One in 10 secondary schools are under-performing

Almost one in 10 secondary schools, collectively teaching more than 200,000 children, are under-performing, according to Government figures.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 12:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th January 2017, 1:21 pm

Statistics show that nearly 300 secondaries in England are falling below a new Government floor target that measures pupils’ progress and achievement over eight GCSE subjects.

Analysis of the Department for Education’s (DfE) data reveals huge differences in children’s access to a good secondary school, an issue that is likely to fuel fresh debate about under-performance in some parts of the country.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the figures, based on last summer’s GCSE results, showed that the hard work of teachers and pupils is leading to higher standards.

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Headteachers warned that the results had been achieved “against a national backdrop of a funding and recruitment crisis”.

For the first time this year, schools have not been judged on the proportion of pupils scoring at least five C grades at GCSE, including in English and maths.

Instead, ministers have introduced a new headline measure called “Progress 8”. This looks at the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school. It compares pupils’ results with the achievements of other youngsters with the same prior attainment, and measures performance across eight qualifications.

The Government has argued that this measure is fairer because it takes students’ previous achievement into account, and recognises the results of all youngsters, not just those on the border of C and D grades.

Overall, 282 secondaries, educating 206,991 children, have fallen under the Government’s floor standard based on this new measure.

Schools that are considered under-performing face intervention, and could be taken over.

In 2015, under the old five A*-C system, 329 schools (11%) were below the target.

The DfE does not publish a list of schools falling below the floor standard, but according to analysis, 107 of those that failed to meet the threshold this year are sponsored academies, 34 are schools that have converted into academies, 51 are council run and seven are mainstream free schools - a key plank of Conservative education reforms.

The rest are other types of mainstream state schools such as colleges that cater to GCSE students.

The analysis also shows that Knowsley in the north west had the highest proportion of under-performing schools - none of its schools reached the new threshold.

Meanwhile, there were 46 areas where all schools were above the floor target.

Mr Gibb said: “Today’s figures confirm that the hard work of teachers and pupils across the country is leading to higher standards, and for that they should be congratulated.

“As well as confirming that the number of young people taking GCSEs in core academic subjects is rising, today’s figures show the attainment gap between disadvantaged and all other pupils has now narrowed by 7% since 2011.”

He added there are now nearly 1.8 million more children in good and outstanding schools than in 2010, and the Progress 8 measure will help more children to achieve their potential.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Congratulations to schools and pupils on these results, which have been achieved against a national backdrop of a funding and recruitment crisis.

“Progress 8 is a fairer measure of school performance than the old measure of the proportion of pupils achieving at least five A* to C grades at GCSE including English and maths.

“It better reflects the fact that children start their secondary school education at different levels of academic ability and it aims to judge schools on the progress that all their pupils make, rather than an arbitrary measure of GCSE attainment.

“However, Progress 8 has teething problems, and must be treated with some caution. Its biggest weakness is that the score of a school is disproportionately affected by as few as one or two pupils recording anomalous results.

“We are aware of cases where Progress 8 scores have been badly affected by the fact that a very small number of vulnerable children have missed exams as a result of illnesses or other personal crises.”

The school league tables released today by education chiefs are different from those in the past.

From this year schools are measured on a broader range of results across eight subjects, rather than raw GCSE results - which had been the previous measure.

The government says schools have risen to its moves to toughen standards.

The number of schools falling below the current floor standard has remained stable at 312.

Secondary schools are “underperforming” if fewer than 40% of pupils get five GCSEs at grade A*-C, including English and maths, and if the school has a below average score for pupils’ progress.

The data is based on examinations taken last summer.

The headline measures will be:

Progress 8 (the progress a pupil makes from the end of KS2-4, compared with pupils nationally with similar attainment). A greater score means a pupil has made more progress than other pupils with a similar starting point.

Attainment 8 (the achievement of a pupil across 8 qualifications: mathematics (double weighted), English (double weighted), three English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects, and three other subjects

The percentage of pupils achieving A*-C in English and maths

The percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc

The percentage of pupils entering the EBacc

The percentage of students staying in education or employment after KS4 (based on the 2013-14 cohort going into 2014-15 destinations)

There were 327 schools that opted in for Progress 8 last year, and there will therefore be a two-year comparison for those schools. The rest of England’s secondary schools will just have 2016 Progress 8 scores.

Floor standard:

A school will be below the floor standard if its progress 8 score is below -0.5 (half a grade), unless the confidence interval suggests the score may not be below average


As with primary, this will be a muddle of different measures.

This year, a school will be coasting if:

In 2014 and 2015 it had fewer than 60 per cent of children achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, and below the median percentage of pupils making expected progress in English and mathematics; and

In 2016 fall below a level set against the new Progress 8 measure. This level will be announced in the autumn.

By 2018, coasting will measured entirely by three-year Progress 8 data. There will be no attainment element.


The previous headline measure, five A*-C GCSEs, including English and Maths, will be removed from the main performance tables.

As with primary schools, the league tables will no longer be measured by the performance gap between free school meal pupils and their peers within the school. However, the tables will still include the gap between a school’s FSM results and pupils nationally.

Extra data will be given for each school, including the percentage of pupils entering more than one language qualification and the percentage of pupils entering physics, chemistry and biology.

The threshold measure on percentage of pupils achieving English and maths will change “to align more closely with Progress 8”.

The point score scale for performance table measures in 2016 will change from the current 16-58 scale to a 1-8 point scale. A GCSE grade G will be equivalent to 1 and an A* is equivalent to 8.

See today’s Wigan Evening Post for Wigan’s school league tables and next week’s Wigan Observer for the council’s reaction ...