Struggling pupils don't catch up, data shows

Pupils wait in a playground This year's tables feature far more data than in previous years

Just one in 15 (6.5%) pupils starting secondary school in England "behind" for their age goes on to get five good GCSEs including English and maths, official data shows.

The government data published as part of secondary school league tables suggests the majority of schools are failing struggling pupils.

Nationally 58.2% of pupils reach the five good GCSEs benchmark.

Minister Nick Gibb said schools which let pupils down would be tackled.

The Department for Education data covers England's more than 5,000 secondary schools with more than 200 pieces of information being published for each one - almost four times as much as last year.

Much of the information is broken down by pupil type, with scores offered for low, medium and high-attaining pupils, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as non-disadvantaged.

As expected, those from disadvantaged backgrounds (classed as those on free school meals or in local authority care) do less well.

England league tables

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England league tables

Compare schools in your area

Only a third (34%) of these children achieve the government's benchmark of five GCSEs - or equivalent qualifications - graded A* to C, including English and maths.

In 909 schools, not one low-attaining pupil (those who did not reach Level 4 at the end of primary school) reached this threshold.

At the other end of the spectrum, 95% of pupils who started school "ahead" for their age (achieving Level 5 at the end of primary school) got five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

And of those who started school at the expected level for their age, (Level 4 at the end of primary school) some 45.6% failed to progress to five good GCSEs.

Overall, 58.2% of pupils in England's state schools got five good GCSEs including English and maths (including equivalent qualifications).

'One chance'

When these qualifications, such as BTecs and NVQs, are excluded, 52.4% of pupils gained five good GCSEs.

The performance data also shows what proportion of pupils get the English Baccalaureate.

This new measure, introduced in 2010, is the proportion of pupils achieving A*-C passes in English, maths, two science subjects, a modern or ancient language, and either history or geography.

Nationally across all pupils, just 15.4% got the wrap-around qualification, but most pupils would have made their GCSE choices before Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he was introducing this certificate of achievement.

Pupils with low prior attainment also performed poorly in the English Bacc, with just 0.3% gaining the wrap-around qualification.

Sevenoaks School, a private school in Kent, tops the English Bacc tables, with 99% of pupils meeting this benchmark.

Brian Lightman: "Government needs to spend less time blaming schools"

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "Today's figures reveal a shocking waste of talent in many schools across the country. All too often, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds aren't given the same opportunities as their peers.

"But there are great examples of schools achieving the best for their disadvantaged pupils. If they can get it right, then so can all schools."

The government says its data shows there are 107 secondary schools below the floor standard of 35% of pupils getting five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

Top performers

Mr Gibb added: "Children only have one chance at education. These tables show which schools are letting children down. We will not hesitate to tackle underperformance in any school, including academies.

"Heads should be striving to make improvements year on year, and we will not let schools coast with mediocre performance."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said that while many pupils, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds are not achieving their potential, the government is promoting pet projects over real need.

"The government needs to focus on the 3Rs as well," he added.


  • National average for five good GCSEs: 58.2% of pupils
  • National average for English Baccalaureate: 15.4%
  • Best GCSE performance: Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School, Rugby
  • Worst GCSE performance: St Aldhelm's Academy, Poole
  • Best A-level performance: Colchester Royal Grammar School, Essex
  • Best performing local authority: Sutton, London
  • Worst performing local authority: Knowsley, Merseyside

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the social inequalities with which children start school, widen as they progress through their education.

"Instead of focusing on changing school structures and on the pointless naming and shaming of schools, the Government should be ensuring that all schools have the resources and support they need for all pupils to reach their full potential."

In total, 158 schools see 100% of pupils getting five GCSEs A*-C or equivalent, including maths and English.

When the average point score per pupil is used to rank these top performers schools, Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School in Rugby comes top.

Head teacher Dr Peter Kent said much of the school's success was down to Key Stage 4 being spread over three years rather than the traditional two.

"This gives departments a chance to deliver a very personalised curriculum and we all respond well to something that's been tailored to our individual needs," he said.

The poorest performing school was St Aldhelm's Academy in Poole, Dorset, where just 3% of pupils got five GCSEs A*-C or equivalent, including maths and English.

Principal Cheryl Heron, who took over in September 2010, said the results were "disappointing but not unexpected". It would take time to change and transform pupils' learning experiences, she added.


At sixth form level, the Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex comes out as the best performer, with an average point score per pupil of over 1,477 - this is the equivalent of over four A*s and one A grade at A-level.

The best performing county was Sutton in London, where 74.7% of pupils got the government benchmark of five GCSEs, including maths and English. The worst was Knowsley, Merseyside, where 40.8% of pupils reached this level. A Knowsley spokesman said its schools were improving year after year.

Map showing school performance

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  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    Nobody is going to solve anything while policy-makers and managers continue making statistics-based decisions, trying to make reality fit their pet theories and targets. Nobody listens to the students and teachers who have a very different view of what works and what doesn't. While it's still more about fashionable professional and political 'form' than tackling real issues, nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    Not just a question of "tackling the schools", but also about nation-wide attitudes and values. Complex social issues to be considered and why the culture of low expectations and underachievement. Assessment is crucial in developing learning indepedence and improving achievement. It's imperative to get it right and for school leaders to engage with high quality institutional learning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    As a teacher, I have worked wonders with lagging students. Many, many times. It takes a special kind of teacher, and a relationship based on profound trust. The first thing the student or pupil needs to feel is Love & Encouragement from the Teacher. Often, they are lagging because they have been denied encouragement and careful guidance, whether at home or school. It can be done. Believe me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Teachers already work on average a 65 hour week. With all the best will in the world, it is not possible to help every child acheive their top potential. Not with this work load. Reduce workload, change the national curriculum (to allow us to reteach basic skills at KS4), reduce class sizes.

    If every child matters, education needs more money put into it. Try teaching English without books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    All children are different, and there is no such thing as NORMAL. the term normal is used by those who wish to hide their own differences and want to highlight the differences of others to increase own self esteem. Children need different teaching styles and methods to match their learning needs. Not the limited provision promoted and marketed by lobby groups selling one type of teaching program.


Comments 5 of 16


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