"Talented pupils": Schools to learn from

Henry Stewart's picture
Ofsted claimed today that many secondary schools are letting down those pupils who arrive with a level 5 at KS2, now called the "more able". It noted that only a third go on to achieve A or A* grades at GCSE. The report makes good points about the need for high expectations and challenge in the curriculum.

However this "more able" grouping actually covers a wide range of ability. Ofsted's Raise Online reveals that 80% of pupils achieving 5a in Maths at age 11 go on to achieve an A or A* in Maths at GCSE. However only 26% of those arriving with a 5c make that achievement.

This is an important point in comparing achievement in selective and non-selective schools. Grammar schools, especially those in areas like Birmingham and London which take children from the top 2 or 3%, will tend to have more of their level 5 pupils at the 5a end. Even achieving in line with the national average they would therefore be expected to have students achieving nearer to 80%.

Which are the top 1% of schools for "talented pupils"?

The measures that Ofsted used, the % achieving A and A*, are not publicly available. The DfE data tables tell us what % in each school achieved 5 GCSEs (including English and Maths) and what % made the "expected levels of progress". Given that both the DfE and Ofsted define the "Expected level of progress" for a level 5 student as being a B at GCSE, this data is of little use in comparing achievement of schools wit "more able" students.

Key question: If Ofsted believes that level 5 students should achieve an A or A* ( and I would agree, especially for level 5b and 5a), when is it going to change its school dashboard and its Raise Online reporting to reflect that fact? Currently it is entirely focused on those 3 expected levels.

Wanting to see which schools we can learn most from, I have used the measure of value added for level 5 students in each school, to produce the list below of the best achieving 30 schools, the top 1% in England. These are very highly achieving schools, whose results should be celebrated. It is a remarkably mixed group:

  • * Of the 30 schools, seven are selective, 23 are comprehensive.

  • * Exactly half are academies, and half are community schools. Given that most Outstanding schools have converted, this is a very high representation for non-academies.

  • * The best performing local authority is Hackney, with three schools in the list

  • * Many of the comprehensive schools have very high proportions of disadvantaged students, with four having levels above 60%. None of the selective schools do, the most being 6% of their school roll.

  • * Jewish and Muslim schools are over-represented in the list, with four Jewish and three muslim schools.

  • * Over a third, 12 in total, are single-sex girls schools.

The top 30 schools in England for Value Added for Level 5 Pupils

SchoolSel? % L5% DisadVA Hi
Tauheedul Islam Girls High SchoolCOMP 29%29%1071
Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls SchoolCOMP 22%2%1058
The City Academy, HackneyCOMP 18%60%1051
The Skinners' SchoolSEL 96%4%1051
Hasmonean High SchoolCOMP 53%9%1051
Queen Elizabeth's School, BarnetSEL 99%6%1050
Feversham CollegeCOMP 19%48%1050
Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar SchoolSEL 85%3%1049
Nonsuch High School for GirlsSEL 96%4%1048
Bolton Muslim Girls SchoolCOMP 35%25%1048
Bordesley Green Girls' School & Sixth FormCOMP 19%60%1047
Mossbourne Community AcademyCOMP 28%48%1047
Grays Convent High SchoolCOMP 22%24%1047
Beis Yaakov High SchoolCOMP 14%7%1045
De La Salle School and Language CollegeCOMP 14%30%1044
St Ursula's Convent SchoolCOMP 36%27%1044
Trinity SchoolCOMP 15%27%1044
Paddington AcademyCOMP 21%68%1044
CockburnCOMP 15%51%1043
The Tiffin Girls' SchoolSEL 99%4%1042
St John the Baptist Catholic Comprehensive School, WokingCOMP 50%5%1042
Wallington County Grammar SchoolSEL 95%6%1042
King David High SchoolCOMP 45%13%1042
Colchester Royal Grammar SchoolSEL 99%4%1042
Ursuline High School WimbledonCOMP 38%17%1042
King Solomon AcademyCOMP 27%67%1041
St Mary's RC High SchoolCOMP 44%8%1041
St Andrew's Catholic SchoolCOMP 28%11%1041
Wallingford SchoolCOMP 34%11%1041
Wembley High Technology CollegeCOMP 31%47%1041


Data Notes

Value added is based on a student's Best 8 GCSE results and is the closest figure currently available to the Progress8 measure that will become the standard in 2016. It is in 2014 a much stronger measure than in previous years, as it no longer includes so many GCSE equivalents.

One GCSE grade represents 6 pts, and 1000 is the national average for Best8 VA. A figure of 1048 (48 being 8 x 6), represents students achieving one grade higher than the national average in all 8 GCSEs.

Raise Online data is taken from table 5.3.3 in Raise Online, the % being that for those "achieving more than expected progress". Given that "expected progress" for a Level 5 student is (weirdly) a B, this means the % achieving A or A*.

