Press release: Academic standards continue to rise under the academies programme

Standards continue to rise under the government’s flagship academies programme, which is improving the education of thousands of pupils across the country, provisional GCSE figures published today (15 October 2015) show.

Provisional GCSE results, published for the first time today, show that converter academies are performing 7.2 percentage points above the national average, with 63.3% of pupils achieving the headline measure of 5+ A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths.

Alongside this, figures show recently-opened sponsored academies are matching or bettering their performance year-on-year, in spite of the significant challenges of transforming underperforming schools.

Increases over the first few years of performance for sponsored academies demonstrate the rapid improvement which can be achieved when underperforming schools are taken over by strong sponsors.

For the first time, academies make up the single biggest school type of secondary school, representing more than 40% of schools with results out today. This demonstrates that the government’s flagship academies programme is continuing to transform the landscape of English education, with more heads enjoying the freedom to run their school in a way that works for their pupils – and in doing so creating a greater choice of good school places.

High-performing converter academies make up the majority of academy sponsors, allowing the best headteachers to share their expertise with others – around three-quarters of the 120 sponsors approved in the last school year were academy converters, demonstrating significant progress towards a self-improving, school-led system.

The stability in overall results, compared with 2014 provisional figures, shows the government’s ambitious programme of education reform, which raises the bar on expectations for schools and will lead to higher standards for pupils, is already bedding in.

Results also show the government’s relentless focus on core academic subjects means more pupils than ever before are studying the facilitating subjects most valued by employers and universities at GCSE and A Level.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today welcomed the stability in this year’s results and thanked teachers for adapting quickly to vital exam reforms to drive up academic standards.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

As a one nation government we are committed to delivering educational excellence in every area of the country and today’s results demonstrate the progress which is being made in extending opportunity and raising academic standards.

Converter academies are leading the way in strong academic standards and over time we will see the excellence and expertise of strong sponsors spread.

As well as raising standards, our plan for education is ensuring more pupils leave school with the qualifications which we know will give them the best possible chance to achieve their full potential.

Focusing on the core academic subjects at GCSE

Results today show that the government’s plan for education has helped to significantly increase the number of pupils taking core academic subjects at GCSE since 2010.
This includes a significant rise of 5.6 percentage points this year in the number of pupils studying EBacc science subjects.

The number pupils failing to enter any EBacc science subjects at GCSE has fallen dramatically since 2010, from 213,000 to 142,000, meaning more pupils are leaving school equipped with qualifications in this crucial subject.

The proportion of pupils entering and achieving the EBacc have both remained stable for another year as schools continue to respond to changes in performance measures. Pupils achieve the EBacc if they secure a C or better in English, maths, 2 sciences, history or geography, and a language – the subjects most valued by universities and employers.

Earlier this year, Nicky Morgan announced that all pupils starting secondary school from this September must study the key English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language at GCSE. This will make sure that pupils get the rigorous academic education they need to succeed – whether that is getting a place at university, starting an apprenticeship, or finding their first job.

Milestone for A level choices

A level results, also published today, have reached a significant milestone with the proportion of entries in facilitating subjects rising to more than half (50.8%) for the first time – a rise of almost 14,000 entries since last year.

Entries to A level maths have risen by 3.8% this year, making it the most popular A level choice for the second year running.

Compared to last year, figures also showed:

  • computing has seen the biggest percentage increase in entries, with an increase of 29.4% compared to last year, setting more pupils up for a future in this country’s flourishing technology and business sectors
  • there has been an increase in the number of entries in core academic subjects in the humanities – with a rise of 7.8% in history and 14.0% in geography
  • entries to Spanish have increased by 14.9%

Empowering parents

The government has been reforming GCSEs and A levels so that pupils leave school with qualifications that are of real value and enable them to succeed in the future.

Provisional results have been published at school level for the first time to help parents finalise their choice of secondary school for their children.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb added:

We know that GCSE and A level results are one of the main indicators parents look for when choosing a secondary school for their child.

In the past, parents had to rely on old data, only getting the most recent results once the admissions window had closed.

By publishing provisional school-level results, we are empowering parents – giving them the most up-to-date results to inform these important decisions and further challenging schools to maintain a strong academic performance and raise standards for all.

The move is part of the government’s drive to improve transparency, helping parents hold schools to account while allowing heads and teachers to highlight their achievements.

Notes to editors

  1. Read the provisional statistical first releases:

  2. The 2015 school level figures published today are provisional and subject to change. Care should be taken when making any comparisons between the 2015 provisional school level data and the final data from previous years. This is because the provisional data does not reflect accepted amendment requests made by schools in the September checking exercise, such as the removal of pupils recently arrived from overseas, as well as the addition of late results supplied by awarding organisations and examination re-marks following appeals.
  3. Revised results will be published in late January 2016. These results will take into account all of the accepted change requests made by schools in the September checking exercise.
  4. A very small minority of schools see large changes in their headline results between provisional and revised calculations. The data provided in the performance tables should always be considered alongside other important sources of information, such as Ofsted reports, visits to the school itself and talking to teachers. Ofsted school inspection reports can be obtained from the bottom of each school’s page on the school and college performance tables website.

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