25th August 2017 (two weeks)

Department for Education

GCSE results day 2017, 24th August, News Story

The results show that:

  • Across English language, English literature and maths, there were 51,257 grade 9s awarded
  • Entries in the reformed GCSE subjects of English language, English literature and maths all increased from last year
  • There have been record entries into geography GCSEs this year
  • Post-16 attainment for a standard pass in English has risen from 24.4% last year, to 31.1% in England
  • Attainment in modern foreign languages remains broadly stable, including French, German and Spanish
  • More pupils appear to be taking their maths GCSEs at a time that is right for them as early entries in maths reduced by 64.6%, but the number of entries gaining a grade 9 is at 13.3%, compared to 3.5% overall

See also: Research Report: English Education: World Class? Perera and Andrews, 23rd August: Education Policy Institute

The report identifies what the new GCSE grades mean and their strength in the international context.

Key findings suggest that, looking at average overall attainment, England’s education system needs to undergo significant improvement if it is to keep pace with the world’s best education systems:

Overall performance

  • To match the highest performing countries in the world, pupils in England must, on average, achieve a ‘strong pass’ in maths and English – this is a grade 5 under the new GCSE grading system (and the equivalent of a high C or low B grade under the old system).
  • Applied to all subjects, this would require a total score of 50 points under the new ‘Attainment 8’ measure. For England to match the world’s best, we estimate that half of all pupils would need to achieve an overall score of 50 points or higher across Attainment 8 subjects.
  • In 2016, less than 40 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools in England achieved this world-class standard. To equal the highest performers England would therefore need to make up a lot of ground, increasing this figure by a quarter – or an additional 60,000 pupils.
  • Theproportion of pupils reaching the new world-class standard is around 20 percentage points lower than the historic 5+ A*-C (including English and mathematics) measure.

Performance in Maths

England faces an immense challenge in maths if it wishes to be on a par with the highest performing countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and Japan:

  • To match their average performance, under the new GCSE grading system, the average grade in England willneed to increase by around two thirds per student – an increase from 4.7 to 5.4.
  • The number of top performing pupils (those securing an A*- B grade) would need to increase by over a third – an additional 96,000 pupils.
  • Crucially, the number of low performing pupils (those failing to secure a C grade) would almost need to be cut in half – or reduce by 60,000 pupils.

Performance in Reading

Reaching the world-class standard for English would require smaller, yet still significant, improvements in pupils’ performance at GCSE level:

  • England’s average English language grade will also need to increase – from around 4.7 to 4.9 points under the new grades.
  • The number of top performing pupils (achieving an A*- B grade)would need to increase by a sixth – an extra 42,000 pupils – to match the highest performing countries in native language reading – Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, Finland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Those performing at the lower end of the scale (pupils failing to secure a C grade) would also need to decease by over a quarter. This means the number also needs to fall by 42,000.

Comparing different areas in England

Nearly all local authorities fail to get at least half of their pupils to the world-class standard – with great variation within this level of performance:

  • 136 out 150 local authorities fail to get half of their pupils achieving on average a ‘strong pass’ – a total of 50 points under the new system.
  • Of the 14 areas where at least half of pupils reach or exceed the world-class standard, we find that most of these are academically selective– meaning that the performance in these areas is skewed by the selection of high-attaining pupils.
  • Areas such as the Isle of Wight, Knowsley, Blackpool, and Nottingham are significantly behind – with the proportion achieving on average a ‘strong pass’ at just over a quarter. In London, in contrast, 45 per cent of pupils achieved the world-class standard.
  • As expected, attainment is similarly low in the government’s ‘Opportunity Areas’, where on average, less than a third of pupils achieved the world-class standard in 2016.

Supporting pupils with medical conditions at school, 16th August 2017: guidance

This statutory guidance about the support that pupils with medical conditions should receive at school, has been republished giving the new review date of autumn 2017.