Data is taken from the DfE performance tables data, giving school-by-school figures.



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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 05/03/2015 - 12:29

If Wilshaw thinks non-selective schools are ‘failing’ because their previously high attaining pupils don’t get As, he should perhaps investigate selective schools. I’ve looked at four selective LAs – in all but one (Buckinghamshire) the average grade for previously high attainers in the majority of selective schools was less than A.

Buckinghamshire: Eight selective schools had an average of A or more for previously high attainers. Four did not.

Kent: Five of its selective schools reached or exceeded the A target for previously high attainers but more than 20 did not.

Lincolnshire: Only one of Lincolnshire’s fifteen grammar schools reported an average A grade or more for their previously high attainers.

Trafford: Three grammars had average grade of A or more for high fliers – four did not.

(Note: data from school performance tables for LAs in 2014. The information can be found under the headings KS4 Exam Results/Average Grade Qualifications. )

CORRECTION 6 March 15.09. This comment has been amended. I originally said none of Lincolnshire's grammars reported an average grade A or above for previously high attainers. This was incorrect - Caistor Grammar School had an average grade A.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 05/03/2015 - 12:41

Research reported in TES appears to back up your analysis, Henry:

'The secondary modern children were twice as likely to be eligible for free school meals. But they also ended up with slightly better GCSE results in terms of their overall points score than their former classmates who went to grammar schools. Their individual results in English, maths and their best science GCSEs were also better.'

Guest's picture
Thu, 05/03/2015 - 14:48

"If Wilshaw thinks non-selective schools are ‘failing’ because ..."

I'm not sure where this spin on 'failing' is coming from? It seems to me that the report is focused on the fact that too many secondary schools are 'letting down' their more able cohort (L5+ at KS2 SATs) because the data indicates too many are not fulfilling their potential.

Might it be that the author of the post above has a self confessed dislike for SMW and Ofsted and this is colouring her balance?

What might be an issue falling between the cracks is that the laudable drive on progress and achievement for all is distorting the way in which resources are targeted across too wider spread of pupil abilities and is creaking under the remits. This will certainly not be helped / eased by the interminable requirement to meet arbitrary floor targets and expectations from the centre.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 10:23

Guest - I put 'failing' in quotations marks because that's what Ofsted said:

'Too many non-selective schools are failing to nurture scholastic excellence.'

My point was that if 'too many' non-selective schools are 'failing' then so are 'too many' grammar schools.

You are, however, right about arbitrary floor targets. Another reason, perhaps, to put 'failing' in quotation marks.

It's worth noting that Ofsted's report was widely reported as meaning all non-selective state secondary schools were 'failing the best pupils'.

That sweeping generalisation is untrue. The report said 75% of previously high-attaining pupils DID attain at least a B grade in English and Maths. And 80% of 1,649 non-selective schools with sixth forms DID produce students with at least two A grades and one B grade 'in at least two of the facilitating subjects required by many of the most prestigious universities.'

Yet another reason to put 'failing' in quotation marks because the majority of non-selective schools are not 'failing' on the expected progress measure.

Guest's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 11:39

When you expand on what you really meant by your original comment things, as they so often do, become much clearer. There is a profound difference between "Wilshaw thinks non-selective schools are 'failing' " and 'Wilshaw thinks that non-selective schools are failing their most able pupils'.

Within that context I wonder whether the SMW position holds up when the progress and attainment of more able pupils in selective schools are scrutinised. I wonder how many of the latter make and more importantly exceed their expected progress. For me the latter would indicative of coasting selective schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 15:00

Guest - it's difficult to strike a balance sometimes between clarity and succinctness. A comment has to be as short as possible and it's inevitable this will sometimes result in misunderstanding. I'm always happy to clarify.

It is right, of course, to be concerned when schools don't do all they can to ensure all pupils do as well as they can. But the failure of a minority of non-selective schools to ensure their previously high-attaining pupils don't meet an arbitrary target has been presented by the media (via the Press Association) as a failure of ALL non-selective schools. This sweeping generalisation is unfair and misleading.

It's also unrealistic to expect all previously high-attaining pupils to reach the arbitrary target. Some will exceed the target (eg get A*); others will get a C. At the same time some previously middle-attaining pupils will exceed their target of C.

By highlighting on the non-selective schools, Ofsted appears to be ignoring the fact that some selective schools have lower average grades than would be expected given their intake is chosen for ability.

Guest's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 17:38

It may well be your preference to restrict your comments "to be as short as possible" but not everyone would agree let alone follow that maxim. The balance surely is not about length of any comment but rather (a) its relevance and (b) ensuring the point being made is accurately conveyed. Following this framework reduces the likelihood of being misunderstood.

