A Flawed spur to improve

15th December 1995 at 00:00
Geraldine Hackett finds figures may not reveal the best performance According to Harvey Goldstein, professor of statistics at the Institute of Education, the Government's school league tables provide little useful information about the performance of schools.

Any exercise that attempts to map what has been happening over the four years since league tables became a fact of life is fruitless, he says, without a great deal of additional data about changes in the intake of schools.

However, the debate about what the tables show does not go away. The map and tables here - prepared by Rob Langley of the school of geography at the University of Leeds - try to show the degree of variance in results.

They show the proportion of pupils gaining five GCSEs grade A-C and the proportion leaving without any qualification. The figures do appear to show that in some inner-city areas there is a growing proportion of pupils leaving without qualifications and the improvement on the five-GCSE benchmark is below the national average.

For example, in Newcastle the proportion of fifth-formers leaving without qualifications has gone up from 14 per cent to 17.3 per cent (the national average is 8.6 per cent). In Salford the proportion leaving without any result has gone up from 11.2 per cent to 16 per cent.

However, there are exceptions. The London borough of Lambeth appears to have managed a substantial improvement on both measures. In 1992 almost a quarter of fifth-formers left without even a single grade G at GCSE. The proportion this year is 12.2 per cent.

There are also some local authorities, such as Wolverhampton, Gateshead and Nottingham, where there has been a reasonable improvement in the proportion of pupils getting five or more good GCSEs, combined with a rise in the proportion with no qualifications.

According to Peter Wilson, senior inspector in Wolverhampton, individual schools are not showing better results with the more able pupils and poorer results with the low achievers. "Schools have been looking to improve the results of those pupils likely to be on the borderline of a C or D grade, but the schools that have improved their results tend to have got better results top and bottom," he says.

The picture is not uniformly depressing in the inner cities. Birmingham has managed a marginal improvement in the proportion of pupils leaving without anything, and has pushed its proportion of pupils with higher grade GCSEs from 25.1 to 31.2 per cent. Sheffield has reduced its share of those leaving without qualifications from 14.8 per cent to 11.5 per cent and increased the proportion gaining higher grades from 29.7 to 36.3 per cent.

However, the authorities with the most to explain are Doncaster, Croydon and Walsall. While others have seen improvements in the proportion of pupils with higher-grade GCSEs, their results have worsened at both ends.

The problem with a simple division of authorities into those showing improvement and those with polarised results is that it does not show that some have improved a great deal more than others. Places like North Yorkshire have improved their academic results from 34.9 per cent to 50.2 per cent.

The tables may be misleading, but they appear to have been a spur to improvement in some areas.

GCSEs 1992-95

LEA Pupils achieving Pupils obtaining 5+ GCSEs grade A-C (%) no GCSEs (%) 1992 1995 Diff. 1992 1995 Diff.

Average all authorities 32.5 38.4 5.9 9.6 8.6 .-1 England Avon 36.1 41. 2 5.1 7.0 6.5 -0.5 Barnsley 24.1 29.0 4.9 9.9 10.7 0.8 Bedfordshire 34.9 39.3 4.4 5.7 5.3 -0.4 Berkshire 40.1 48.3 8.2 8.5 5.8 -2.7 Birmingham 25.1 31.2 6.1 13.4 12.9 -0.5 Bolton 35.3 41.4 6.1 9.6 9.0 -0.6 Bradford 22.7 28.1 5.4 12.2 12.1 -0.1 Buckinghamshire 42.1 49.1 7.0 11.8 5.9 -5.9 Bury 40.5 45.3 4.8 6.3 4.0 -2.3

Calderdale 32.6 37.1 4.5 10.0 9.0 -1.0 Cambridgeshire 39.5 44.5 5.0 6. 4 6.2 -0.2 Cheshire 40.1 46.8 6.7 8.7 5.3 -3.4 Cleveland 29.8 33.6 3.8 11.0 11. 8 0.8 Cornwall 35.1 46.3 11.2 4.7 3.3 -1.4 Coventry 32.8 34.0 1.2 8.2 8.8 0.6 Cumbria 37.5 43.5 6.0 7.0 7.0 0.0 Derbyshire 36.1 39.8 3.7 5.7 6.4 0.7 Devon 37. 8 43.2 5.4 5.5 5.2 -0.3

