GCSE Overperformance: The Top 20 Schools (by WOLF measure)

Henry Stewart's picture
The release of the school-by-school data for GCSE results using the new Wolf measure makes it possible to produce a table of the top 20 secondary schools in England. This is based on how far they overperform what would be expected of their students (based on those students' age 11 KS2 results):

 SchoolTypeWolf 5ACEMOutperform
1St Thomas More Catholic SchoolMain83%40%
2Tauheedul Islam Girls High SchoolMain96%37%
3Harris Academy Chafford HundredACC92%31%
3Wembley High Technology CollegeACC88%31%
5Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Secondary SchoolMain89%30%
6Park View School the Academy of Mathematics and ScienceACC73%26%
6Harris Academy GreenwichAC78%26%
8Mossbourne Community AcademyAC82%25%
8Paddington AcademyAC74%25%
10Greenford High SchoolMain78%24%
11Aston Manor AcademyACC61%23%
12Bentley Wood High SchoolACC77%22%
13St Michael's Catholic CollegeMain85%21%
13Central Foundation Boys' SchoolMain79%21%
15Preston Muslim Girls High SchoolMain87%20%
15Bolton Muslim Girls SchoolMain83%20%
15Edgbarrow SchoolMain88%20%
15Platanos CollegeACC71%20%
19St Andrew's Catholic SchoolMain82%19%
19St Michael and All Angels CofE AcademyAC68%19%

(ACC: Converter Academy, AC: Sponsored Academy, Main: Maintained school)

The Wolf 5ACEM measure results from applying the new GCSE benchmark, being introduced in 2014, to last year’s results. So this is 5 GCSE grade A-Cs when most equivalents are no longer included (and, where they are, only for one GCSE) - based on the recommendations of Professor Alison Wolf.

This does not give an argument for or against academies. Both academies and maintained schools are equally represented in the top 20. Also half are religious, half are not.

Park View in 6th Place

One noticeable presence is Park View school in Birmingham. It is again today in the news with the Clarke and Kershaw reports. In the midst of all the controversy it is important to remember that, for its students, Park View was doing damn well. It was the 6th most overperforming school in the country in 2013, just ahead of Mossbourne. It is no wonder that Ofsted previously categorised it as Outstanding.

This list is based on an analysis of all secondary schools in the country. Based on actual results, and a linear regression analysis, a formula was created to estimate the expected 5ACEM (Wolf) for each school based on KS2 results – and then the difference in each school. So, based on Year 6 SATs, 47% of Park View’s students would be expected to get 5 A-Cs (including English and Maths). In fact 73% (26% more) achieved this.

This is not a measure of general value added, for which we must wait for Progress8 measure in 2015. Wolf is still a measure of the % getting C or better. To overperform at this measure, schools must do well at getting students on 4c and below to achieve the 5 A-Cs benchmark. This is important as it could make a huge difference to what those students can go on to study, and on their future work.

Strong Performance for Muslim Girls Schools

Now, personally, I am not a believer in faith schools of any type. Nor am I especially keen on single-sex schools. But I am at heart a data geek and all my analysis to date has been to find out what patterns the data reveals. And here it reveals overperformance by muslim girls’ schools. Of the top 20, three come from this category.

There are only five state secondary muslim girls schools, that had GCSE results last year, in England. All overperformed compared to the expectation described above. And of these five muslim girls schools, no less than three are listed in my top 20 in the country.

Of course this is a small number of schools. And what it may reveal is the kind of social selection that is common in C of E and Catholic schools. All the three muslim girls' schools listed above have a proportion of disadvantaged students that is below the local LA average. But still an interesting result.

Data Notes

The linear regression formula is -1.54 + 0.076 * KS2 APS. A similar analysis has been carried out by Martin Campbell, using a quadratic regression. His formula is = -0.0003 * KS2APS^2 + 0.1110 * KS2APS - 2.2463. See Martin's blog for his full top twenty, which is remarkably similar - with the same schools making up the top twelve.
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Arthur Harada's picture
Sat, 19/07/2014 - 08:27

But are the KS2 results valid and reliable to be used as bases?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 19/07/2014 - 13:19

Thanks, Henry, for you number crunching. It’s interesting that there is a mixture of schools: converter academies, sponsored academies, non-academies, co-educational, single-sex, faith and non faith.

