much lower at 10.9%. This is a gap of 20.7%.
- Students in academies and free schools perform significantly better on this measure (13.5%) than students at local authority maintained mainstream schools (9.1%), students in sixth form colleges (9.7%) and students in all FE sector colleges (8.2%).
- Turning to the AAB+ measure, 45.3% of students in independent schools achieve this, whereas in state-funded schools the percentage is 17.9%, giving a gap of 27.4%.
- Students in academies and free schools manage 21.5% on this measure, while the figure for local authority maintained mainstream schools is 15.4%, for sixth form colleges 16.8% and for all FE colleges 14.5%.
- Thirdly, with respect to the AAB+ measure in facilitating subjects, independent schools achieve 23.7% compared with 8.6% in state-funded mainstream schools. This is a gap of 15.1%. As we have noted above, this is one of the Government’s preferred social mobility indicators. In 2011, the gap was 16.1% – independent schools scoring 23.1% and state schools 7.0%. Compared with 2011, independent schools have improved by 0.6% and state schools by 1.6%, so narrowing the gap by a full percentage point.
- The percentage achieving the facilitating subjects measure in local authority maintained mainstream schools is 7.2%, whereas in academies and free schools it is 10.5%, in sixth form colleges 5.8% and in all FE colleges 5.0%. The tendency for fewer students to achieve the facilitating subjects measure than the 3+ A*/A measure is consistent across all sectors.
- Within the state-funded school sector, the gaps between selective and comprehensive schools on all three measures are large: 27.7% versus 8.3% on the 3+ A*/A measure, 40.6% versus 14.5% on the AAB measure and 21.5% versus 6.6% on the AAB in facilitating subjects measure.
- Altogether, 8.1% of A level entries were awarded an A* grade and 27.5% an A*/A grade. (The 2011 figures were 8.4% and 27.2% respectively.)
- For independent schools, the percentages were 17.2% and 49% respectively, while for state-funded schools they were 7.2% and 23.5%. In academies and free schools 8.4% of entries were awarded A* grades and 27.6% were awarded A*/A. In local authority maintained schools the comparable percentages were 6.2% and 20.8% respectively; in sixth form colleges they were 5.7% and 20.4% respectively and in all FE sector colleges 5.2% and 19.1% respectively.
- At state-funded selective schools, 13.4% of entries received an A* grade and 41.2% received an A* or A grade. At state-funded comprehensive schools the figures were 5.9% and 20.9% respectively.
- The highest percentages of A* grades were awarded in further maths, at 28.5%, and maths at 18%. The fewest A* grades were awarded in home economics (1.3%) and film/media/television studies (1.4%). The percentages for other facilitating subjects included: English – 6.8%; physics 10.4%; chemistry – 9.0%; biological sciences – 8.1%; geography – 6.8%; history – 7.3%; French, German, Spanish – from 7.0-7.7%.
- The highest percentages of A*/A grades were again awarded in further maths (58.3%) and maths (44.6%). The fewest A*/A grades were awarded in ICT (10.4%) and film/media/television studies (10.6%). The percentages for other facilitating subjects included: English – 21.4%; physics – 32.8%; chemistry – 34.8%; biological sciences – 29.0%; geography – 29.9%; history – 27.1%; French, German, Spanish – 37.7% to 41.1%.
- 16.9% of all AS level entries were awarded an A grade. The highest percentages were in ‘other modern languages. (50.9%) and further maths (41.2%). The lowest percentages were in ICT (6.3%) and accounting and finance (6.9%).
The overall assessment of high attainers’ performance can best be described as a mixed picture. There are huge variations between schools, some performing outstandingly well and others outstandingly badly. There are significant issues to address in the academies and free schools sectors – they cannot be regarded as exemplary performers across the board.
There is continuing evidence of underachievement at national level. We do not know anything about the proportion of high attainers from disadvantaged backgrounds, so it is not as straightforward as it might be to establish whether such underachievement is disproportionately concentrated in that group. In the absence of published data to the contrary, one inevitably fears the worst.
Perhaps it was coincidence but, just a few hours after I published this post, HMCI Sir Michael Wilshaw let it be known that Ofsted would be undertaking a Rapid Response Survey on Gifted and Talented Education.