Doncaster 31.8 31.5 -0.3 9.1 12.5 3.4 Dorset 40.9 48.8 7.9 3.8 4.6 0.8 Dudley 35.1 41.6 6.5 4.0 8.0 4.0 Durham 31.8 34.4 2.6 7.4 9.6 2.2 East Sussex 39.7 41.9 2.2 6.8 7.7 0.9 Essex 36.7 42.8 6.1 6.5 6.4 -0.1 Gateshead 28.5 36. 4 7.9 9.4 11.4 2.0 Gloucestershire 40.0 49.4 9.4 11.3 4.6 -6.7 Hampshire 37.3 46.0 8.7 7.2 5.2 -2.0 Hereford and Worcester 37.8 43.0 5.2 6.6 6.7 0.1 Hertfordshire 43.6 47.9 4.3 6.5 5.8 -0.7 Humberside 30.8 33.8 3.0 8.5 9.8 1.3

Isle of Wight 34.9 39.1 4.2 3.0 5.8 2.8 Kent 36.9 41.9 5.0 7.9 6.4 -1.5 Kirklees 31.5 37.5 6.0 9.0 10.5 1.5 Knowsley 16.3 19.2 -2.9 19.5 18.5 1. 0 Lancashire 36.5 41.7 5.2 8.7 7.9 -0.8 Leeds 30.0 35.8 5.8 14.1 11.1 -3. 0 Leicestershire 33.2 39.7 6.5 7.5 7.3 -0.2 Lincolnshire 36.6 44.8 8.2 6. 0 6.7 0.7 Liverpool 21.4 26.1 4.7 16.7 16.1 -0.6 Manchester 18.6 22.5 3.9 23. 0 19.1 -3.9 Newcastle-upon-Tyne 26.8 26.5 -0.3 14.0 17.3 3.3 Norfolk 42.6 43.2 0.6 5.0 6.8 1.8 Northamptonshire 36.2 40.0 3.8 5.3 6.4 1.1 Northumberland 27.9 42.8 14.9 6.1 6.9 0.8 North Tyneside 34.6 40.2 5.6 9.1 9.2 0.1 North Yorkshire 34.9 50.2 15.3 6.0 4.9 -1.1 Nottinghamshire 29.8 36.0 6.2 8.1 9.8 1.7 Oldham 27.1 31.9 4.8 13.1 12.2 -0.9

Oxfordshire 41.2 45.8 4.6 6.6 7.3 0.7 Rochdale 26.0 32.8 6.8 15.8 11.6 -4.2 Rotherham 29.7 36.2 6.5 7.0 9.3 2.3 St Helens 30.5 37.6 7.1 10.3 8.3 -2. 0 Salford 25.2 27.9 2.7 11.2 16.0 4.8 Sandwell 21.9 26.9 5.0 9.0 11.1 2.1 Sefton 36.7 43.8 7.1 7.9 8.2 0.3 Sheffield 29.7 36.3 6.6 14.8 11.5 -3.3 Shropshire 40.2 45.6 5.4 3.5 5.4 1.9

Solihull 41.7 47.9 6.2 3.4 3.8 0.4 Somerset 43.5 47.7 4.2 9.9 4.0 -5.9 South Tyneside 29.9 34.0 4.1 7.3 7.7 0.4 Staffordshire 33.2 38.7 5.5 7.4 7.3 -0.1 Stockport 40.2 47.5 7.3 7.0 5.9 -1.1 Suffolk 39.0 45.8 6.8 3.9 4.0 0.1 Sunderland 28.2 30.9 2.7 7.9 10.1 2.2 Surrey 43.9 49.3 5.4 6.1 5.5 -0.6 Tameside 29.9 33.3 3.4 8.3 8.3 0.0 Trafford 36.6 47.1 10.5 7.5 6.0 -1.5