You are clearly in agreement with my position that it is quite wrong to focus on non-selective schools without also comparing the performance of selective schools. In this context the question as to whether EP or EP+ is an accurate or appropriate measure is not relevant. By which I mean, both categories of school are being compared using the same yardstick (flawed or not). Therefore the comparison stands on the basis of applying the same standard.

Indeed, what would be interesting would be to conduct a nationwide comparison of selective v non-selective school progress and attainment from KS2 - 4. My gut (speculative) feeling is that the former would not fair as well as the latter (i.e. there are likely to be more coasting selective schools than non-selective).

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 09/03/2015 - 07:34

Guest - I'm being pragmatic - lengthy comments put readers off.

Re your idea researching selective v non-selective schools. Schools Week on Friday published research by DataLab that showed 'top 11+ failures' achieved more than those with the lowest 11+ passes who went to selective schools. See here, scroll down.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 10:44

Two years ago I questioned the robustness of Ofsted's conclusions about non-selective schools and previously high-attaining pupils. Then, as now, the report had been portrayed as showing all non-selective schools were failing these pupils.

FullFact queried Ofsted's findings at the time - there was a discrepancy between what Ofsted found and what RAISE online said. The latter said more pupils reached their potential than Ofsted said.

Ofsted quoted PISA to show how few English pupils reached the highest levels of attainment in reading and maths but, as in 2013, it ignored the Trends in Maths and Science Survey which found English 14 year-olds were more likely to reach the Maths Advanced Benchmark than in most countries although they lagged behind the performance of pupils in the Far East.

Martin Richardson's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 13:32

There is a real problem with the ‘Expected Progress’ concept that all students should the same number of ‘levels’ of progress between KS2 and KS4. It simply isn’t realistic.
Looking at the 2015 Performance Data, a school with an average KS2 prior attainment of 25 (Level 4c) will on average get a best 8 capped score of 248. Equivalent to 7Ds and an E at GCSE. One level of progress.

It’s only in schools with a KS2 intake averaging 28 (Level 4a/b boundary) that students start to average 2 levels of progress between KS2 and KS4. Best 8 capped would average 320 (say 5 Cs and 3 Bs at GCSE).

If a school’s KS2 intake averages 31, then on average three levels of progress are achieved, a best 8 capped score of 392. Once a school’s KS2 intake is 34 or higher (the highest in the tables is 33.5), every student would be predicted to get an A* in every GCSE they take (4 levels of progress).

This certainly supports the view that Level 5s are capable of 3 levels of progress. It also makes it clear that the floor target is meaningless without taking intake into account.

Henry, your Value Added analysis is certainly valid for the non-selective schools. As they are in the majority, the Value Added reflects comparing like with like. The best 8 points score for the ‘more able’ in all state schools is 379. For comprehensives that score is 378, for ‘secondary moderns’ 363. For selective schools the Best 8 score is 417. That would see a far higher percentage selective schools with high Value Added scores.

The average Value Added for the ‘more able’ in all selective schools is 1020. That may simply be because the Level 5 KS2 students going to selective schools have higher KS2 scores on average than Level 5 students at non-selective schools. That’s surely true of the ‘super selective’ grammars.

Without finer level data we cannot really know whether Ofsted are right to be concerned about the ‘more able’ in non-selective schools or not.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 15:07

And we should remember that when these pupils go to university, students from non-selective schools outperform their equally-qualified peers from grammar and independent schools. It could be argued, of course, that their non-selective schools had let them down and the pupils didn't get the A levels they deserved. Even if this were the case, the education they received still resulted in their gaining higher degrees.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/03/2015 - 15:27

National Director of Schools, Sean Harford, has made a speech re Ofsted's recent report into most-able students. He said:

'Gloucestershire – below the national average for all key stages in 2014 and with yawning attainment gaps, particularly at KS4'

School Performance tables contradict him. In 2014 the national average for pupils gaining Level 4 in reading, maths and writing at KS2 was 79%. In Glos it was 81%. The national average for pupils gaining the benchmark 5+ GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English was 56.6% in state schools. In Glos it was 60.8%.

There was a larger gap between the national % for disadvantaged children and Gloucestershire's average but it's debatable whether it was 'yawning'. The difference at KS2 was -2, at KS4 it was -4.1 (calculated over 3 years).

It appears Gloucestershire gets a public bashing for figures which are not correct.

It is not good enough.

Guest's picture
Mon, 09/03/2015 - 15:37

As I said earlier, length of comment is your choice but ensuring clarity is surely equally as important as brevity. That said, there are contributors who won't be happy until their entire book has been published via the LSN comments :-)

Thank you for sharing the School Week article, which does seem to offer credence to my speculation about selective schools being more likely to warrant the title 'coasting' than non-selective counterparts.

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