Education & Family

Guide: Secondary league tables

School student (model)
Image caption The tables are published yearly, and used by many parents as they try to choose schools for their children

School league tables are produced every year from official data published by the government on pupils' achievement in England. The tables can be used as a means of informing choices, but do not tell you everything about a school. This guide explains the measures used and how the information is displayed in the BBC's tables.


The key government benchmark for the attainment of Key Stage 4 pupils (aged 14-16), is the percentage of pupils gaining the equivalent of at least five A*-C GCSE passes, including English and maths.

In the tables, vocational qualifications such as BTecs and NVQs are given equivalency scores to GCSEs - some qualifications can count for up to four GCSEs. And these are counted towards those five GCSEs.

From this year, some International GCSEs - but only those accredited by the qualifications watchdog, Ofqual - are included. These are often preferred by the independent school sector and had seen many leading private schools in previous years ranked towards the bottom of the tables.


This shows the percentage of pupils achieving five GCSEs, including maths and English, at grades A*-C. This measure does not include vocational qualifications like BTecs and NVQs. Schools which rely on vocational courses to boost their GCSE scores are likely to score less well on this measure.

England league tables

Compare schools in your area

England league tables

Compare schools in your area


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.

While the government plans to award a certificate to pupils achieving this combination of GCSEs, it is not a qualification in its own right. Qualifications that will count towards the English baccalaureate are listed here.


This is a statistical measure designed to show how well a school has helped its pupils' progress since they arrived from primary school, taking into account their different starting points. It is calculated by comparing each pupil's best eight GCSEs and so covers a good spread of their achievements.

An average is then calculated to give a score for the school. A score of 1,000 is the national average, so anything above that score is regarded as good.


Each GCSE-level qualification and grade is given a score in points, enabling an average point score per pupil to be calculated for each school.

The points scores can be seen on the government data page for each school. You can view this by clicking on the school's name in the table. This is used in the BBC tables as a tie-break measure for schools scoring the same results at GCSE-level.


This is the average number of points per pupil at Key Stage 5.


This is the percentage of Key Stage 5 (post-GCSE) students attaining three A-Levels, or equivalent, graded A* to E.


This refers to the number of pupils at the institution in question. This figure is used in the BBC tables as a tie-break measure for when schools achieve exactly the same score in A-level results.


In the name field of the BBC's league tables, schools may be marked as:

  • IND - independent/fee-paying school
  • SEL - schools which select on the basis of academic ability
  • AC - schools with academy status
  • SHUT - schools which closed during the academic year

The government's data page for each school provides further information on whether it is a girls', boys' or mixed school, its funding and governance arrangements and any subject specialism.

The tables include schools without sixth forms, schools with sixth forms, and further education colleges which take only 16-18 students. Pupil referral units, hospital schools and unclassified test/exam centres are not included.


The government does not publish data for schools with fewer than six pupils. These appear in the BBC tables, but SS is displayed in the data fields, and they disappear from the lists when the tables are sorted.

Data is displayed for schools with fewer than 30 pupils in the relevant year in the BBC tables, but these also disappear from the list when the tables are sorted and our tables showing top and bottom performing schools.


If N/A appears in the results column, this can mean:

  • The school has no pupils in the relevant age group
  • The school has pupils in the Key Stage 4 age group, but did not enter any of them in relevant exams
  • The school is independent and is not covered by the measure in question
  • Results were not published for the year in question.

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