Chris Cook Failing schools and top schools

Today is league table day, when school exam results are published. The most interesting part of the table is the bottom: 195 schools* are below the government’s “floor targets”. These schools are risk of being taken over by a third party to turn them around (if the process is not already underway).

Schools in this category have fewer than 40 per cent of their pupils get Cs or better in English, maths and three other subjects. They must then also have fewer than 70 per cent of the schools’ pupils making “expected progress” in both English and maths.

A few system-level observations:

  • London does really well. Really well. Only 11 of its schools are below target. Only four are in inner London. The outer boroughs are now a bigger educational problem than the inner city.
  • None of the 164 selective schools was below the floor. Grammar schools cruise to the floor target, because they select bright kids. But some might repay a visit by the inspectors: three of them made less-than-expected progress in English.
  • About one third of failing schools are sponsor academies already. The DfE has yanked on the convert-to-academy lever a lot already. But there are another 132 schools left below the floor target not already attached to sponsors.
  • The academy chains are not going to find it easy to take them on. The best academies are all in London. The worst schools are not. There is limited really good improvement capacity in chains outside the capital, where it is needed.
  • The converter academies were not all good schools. Already, there are 14 which are not meeting the standard. The DfE’s terror of sorting out struggling academies is going to become an ever-bigger problem.

And here is the data: first, what type of schools are below the floor target. For the neophytes, voluntary-aided and -controlled schools are the two types of English religious schools. Foundation Schools and CTCs are types of schools with more independence from their local authorities than others (both are precursors to the academies). Studio Schools and UTCs are types of employer-led school (see here for more on them):

School typeAbove targetBelow target
Sponsor academies24963
Converter academies66614
Community schools89772
Free schools5
Foundation schools47533
Studio Schools1
Voluntary aided39911
Voluntary controlled642

Second, this is where the struggling schools are. I have broken this down by the GCSE-age school population, which brings out some of the variation in regional school quality more clearly.

GCSE pupils in above-target schoolsGCSE pupils in below-target schoolsProportion of pupils affected
East Midlands41,7994,4909.7%
East of England56,8474,0546.7%
North East25,4501,7826.5%
North West70,5924,8026.4%
South East78,9765,1136.1%
South West50,7891,7363.3%
West Midlands57,3283,1945.3%
Yorkshire and the Humber51,5004,3597.8%

This graph shows who goes to the struggling schools, by deprivation percentile. Poor children are at left, richer ones at right. You can see poor kids are more likely to be in them, with more than ten per cent of the poorest children in weaker schools.

So improving bad schools will help with social mobility. But it is not everything. Below, I have updated one of my favourite graphs: what would happen to the national distribution of exam results if failing schools were as good as average schools? This graph uses the FT score – we award children 8 points for an A* down to 1 for G in each GCSE, and then tot up the total accrued by each pupil in English, maths and their three best other subjects.

The big point is that while improving bad schools ought to be a priority, the problem of the rich-poor gap is much grander than that. Poor children do badly, even in good schools.

For those of you more concerned about ultra-high performers, we can take a look at the other end of the table. One of its oddities of the league table is that it relies on the government’s five A* to C measure – so about 100 schools are tied at the top with 100 per cent.

To help tell them apart, here is how those schools did, ranked on the FT score.