Wakefield 27.8 35.2 7.4 8.9 8.3 -0.6 Walsall 31.4 31.3 -0.1 9.9 10.8 0. 9 Warwickshire 37.0 43.8 6.8 4.9 5.9 1.0 West Sussex 46.1 51.0 4.9 5.1 4. 9 -0.2 Wigan 39.3 42.3 3.0 6.0 7.0 1.0 Wiltshire 40.0 48.4 8.4 4.2 4.6 0.4 Wirral 36.4 43.1 6.7 8.0 7.4 -0.6 Wolverhampton 24.7 30.9 6.2 10.2 12.8 2.6 Wales

Clwyd 32.0 42.0 10.0 8.0 9.0 1.0 Dyfed 38.0 47.0 9.0 11.0 8.0 -3.0 Gwent 31.0 37.0 6.0 12.0 11.0 -1.0 Gwynedd 34.0 42.0 8.0 11.0 9.0 -2.0 Mid Glamorgan 26.0 33.0 7.0 19.0 15.0 -4.0 Powys 37.0 50.0 13.0 6.0 6.0 0.0 South Glamorgan 33.0 41.0 8.0 15.0 13.0 -2.0 West Glamorgan 31.0 38.0 7.0 12.0 11.0 -1.0 London boroughs

Barking and Dagenham 15.5 27.6 12.1 13.2 12.2 -1.0 Barnet 42.6 52.7 10. 1 10.0 6.9 -3.1 Bexley 34.3 43.1 8.8 6.3 5.3 -1.0 Brent 28.8 35.1 6.3 10.3 7.8 -2.5 Bromley 44.2 47.4 3.2 8.2 5.1 -3.1 Camden 35.2 41.5 6.3 18.9 12.2 -6.7 City of Westminster 24.1 28.8 4.7 11.6 14.0 2.4 Croydon 38.0 36.8 -1.2 6.8 8.6 1.8 Ealing 26.8 33.5 6.7 12.5 9.6 -2.9 Enfield 32.4 39.3 6.9 8.2 7.4 -0.8 Greenwich 23.4 28.3 4.9 15.7 14.9 -0.8 Hackney 19.3 23.9 4.6 18.5 8.7 -9.8 Hammersmith and Fulham 26.6 31.8 5.2 17.8 13.7 -4.1 Haringey 24.0 27.5 3.5 18.7 16. 7 -2.0 Harrow 49.7 52.5 2.8 2.4 6.1 3.7 Havering 38.4 42.1 3.7 5.7 5.1 -0.6 Hillingdon 32.5 37.8 5.3 15.1 6.7 -8.4 Hounslow 34.9 39.0 4.1 9.7 9.7 0.0 Islington 19.5 17.4 -2.1 23.7 16.0 -7.7 Kensington and Chelsea 28.1 36.2 8.1 13.5 9.9 -3.6 Kingston-upon-Thames 46.3 55.5 9.2 6.5 7.9 1.4 Lambeth 18.2 23.2 5.0 24. 1 12.2 -11.9 Lewisham 25.2 29.0 3.8 13.5 8.6 -4.9 Merton 33.2 39.0 5.8 10.0 9. 4 -0.6 Newham 20.7 23.7 3.0 17.1 11.5 -5.6

Redbridge 37.3 45.1 7.8 7.7 5.3 -2.4 Richmond-upon-Thames 42.5 48.1 5. 6 8.1 4.5 -3.6 Southwark 15.1 22.2 7.1 19.7 13.4 -6.3 Sutton 45.6 52.9 7.3 5. 7 5.8 0.1 Tower Hamlets 16.0 21.7 5.7 20.5 11.9 -8.6 Waltham Forest 25.8 32.7 6.9 8.6 9.7 1.1 Wandsworth 26.2 30.0 3.8 12.1 9.9 -2.

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