One interesting inclusion is St Michael and All Angels CofE Academy. GCSE results rose from 48% in 2011 to 58% in 2012 and then 70% in 2013. The academy’s Best 8 Value Added score (1038.2) was the third highest in Southwark and well above the national average of 1005.8.

But St Michael and All Angels CofE Academy closed on 31 August 2013 after the 2013 GCSE cohort took their exams. There were only 100 pupils left in the school –pupils in Year 11. Younger pupils had been dispersed to other schools when the decision was made to shut St Michael and All Angels in early 2011.

The academy had became notorious after its then deputy head, Katharine Birbalsingh, who had only taught there for a few weeks, made a speech at the Tory confidence lambasting state education. The academy had previously been struggling and a union letter written in 2010 described an atmosphere of chaos. Ofsted judged St Michael and All Angels to be Inadequate in April 2010 and noted the inadequate behaviour and a rise in serious incidents since January 2010.

An executive head, Dr Irene Bishop, head of a neighbouring school, and an associate head, Colin Boxhall, were appointed after May 2010. An Ofsted monitoring visit in December 2010 noted improvements in progress, attendance and behaviour.

One of the signatories to the union letter told the Guardian:

“Since the new head arrived the school has been a fantastic place to be, a happy school under very inspiring leadership.”

But that wasn’t enough to save the academy – after Birbalsingh’s negative comments only 16 parents named it as their first choice. The Guardian reported that Canon Peter Clark, chair of the governors had accused Birbalsingh of “fuelling the collapse in applications” because the publicity had been very unhelpful.

In May 2011, in an inspection which received little publicity, St Michael and All Angels was judged Good. But the decision had already been made to close the academy and open a newly built one from September 2013 under the sponsorship of ARK. Inspectors noted “The academy has made major strides in its performance since the appointment of a new senior team in June 2010” and “In a very short time enormous work has been done to create a peaceful, but purposeful, learning environment.” It had an “outstanding capacity for sustained improvement”.

No thanks to Ms Birbalsingh.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 19/07/2014 - 17:52

Good point Arthur. It is one I always make. KS2 SATs results are liable to cramming and even cheating. The problem is that there is no easy way of knowing. However I would always want to look closely at how Y6 pupils are prepared for SATs in primary schools that 'improve' by a large amount in a short period of time. However it is low SATs results that favour the regression indicator in the secondaries to which low SATs performing pupils transfer.

Perhaps a pattern might be found by looking at the linear regression performance of secondaries surrounded by low performing primaries (5 years ago) and compare them with secondaries surrounded by primaries that had recently improved. However it is complex because of the 5 year time lag.

However it is a fact that secondary school performance as judged in this way depends on primary school SATs performance but in the opposite way that might be expected.

tmukaj's picture
Sat, 19/07/2014 - 18:58

thanks for the information - find it interesting! Could you tell me the difference between main and ACC on the 'type category'. Does this mean anything as such or influence results perhaps?

Thank you

Henry Stewart's picture
Sun, 20/07/2014 - 09:26

The note at the bottom of the table was intended to explain. AC and ACC are academies (sponsored and converter) and Main stands for Maintained school, one that is not an academy.

John Wadsworth's picture
Sun, 20/07/2014 - 18:02

Harris Academy has an interesting strategyfor improving GCSE performance (they are closely associated with Chafford Hundred so may not be alone in this.) It seems that they remove from roll a significant number of pupils who are not expected to achieve 5 or more GCSEs at grade A-C including maths. This year a number of parents complained so the school allowed them in to take the exam, however the papers were apparently not sent for marking. Apparently Harris have already been investigated for "losing" pupils http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/21/gcse-pupils-disappearin... but this seems to take things even further.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 20/07/2014 - 18:41

John - I don't understand how this would work. The denominator Y11 roll (for calculating %5ACEM) used to be the number in the year in the September of Y11. Is this no longer the case?