SchoolLocationStatusGrammar schoolPoints
1St Paul's Girls' SchoolLondonIND39.61
1Wycombe Abbey SchoolHigh WycombeIND39.49
2St Paul's SchoolLondonIND39.46
3Westminster SchoolLondonIND39.41
4North London Collegiate SchoolEdgwareIND39.22
5Eton CollegeWindsorIND39.13
6The Tiffin Girls' SchoolKingston upon ThamesACCGrammar39.07
7Chelmsford County High School for GirlsChelmsfordACCGrammar39.02
8Queen Elizabeth's School, BarnetBarnetACCGrammar38.92
9St Helen and St KatharineAbingdonIND38.90
10The Henrietta Barnett SchoolLondonVAGrammar38.86
11Latymer Upper SchoolLondonIND38.82
12Royal Grammar SchoolGuildfordIND38.80
13City of London School for GirlsLondonIND38.80
14The Godolphin and Latymer SchoolLondonIND38.75
15Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' SchoolBorehamwoodIND38.74
16Guildford High SchoolGuildfordIND38.72
17James Allen's Girls' SchoolLondonIND38.68
18The Lady Eleanor Holles SchoolHamptonIND38.56
19St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar SchoolOrpingtonVAGrammar38.56
20Haberdashers' Aske's School for GirlsBorehamwoodIND38.54
21King Edward VI Camp Hill School for BoysBirminghamACCGrammar38.54
22The Perse SchoolCambridgeIND38.53
23Oxford High School GDSTOxfordIND38.44
24Hampton SchoolHamptonIND38.41
25Radley CollegeAbingdonIND38.36
26Alleyn's SchoolLondonIND38.33
27King Edward VI High School for GirlsBirminghamIND38.33
28King Edward's SchoolBirminghamIND38.31
29St Albans High School for GirlsSt AlbansIND38.30
30The Judd SchoolTonbridgeVAGrammar38.27
31St Swithun's SchoolWinchesterIND38.24
32South Wilts Grammar School for GirlsSalisburyACCGrammar38.21
33Altrincham Grammar School for BoysAltrinchamACCGrammar38.18
34The Latymer SchoolLondonVAGrammar38.17
35St Michael's Catholic Grammar SchoolLondonVAGrammar38.17
36Colyton Grammar SchoolColytonACCGrammar38.15
37St Albans SchoolSt AlbansIND38.12
38Brighton CollegeBrightonIND38.11
39Sutton Grammar SchoolSuttonACCGrammar38.08
40King Edward VI Grammar School, ChelmsfordChelmsfordACCGrammar38.06
41Notting Hill and Ealing High SchoolLondonIND38.04
42Tonbridge Grammar SchoolTonbridgeACCGrammar38.03
43Tiffin SchoolKingston upon ThamesACCGrammar38.01
44South Hampstead High SchoolLondonIND37.99
45St Mary's School AscotAscotIND37.96
46University College SchoolLondonIND37.87
47Headington SchoolOxfordIND37.86
48Channing SchoolLondonIND37.82
49Benenden SchoolCranbrookIND37.78
50Reading SchoolReadingACCGrammar37.73
51Newport Girls' High SchoolNewportACCGrammar37.71
52Kingston Grammar SchoolKingston upon ThamesIND37.69
53King Edward VI SchoolStratford-upon-AvonACCGrammar37.67
54King Edward VI Camp Hill School for GirlsBirminghamACCGrammar37.64
55Wallington High School for GirlsWallingtonACCGrammar37.49
56Exeter SchoolExeterIND37.46
57Adams' Grammar SchoolNewportACCGrammar37.42
58King Edward VI Handsworth SchoolBirminghamACCGrammar37.35
59Lancaster Girls' Grammar SchoolLancasterACCGrammar37.32
60Putney High SchoolLondonIND37.30
61Trinity SchoolCroydonIND37.20
62Eltham CollegeLondonIND37.19
63Torquay Boys' Grammar SchoolTorquayACCGrammar37.17
64Downe HouseThatchamIND37.13
65Dr Challoner's Grammar SchoolAmershamACCGrammar37.03
66The Queen's SchoolChesterIND36.98
67Alcester Grammar SchoolAlcesterACCGrammar36.84
68St Helen's SchoolNorthwoodIND36.84
69Bedford Modern SchoolBedfordIND36.78
70Hymers CollegeHullIND36.76
71Sir Thomas Rich's SchoolGloucesterACCGrammar36.59
72Queen Elizabeth's HospitalBristolIND36.53
73Leicester Grammar School TrustLeicesterIND36.49
74St George's College WeybridgeAddlestoneIND36.47
75The Crossley Heath SchoolHalifaxFDGrammar36.29
76King's High SchoolWarwickIND36.27
77Ilford County High SchoolIlfordCYGrammar36.27
78Skipton Girls' High SchoolSkiptonACCGrammar36.23
79The King's SchoolChesterIND36.23
80Highgate SchoolLondonIND36.22
81Lycee Francais Charles de GaulleLondonIND36.18
82Redland High School for GirlsBristolIND36.15
83Lawrence Sheriff SchoolRugbyVAGrammar35.90
84Townley Grammar School for GirlsBexleyheathCYGrammar35.80
85King Edward VI Five Ways SchoolBirminghamACCGrammar35.75
86King Henry VIII SchoolCoventryIND35.60
87Parkstone Grammar SchoolPooleACCGrammar35.42
88Queenswood SchoolHatfieldIND35.38
89The Swaminarayan SchoolLondonIND35.24
90Caistor Grammar SchoolMarket RasenACCGrammar35.21
91The Maynard SchoolExeterIND35.06
92Invicta Grammar SchoolMaidstoneACCGrammar35.04
93The Rochester Grammar SchoolRochesterACCGrammar35.02
94Wolverhampton Grammar SchoolWolverhamptonIND35.00
95St John's SchoolLeatherheadIND34.84
96King's CollegeTauntonIND34.10
97Our Lady of Sion SchoolWorthingIND33.62
98Boston High SchoolBostonFDGrammar33.00
99Wilmington Grammar School for BoysDartfordACCGrammar32.62
100The Folkestone School for GirlsFolkestoneFDGrammar31.73
101Chatham Grammar School for BoysChathamACCGrammar31.52
102Gravesend Grammar SchoolGravesendACCGrammar31.40

*Some schools have already been shut down and reopened as sponsor academies, so have been dropped from the list.