Press release: Academies lead the way as school performance tables are published

Today (Thursday 21 January 2016) the Department for Education is publishing school-level GCSE and A level performance tables.

Today’s figures show:

At GCSE

Converter academies – excellent schools which are taking advantage of the freedom academy status brings – are leading the way in strong academic standards, outperforming the national average by 7.2 percentage points, with 64.3% of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths. Over time, we will see the excellence and expertise of these strong sponsors spread as the government continues to expand the academies programme and extending opportunity to all.

Sponsored academies – previously underperforming schools which have been taken over by a strong sponsor – are transforming the fortunes of pupils, with a rise in the number of pupils reaching the expected standard compared to last year. Results in sponsored academies open for 2 academic years have improved by 2.3 percentage points since 2014. This shows the transformation which can occur thanks to the support and expertise of a strong sponsor.

A significant increase of nearly 88,000 pupils taking the core academic subjects compared to 2010, thanks to the EBacc. This includes a significant rise in the number of pupils entering EBacc sciences – up by more than 46,000 since 2010, including a rise of more than 28,000 pupils compared to last year’s results.

Schools and teachers are rising to the challenge of the government’s ambitious programme of reforms and refusing to accept second best for our young people by raising both aspirations and standards.

The number of schools below the floor standard has also remained stable, following significant changes to performance tables which first came into force last year. This government has significantly reformed GCSEs and A levels to ensure pupils leave school with qualifications that are of real value and will set them up to succeed in further study and the world of work.

The change in the rules around early entry is working, meaning more pupils are taking these exams at the right time. The proportion of pupils entering English and maths has remained stable, while the overall number of entries has fallen, suggesting that fewer pupils are being entered for exams in these subjects more than once, responding to the change in the rules around early entry.

At A Level

This year’s results represent a new milestone for A levels – for the first time, more than half of entries are now in the key facilitating subjects which universities and employers say keep people’s options open.

More girls are choosing to study science and maths at A level – with the number studying these subjects rising across the board compared to 2010, showing that no subject is off-limits because of gender.

More pupils are staying on for post-16 study. More than 404,000 pupils across the country are now taking these high-level qualifications, an increase of 1% since last year and 6.4% since 2010 – suggesting that the government’s drive to raise the participation age is already beginning to positively influence young people’s behaviour, encouraging them to pursue their studies at a higher level.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Today’s results show that thanks to the hard work of teachers and pupils, schools are already responding to this government’s vital reforms – leading to higher standards and transforming young people’s life chances.

Our academies programme is revolutionising the school system, with converter academies leading the way and sponsored academies turning round schools which previously would have been left to languish.

Our reforms to GCSEs and A levels are based on the highest possible aspirations for our young people – providing a broad and balanced education and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and qualifications which will set them up to succeed.

Raising attainment

Today’s figures also identify a continuing challenge in raising the attainment of white working class boys, who continue to represent one of the lowest performing group of pupils.

As part of the government’s commitment to delivering educational excellence everywhere, we have protected pupil premium funding worth £2.5 billion this year, as well as a range of targeted measures to tackle pockets of underperformance across the country. This includes:

  • establishing the National Teaching Service to send 1500 outstanding teachers and middle leaders into schools in some of the most challenging areas by 2020

  • the continued expansion of the academies programme, allowing more schools to benefit from the expertise and leadership of a strong sponsor and allowing swift intervention in schools which are underperforming

  • a total of nearly £5 million worth of grants to support 5 academy school sponsors in driving up standards across the north of England

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Today’s results show how far we have come in raising standards, but they also highlight where some pupils are still at risk of falling behind.

We refuse to accept second best for any young person and we must now focus on extending opportunity for all. This government is giving all young people, irrespective of their background, a fair shot in life and we must not let up the pace of reform now. Through our focus on delivering educational excellence everywhere and the dedication of our schools, we will tackle those pockets of persistent underperformance so every child fulfils their potential.

Notes to editors

Changes to performance tables

  1. The key changes at GCSE which first applied in the 2013 to 2014 performance tables are:
  • only counting a pupil’s first attempt in performance tables, ending the practice of schools repeatedly entering pupils for exams so they could ‘bank’ a good grade
  • stripping poor quality vocational qualifications that weren’t respected by employers or universities out of performance tables, preventing any qualification from counting as equivalent to more than 1 GCSE and capping the number of non-GCSEs counting in performance measures to 2

All schools were informed about planned changes to performance tables in September 2013 and full guidance was given in March 2014. These changes do not affect the individual results pupils have received.

This year 312 schools are below the 5 A* to C floor standard. This is one of a number of factors schools are judged on and it does not automatically mean the school will face intervention.

This year we also gave schools the opportunity to opt in to the new progress 8 accountability system 1 year early. This system has its own floor standard and of the 327 schools that opted in early, 17 were below the new floor standard.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk
020 7783 8300

General enquiries
0370 000 2288

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