Also it used to be impossible for a school to remove children from the roll of a school without the consent of the LA Children's Services. Is this too no longer the case? Or does it not apply to Academies?

There are major child protection issues here. How is the system supposed to guard against taking young people abroad for forced marriage/FGM or children being forced into prostitution if schools can remove children from the roll without informing the LA, which is supposed to be responsible for the welfare of all under 18s.

I find it hard to believe that this can be true. If it is then it very serious.

Arthur Harada's picture
Sun, 20/07/2014 - 19:39

Hundreds of school pupils/students disappear from school rolls and in some cases for years or even ever when parents move home from one LA to another. The move may just be to the metaphorical next door LA. The "leaving" school is expected to inform the new LA and the DfE of the new address of the pupils/students. Parents in receipt of child benefits are expected to inform the relevant agency of their new address and the agency in turn is expected to inform the new LA. Children's Services are also expected to inform the pupil's new LA. GPs are also expected to inform the relevant agency when they take on new patients. Tracking children on the move is expensive and time consuming so fat chance succeeding for finding the new location for every moved child. Even harder when the child has been taken out of the UK.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 20/07/2014 - 20:41

Arthur - I understand the complication but there do seem to be misplaced priorities here. Trojan Horse schools have suffered dire consequences on the grounds of failures of safeguarding without any physical threat to any child on the school roll. Yet 'hundreds of children' can be 'disappeared' by a school and no-one is getting very excited about it. How can children be safeguarded if the system lets them disappear?

As far as the exam stats are concerned it appears that I am indeed wrong. At what date and by what process is a school's number on roll in Y11 counted for the purpose of calculating %5ACEM? Why was it changed from September of Y11 as this is an invitation for schools to 'get rid'. I retired from headship in 2003. In my fourteen years the LEA (as was) managed a team of experienced Education Welfare Officers (EWOs) whose job it was to inspect the registers of every school every week to chase truants and lates by means of home visits. This system would have picked up any disappeared children. I assume that Academisation has resulted in the end of this process.

The implications for safeguarding in Academies have rarely been mentioned until recently but hundreds of children disappearing is far more serious than the odd nutter being allowed to speak to kids in an assembly.

This is a new dimension to the regulatory failures of Academisation that needs to be raised in the media and taken up with DfE.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 08:53

the overperformance (allegedly) of muslim girls schools recalls the famous joke about TOny Blair, whose advisors discovered that the best gcse results were girls catholic schools, so proposed turning all schools into girls catholic schools.... allegedly. And what Janet points out about the closure of St Michael and all angels, and the harris and chafford schools removing the kids who are going to fail (and other schools appear to have similar strategies - notably by excluding the low peformers and the expensive to education, eg SEN kids) show that the GCSE analyses are flawed in the extreme. And will become more so with the use of improvement stats.

To put it simply, the schools who do best on that measure are ones that can cherry pick low performing primary pupils with aspirational parents who can make a big leap forward. This is done by headteacher interview. I was talking to a parent last week on a casual walk across cannock chase who told me his child had been turned down by a local catholic head without any reason being given - though his wife was a teacher in a muslim school in Birmingham. The selection processes are bizarre - neither parent was Asian or a muslim.

On the bigger picture, the whole turn of schools into exam factories where covert selection to fiddle the figures makes the DFE tables useless. When the DFE made its contribution to the Select Committee it had a table noting that on EBacc, Academies were the least successful schools. Not one journalist noted.

In Mao's china, the system was known as 'Most Favoured Communes". Massively successful communes were lauded and rewarded.

Then the maoist system collapsed- with widespread famines in some areas.

