The government today published its official statistics showing where students end up after leaving school. The data reveal some fascinating, and perhaps troubling, findings.
The Department for Education has “named and shamed” 16 local authorities that failed to get a single student on free school meals into a Russell Group university in 2010.
The list includes: Merton, Sandwell, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, East Riding of Yorkshire, North East Lincolnshire, Milton Keynes, East Sussex, Portsmouth, Southampton, Bracknell Forest, West Berkshire, Reading, Halton, Isle of Wight and Northumberland.
It’s a mixed bag for sure: Sandwell is a deprived borough in the West Midlands that has been a test bed for numerous educational initiatives over the past few years. Merton is the only London borough, but no inner-city boroughs make the list.
Relatively rural areas with pockets of high poverty, such as North Somerset, are also highlighted.
The department has contrasted these councils with high-performers that managed to get at least 10 per cent of their students on free school meals into top institutions. Trafford, a selective authority, is singled out, along with Manchester, Kirklees and Stockport. Nationally, 4 per cent of students claiming free school meals attended a Russell Group university in 2010-11, compared with 9 per cent of students not on free school meals.
The news comes after Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said he wanted to create a new cadre of superteachers who would be parachuted into mediocre schools, in an attempt to improve the education of poor children in areas neglected by school improvement drives.
It will be interesting to see whether the pupil premium – introduced in April 2011 – will have any effect on future destination data. And as thousands of schools become academies, it may also become harder for officials to single out authorities for poor performance.