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 630.

    Maria Ashot, I agree with you and you are obviously a good teacher. Good teachers need both good subject knowledge and an understanding of how children learn (ie learn the subject concepts and learning styles in general). In my position, I have observed many teachers in primary schools. Some maths teaching is simply not up to scratch and children are moved on before they understand basic concepts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    Re 7 paulwatford Well said ! Tell like it really IS. One can only educate a child that wants to learn! The problems rarely the teachers, more often Illiterate parent/parents. Constant meddling by beaurocrats/ministers/politicians,whom have never worked in the real world out there, least of all in a class of kids! EQUALITY is a figment of IMAGINATION! Always was,always will be TOUGH FACT of life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    You wanted equality; the government gave it to you. Result, those who are not equal are either missed out or failed. The drive for equality has made us concentrate on the middle. I have said all along only the brightest should go to university, since only the brightest will gain much out of it. ose failing should go to schools better equipped to deal with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    @625. Nick

    Under the assumption you get a 1st class degree and lets be fair, if you're getting a 1st class degree in a subject maths or science chances are you have a lot better job prospects within that subject range with better pay and parents not jumping down your throat.

    Yes I'm aware there are grants (not as much) for lower grade degrees.

  • 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 625.


    If you want to teach a priority subject they are throwing money at you (up to £20k to teach science/maths/mfl)

    @617. Jo

    Where does this average 65 hour week come from? Like any sensible person I accept that teachers work very hard and do a difficult job but plucking ridiculous numbers out of the air does not help your cause in my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    Mel, if PGCE funding has been cut, I am not sure whether it has where I live. There are several teacher training programmes in a smallish area and a high proportion of those trained do not seem to be in permanent work. There seems to be a culture of NQTs on one year contracts then letting them go from what I have heard. Less courses would raise the standard of entrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    616 Anita Riner " .. Cut down PGCE corses so there are less places .."

    I think you mean "fewer places" don't you. Presumably when you trained 20 years ago teachers didn't have to be able teach English to the high standard you mention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Teachers tell pupils they must have goals.

    Question - What goal does education have ?

    ''Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.''
    John W. Gardner

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    Oh, and Peter & Jane are GREAT reading books for kids being properly designed not politically correct. They start... pg1 Here is Peter. pg2 Here is Jane. pg3 Peter is here, pg 4 Jane is here, pg 5 Peter is here and Jane is here..... repetition, progress, memory, adding important and common words one at a time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    @616. anita riter

    Funding for PGCE courses has already been cut, there's actually less now.

    We're told we need more teachers to deal with these over sized classes.

    Sensible suggestions please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    The children who get most out of school are those who attend the Independents followed by those attending Grammars. The children who get least are those who attend schools with an excusively social class D and E catchment and high free meal entitlement figures.

    All the league tables in the world won't change this. It's a scandal.

    Education is the main driver in social mobility

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    I don't really have a problem with coasting schools. As long as the results are good and the teaching is good. If the kids enjoy school, have fun, are safe, learn stuff, come out with results that allow them to progress, and know how to behave that is good enough. All this comparative data, it's baloney really, a management tool designed to undermine in pursuit of party political goals..

  • 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 616.

    Scrap the SATS, and only let teachers on PGCE courses who actually know how to teach maths and English effectively and can do both to a high enough standards themselves. Teachers who can not compute, write legibly and spell properly should not be in the classroom. Cut down PGCE courses so there are less places to raise the standard . I trained 20 years ago and think standards have slipped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    oh dear many contributors are missing the point. By getting under the headline and analysing at pupil level you can advise schools on areas to look at it may help them deploy their resources. why do able students underperform. LA's could do this but Cameroon wiped out this back office.

    4 o levels inc maths& eng at grade c used to be the floor not the goal

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    So what?
    Not everyone will end up a brain surgeon. Society needs a spread of abilities to cater for all needs.
    My wife is a teacher (in primary and has done secondary too). She sees huge resource pushed in to lesser able kids, while often the brightest ones get ignored because they are known to be so much more able.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    608 Hastings.

    What? Are you serious? Presumably you think children are introduced to units, tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands all on the same day. Maybe decimals to thousandths as well for infants, after all it's all part of the same number system. By the end of KS 2 children have to work in millions at least and decimals down to thousandths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Students who are not doing well should retake the year. This practice is common on the continent and ensures that students have the necessary skills before continuing and that almost all students have met the learning outcomes set when they move to the next school level. Mass education cannot be tailored. Thus famiy support is vital.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    State schools need only teach pupils to write their name, address and basic math’s.
    Then we have an idea what to do when we get on ‘deal or no deal’ and can check the lottery correctly.
    We have military academies to teach people how to kill and public schools to teach superior human specimens how to be superior. It’s not brain surgery.


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