The big picture is what counts.

trevor fisher

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 10:32

Absolutely right Trevor. However I am still a bit surprised that the national media completely failed to pick up the dreadful general performance of Academies on Gove's EBacc. Actually deeper analysis shows that a stronger link with poor EBacc performance is with spectacular 'school improvement'.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 11:05

the media are now the most serious danger to education in the whole sorry mess of the Westminster village. Apart from not understanding statistics in any form, and improvement always starts from a low base which they do not understand, the journalists cannot understand links with any other topic. Why do schools not enter pupils for hard A levels.

Would it be too much to suggest that they don't have teachers in these subjects? When did any journalist ever write an intelligent piece about shortage subjects?

Failing to understand what they write about is endemic, but I do recommend as a classic of screaming stupidity the article in the Times of the July, PUPILS USE CUTLERY TO DIG TUNNEL OUT OF TROUBLED SCHOOL. Story is of Djangoly City Academy in Nottingham where the truancy rate got so high that an 11 foot fence was built round it, and the kids pinched cutlery from the canteen and tunneled a way out.

The academy is owned by Sir Henry Djangoly, textile millionaire, and father of Jonathan D, a Tory MP. not something the Times comented on. Unlike the filmThe Great Escape, which got a paragraph.

I do not intend to play the blame game, and its an appalling situation for the kids and the teachers and the community. But if this was a council run school, would Wilshaw be maintaining radio silence? Or the tabloids?

Trevor Fisher.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 11:36

Roger - I think there could be cases of academies hiving off pupils to off-site annexes at the end of Y10 managed by the academy or its chain. This could have the effect of removing pupils likely to bring down GCSE results from the Y11 roll of the mainstream academy.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 11:52

Trevor - another example of journalists (this time a leader writer of the Times no less) not knowing what s/he's writing about is the leader from last Saturday's Times (behind paywall). It said "Birmingham council needs to set out in detail how it will oversee the schools more rigorously, and the new education secretary has to pass her first test in holding them to it."

But, as we all know (except this Times leader writer), LAs have no authority to intervene in academies. And only a few weeks' before another Times leader writer (surely not the same one) was praising Gove for freeing schools from local authority "control".

It is not the new ed sec's "first test" to make B'Ham LA do something they can't do by law: intervene in schools outside their influence. It isto tackle the problem of how to supervise thousands of schools which are answerable directly to the Education Secretary. As Education Sec, Nicky Morgan is the Principal Regulator of academies (and foundation schools) because they are charities.

Has she been told this? Or is she as ignorant of this fact as the Times leader?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 12:28

In my time it was fairly common for some KS4 pupils to receive some off-site tuition from various providers. I am not saying that this was in all cases a good thing, but in every case the pupil remained on the roll of the school. The DfE states that there are firm regulations about taking pupils off roll. What are they and are Academies sticking to them?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 15:14

Roger - the Guardian reported in January 2014:

"During 2012, our figures show, about 1,730 secondaries lost a combined 7,500 pupils from the academic year group that would go on to complete its GCSEs in summer 2013. But with the other 1,000 mainstream secondary schools gaining only 2,000 such pupils, the question is, where did the missing 5,500 go?"

One academy, Oxford Spires, sent some pupils to an independent school run by CfBT the Trust which sponsored the academy. This practice is supposed to have ended now.

The Guardian also reported: "Two of England's largest academy chains, the Harris Federation and Oasis Community Learning, have several schools each on the list of those whose 2013 GCSE year group shrank the most over the period 2010-2013, and especially during 2012-13."

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 21/07/2014 - 15:31

Why no outrage and a national investigation into this?

agov's picture
Tue, 22/07/2014 - 12:30

Because it might damage or delay the drive to convert all schools to academies, and that is not what the liblabcons want?

Trevor Fisher's picture
Tue, 22/07/2014 - 14:45

your point is entirely valid Janet. On the specific issue here, either they are ignorant or they know the council has no power, and they are deliberately lying. I am afraid I don't know how a Murdoch paper works, but you are right that forcing councils to do things they have no legal right to do is an interesting legal minefield.

Much like the problem of a prime minister who demands the national curriculum be the wave of the future while pushing for Academy schools that don't do it.

Journalists never understand any of this. Deliberate or simply dangerously stupid?


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