Indeed this would be:
‘The most extensive investigation of gifted and talented provision undertaken by the watchdog’.
The rapid response methodology is typically deployed when ministers raise an urgent issue that they want Ofsted to investigate which is not addressed by the planned inspection programme. The story says that HMCI himself has ordered the survey: this may or may not have been at the instigation of ministers.
Taken together, this and another article about sport inform us that:
- A Report will be published ‘in the spring’ (so most likely April or May).
- A representative sample of over 50 schools will be visited and inspectors will also analyse existing inspection data.
- Issues to be investigated include: progression between KS2 and KS4; whether mixed ability classes provide sufficient stretch and challenge; early examination entry; progression to competitive universities; and support for disadvantaged gifted learners.
- This report – or possibly the one due in February on PE and School Sport – will also examine whether talented young sportspeople are able to access comparable opportunities and enrichment to that which is available to those attending independent schools.
This example shows the typical format of a rapid response survey. There is a set of Key Findings presented as bullet points, followed by series of recommendations, typically aimed at central Government, the ‘middle tier’ and schools respectively. The main text is brief and to the point.
But HMCI has said that this survey will be the most extensive on the topic that HMI have ever undertaken. On the face of it, this is not easy to reconcile with the rapid response methodology.
Ofsted last considered gifted and talented education in December 2009, also deploying the rapid response approach.
But back in 2001 they published a more substantive document ‘Providing for Gifted and Talented Pupils: An Evaluation of Excellence in Cities and Other Grant-Funded Programmes’. It will be interesting to compare the 2013 report with this.
An even earlier publication from 1992: ‘The Education of Very Able Children in Maintained Schools’ does not seem to be available online (though one can still access the research review conducted for Ofsted by Joan Freeman in 1998).
A further concern is the limited availability of gifted education expertise within Ofsted. Though there at least two current HMI with such expertise, my understanding is that there is no longer a designated specialist lead for the topic, and so no guarantee that the individuals with the expertise can and will be released at short notice to undertake this task.
That said, if the Report helps to set a contemporary improvement agenda for gifted and talented education, that will be a huge fillip to those who work in the field.
I thought it might be useful to reproduce those here.
These show that:
- 98% of KS2 learners achieving 5A in English achieved 3 levels of progress from KS2 to KS4, compared with 92% of those achieving 5B and 70% of those achieving 5C
- 87% of KS2 learners achieving 5A in English achieved 4 levels of progress from KS2 to KS4, compared with 64% of those achieving 5B and 29% of those achieving 5C
- The percentage of learners achieving 4A in English at KS2 who went on to achieve three levels of progress and four levels of progress – 85% and 41% respectively – were significantly higher than the comparable percentages for learners achieving 5C
- 47% of those achieving 5A in English at KS2 when on to achieve A* at GCSE, compared with 20% of those achieving 5B and 4% of those achieving 5C
- 87% of those achieving 5A in English at KS2 went on to achieve A* or A at GCSE, compared with 64% of those achieving 5B and 29% of those achieving 5C
- 96% of KS2 learners achieving 5A in Maths achieved 3 levels of progress from KS2 to KS4, compared with 86% of those achieving 5B and 67% of those achieving 5C
- 84% of KS2 learners achieving 5A in Maths achieved 4 levels of progress from KS2 to KS4, compared with 57% of those achieving 5B and 30% of those achieving 5C
- The percentage of learners achieving 4A in Maths at KS2 who went on to achieve three levels of progress and 4 levels of progress – 89% and 39% respectively – were significantly higher than the comparable percentages for learners achieving 5C. The percentage achieving three levels of progress even exceeded the percentage of those with 5B who managed this.
- 50% of those achieving 5A in Maths at KS2 went on to achieve A* at GCSE, compared with 20% of those achieving 5B and 6% of those achieving 5C
- 84% of those achieving 5A in Maths at KS2 went on to achieve A* or A at GCSE, compared with 57% of those achieving 5B and 30% of those achieving 5C
I have highlighted in bold the statistics that make most uncomfortable reading. It is especially concerning that half or fewer of those achieving 5A in either maths or English were able to translate that into an A* grade at the end of KS4. That rather undermines the suggestion that limited progression is entirely attributable to the lower end of the distribution of those achieving L5 at KS2.