Each year the DfE publish 500+ different metrics for all schools. The mainstream media (Daily Telegraph,The Independent,The BBC,Daily Mirror) take just one measure from this wealth of information, the final GCSE results, and use this as the basis to tell the public which are the ‘best’ secondary schools in the country. But performance at GCSEs is predominantly a product of performance at KS2 so all these reports really tell us is how elitist these schools are over admissions.
So if final GCSE results doesn’t give any indication of which schools are providing the best return on public money or answer the basic question, ‘what’s best for my child?’ what does?
The DfE also publish Best 8 Value Added which they explain measures, “progress made by pupils from the end of KS2 to the end of KS4 using their best 8 exam results”. For some reason measures of actual progress which should be of interest to parents and taxpayers alike is largely disregarded by the media. To demonstrate the point we’ve taken the BBC’s “Secondary league tables” as our starting point and added a progress based ranking for each school.
There were a few surprises in those results so to investigate further we plotted KS2 APS – how well pupils were performing when they entered the school (in blue) against the Total average capped point score per pupil – how well the same pupils went on to do at GCSE (in red).
For the most part final GCSE attainment tracks KS2 attainment, confirming that final achievement is predominantly a product of how well the pupils were performing when they entered the school.
The two sharp downward spikes, King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys and Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, are worthy of comment. Instead of praising these schools for being in the ‘top 100‘ the press should really be asking them why, after selecting the very brightest pupils in the country they’ve managed to make so little actual progress. This is all the more so since research carried out by Education Datalab has observed that schools with the most able intakes tend to make the most progress giving them a head start.
The real top performing schools
This next table shows the top 100 schools in the country when this is based on progress instead of just prior attainment.
The majority (89/100) of the schools demonstrating the best pupil progress are comprehensive although that’s really to be expected since most of the country’s schools are comprehensive.
Our award for the worst misreporting of school performance has to go to the sensationalist Daily Mirror who also reported the ten worst schools in the country. This included St George’s CofE in Broadstairs. Over a third of St George’s pupils are on pupil premium and quarter of them arrive as low attainers because the school don’t have the luxury of cherry picking just the bright ones. The staff and management of that school provide an excellent service to the community and their Value Add exceeds some of those in the BBCs ‘top 100‘ but here they are being branded as being the worst in the country, simply because of the type of children they work with.
No measurement of attainment or progress can ever be perfect but it really is time the press ceased their preoccupation with final attainment and started asking which of our publicly funded schools are providing the best progress to those pupils they teach.