Latest research shows league tables ‘punish and reward wrong schools’
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A fifth of schools saw their national league table position change by over 500 places using the adjusted Progress 8 measure;
In the North East, schools on average were ranked 361 places higher; in the North West, 107 places higher; and in Yorkshire, 82 places higher;
Schools with the highest numbers of long-term disadvantaged children in the country including from Yorkshire and the Humber and North West make the top 10 of all schools
Secondary school league tables continue to misrepresent the performance of schools by failing to show the difference when pupil background is taken into account, according to the Fair Secondary School Index published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership today [29 October].
As the deadline for secondary school applications closes this week, latest research from the University of Bristol shows that once factors such as pupil ethnicity, deprivation and special educational needs are taken into account, a fifth of schools saw their national league table position change by over 500 places.
Critically, more than half [51%] of schools across England currently judged to be ‘underperforming’ would no longer fall into this category. These are the striking findings from the latest study by Dr George Leckie and Professor Harvey Goldstein from the Centre for Multilevel Modelling at the University of Bristol who analysed the 2018 data from all 3,165 state-maintained secondary schools in England.
They looked at ‘Progress 8’, the headline measure used by the Department of Education to assess progress made by pupils during their time at secondary school. It was introduced in 2016 and compares GCSE results to Key Stage 2 test results, which the Government argues takes prior attainment into account when judging progress.
The findings are consistent with previous research published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership from Education Data Lab which showed many working-class girls and boys from less well-off homes and groups including those from white ethnic backgrounds do worse overall currently.
Whilst many secondary schools in the North are still lagging behind the rest of the country, when taking into account pupil background, many of these schools perform considerably better than the government’s own league tables would suggest. In the North East, for example, schools on average were ranked 361 places higher using the adjusted measure. In the North West, schools of average were ranked 107 places higher.
According to the Fair Secondary School Index, Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford is the best school in England.
It is a significant achievement that schools with high proportions of children from long term disadvantaged backgrounds, identified by previous Education Data Lab research, are among the highest performing, with two in the North achieving top ten positions in the national rankings in the Fair Secondary School Index. These include Kingswood Academy in Hull (up 158 places from its ranking under Progress 8 to 7th) and Ormiston Chadwick Academy in Halton (up 119 places to 8th).
Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central and member of the Education Select Committee commented:
“The League Tables and data that we use to judge schools are often more a measure of the school’s intake than the quality of teaching, learning and real progress being made in that school. Indeed, Ofsted themselves often reward these same measures, and therefore a school’s intake, when giving their judgements as headteachers and others have warned.
“This independent Fair Secondary School Index uses much more detailed data and analysis to arrive at fairer and deeper understandings of what makes a good school, often turning League Table standings on their heads. We can see from this that some schools operating in the most challenging contexts are doing an outstanding job. Other schools that may have previously escaped scrutiny actually require support.
“This is ground-breaking work by the Norther Powerhouse Partnership with Bristol University and I hope it is taken up wholeheartedly by the Department for Education, Ofsted and all those working on improving schools.”
Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership commented:
“The government hasn’t had a consistent focus on improving education standards in the Northern Powerhouse. Unless we devolve more powers and funding, establishing a new Northern Schools Board to oversee currently unaccountable Schools Commissioners and a centre for what works in schools in disadvantaged areas, we will not be able to close the skills gap even with much more devolution and increased funding for Further Education to our Metro Mayors and combined authorities.”
“Following the publication of this Index, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership will make recommendations to all parties on what must be done to deal with the underlying causes including in the early years of the disadvantage gap, with commitments for funding education needing to include at least £1 billion each year for five years to support the long term disadvantaged in the North in particular. That must be our priority if we are to close the North-South economic divide, alongside investing in transformational transport infrastructure for instance.”
Notes to Editors
|Average of Unadjusted position
|Average of Adjusted position
|Average of Change
|East of England
|Yorkshire and the Humber
A version of this research based on results from 2016 is available as a journal article in the British Educational Research Journal.
A video recording of a presentation of the 2016 work is available.
The slides are also available, as is a working paper version of the 2016 work.
Northern Powerhouse Partnership Fair Secondary School Index Report – foreword by Lucy Powell Member of Parliament for Manchester Central.
The achievements of our education system in the North are huge. We have many exceptional schools with exceptional teachers providing an excellent education to our children. However, not every school is as successful and the government’s Progress 8 accountability measure – focusing on how well children and young people improve at secondary school – and the Ofsted judgements based on it, stacks the odds against schools in more disadvantaged areas. Not only does this skew perception of schools unfairly, it also means that, at times, the schools which need the most school improvement support are slipping through the net.
The League Tables and data that we use to judge schools are often more a measure of the school’s intake than the quality of teaching, learning and real progress being made in that school. Indeed, Ofsted themselves often reward these same measures, and therefore a school’s intake, when giving Ofsted judgements as headteachers and the EPI have recently warned.
With two thirds of the schools teaching the most disadvantaged children, in poverty from primary through to secondary school, in the North, the government’s accountability measures are rewarding schools in leafy suburbs and comparing them as if they are the same as some of these more challenging schools. The system as it stands does not recognise context. This is unfair.
Today the Northern Powerhouse Partnership publishes the thorough and comprehensive schools index for secondary schools by researchers at the University of Bristol with a value-added measure of children’s achievements to better compare schools. This new Fair Secondary School Index uses much more detailed data and analysis to arrive at fairer and deeper understandings of what makes a good school, often turning League Table standings on their heads.
We can see from this that some schools operating in the most challenging contexts are doing an outstanding job. The best secondary school overall in the country on the Fair Secondary Schools Index – in Bradford – rises up from third in England on the standard version of Progress 8. Schools with high proportions of children in poverty making better progress on this fairer measure – like the Kingswood Academy in Hull and Ormiston Chadwick Academy in Halton are in the top ten nationally out of all schools Kingswood Academy in Hull (up 158 places and 119 places respectively). In the North East, where pupils do well at Primary school, then drop off at secondary level on the standard measure, schools across that region go up the Index by 361 places when ranked nationally.
There is a significant gap in how schools do in the North, even when we assess them on this fairer secondary school measure. But we need to understand how our schools are doing taking into account the background of their children so we can close the divide ensuring children who are school ready at five, are supported to keep up and do better in education than ever before.
Indeed, every child in my inner-city constituency and many of our former industrial towns in the North should have the same life chances as children down south or in leafy suburbia. The government haven’t had the consistent focus on improving standards in education in the Northern Powerhouse. That is a problem, because while we need real investment in education in the North, and more devolved powers and funding to our Metro Mayors, alongside further devolution on skills, we shouldn’t just be doing down schools and attainment in the North on the basis of incomplete and skewed analysis.
With great universities like the University of Manchester, or the newly opened UA92 also on their doorstep, the headquarters of Siemens with its world class apprenticeships or jobs at Media City in Salford or Channel 4s new home across the Pennines in Leeds, there are life changing opportunities here. But can those born here today and in recent years benefit from these in full. The answer is – too often they can’t – yet.
In just a couple of days, the deadline for applying for secondary schools will pass. Many parents will have used Progress 8 data and Ofsted judgements for their local schools to inform their choices. This new Fairer Secondary Schools Index published independent from government, should be available to all those parents who want to see how schools are doing when comparing like with like, because although many of the schools in less well-off areas need more help and support, many are some of the best in the nation on fair comparison.
This is a ground-breaking piece of work by the Norther Powerhouse Partnership with Bristol University and I hope it is taken up wholeheartedly by the Department for Education, Ofsted and all those working on improving schools.