Department for Education- Research

Small-scale research projects: summaries, 16th August 2017

The analytical associate pool consists of more than 150 independent academics and researchers, who carry out small-scale data analysis, rapid literature reviews, primary research and peer review for the Department for Education. Much of the analysis summarised is too small-scale for publishing on its own. The following are of interest:

Regional Differences in Early Years Attainment – Feasibility Study and Recommendations Associate: Neil Smith, NatCen Social Research

Research into regional differences in attainment has been primarily focussed within primary and secondary schools. This feasibility study investigated the regional gap in early years at age 5 and made recommendations on the best data sources and methods for future study to evaluate the potential drivers of a regional gap.

Findings from a literature review showed that parents have a key role in determining attainment with the most powerful predictor being parental qualifications.

Mental Health Fitness approaches used by Schools – research review Associate: Nick Coleman, Nick Coleman Research Ltd

Findings showed that the evidence of effectiveness of interventions is patchy. The review identified more than 60 interventions meeting the inclusion criteria and these can be organised into broad groups: • Calm and safe/protected spaces and environments; • Mindfulness/contemplative practices; Relaxation and other stress-reducing techniques; • Break/playtime interventions; • Physical activity and exercise; • Gardening and other outdoor/nature activities; • Music-based activities; • Art-based activities; • Literacy and writing; • Social and emotional development; • Interactive/on-line models; • Other diverse activities.

Improving Permanence for Looked after Children: Understanding placement stability at local level Associate: Sarah Gibson, CooperGibson Research

Research was carried out in four local authorities. Although findings highlighted the complexity of achieving placement stability for a diverse group of children with very different needs, the results are not generalisable.

Parental Engagement in Schools Associate: Elizabeth Davies, BMG Research.

The research involved an online survey of 1,210 parents/carers of children aged 4-18. It aimed to set a baseline for how schools currently engage with parents/carers and to inform policy decisions, by exploring the extent to which, on what issues and how schools inform, engage and involve parents/carers of children of this age group. Key findings showed that:

This research suggests that the more informed and engaged parents/carers felt, the more they felt they could hold their child’s school to account, and the more they felt they had a say in the running of the school.

The majority of differences in parent/carer experiences were based on the phase and type of school that their child attended rather than demographic factors. For example:

  • Parents/carers with a child in primary school were more likely than those in Secondary, to have opportunities for frequent informal contact and to take part in workshops/learning opportunities to support their child’s learning.
  • Parents/carers with a child in primary school are more likely to receive information about what their child is learning and consider this to be more important.
  • Parents/carers with a child in secondary school are more likely to receive information about general school activities and events; however they considered information about the curriculum to be most important.

Department for Education- Further Education

FE data library: apprenticeship vacancies archive, 15th August

This has been updated with data released in June on apprenticeship vacancies reported to the end of May 2017.

FE Commissioner intervention reports: June 2014 to May 2016, 17 August 2017

Republished document removing Warrington Collegiate and Stanmore College assessment summaries and ministers' letters to add them to the 'end of FE Commissioner intervention' pages.


NEET statistics quarterly brief: April to June 2017, 24th August 2017

  • The proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) decreased for the 19-24 and 16-24 age groups and increased for the 16-18 age group.
  • The proportion of young people not in education or training (NET) decreased for the 19-24 and 16-24 age groups and increased for the 16-18 age group

More detail shows that (although none of the annual changes are statistically significant):

  • The 19-24 NEET rate decreased by 1.1 percentage points (to 12.7%) from the comparable quarter in 2016
  • The overall 16- 24 NEET rate decreased by 0.7 percentage points (to 11.4%).
  • Over the same period, the 16-18 NEET rate increased by 0.3 percentage points (to 8.4%).
  • The proportion of 16-18 year olds NET increased between April to June 2016 and 2017 (up 1.8 percentage points to 18.4%).
  • Over the same period, the 19- 24 NET rate decreased by 1.7 percentage points (to 57.6%)
  • The overall 16-24 NET rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points (to 45.6%).

See also: Overall NEET rates continue to fall but should we be concerned about the rise in 16 to 18 year olds who are NET as well as NEET? 25th august, blog by Tami McCrone: NfER

In this blog , the author says we should be concerned about the increased rate of 16 – 18 year olds Not in Education and Training (NET) which has increased between April and June 2016 and 2017 by 1.8 per cent points to 18.4 per cent. (‘Education and Training’ includes apprenticeships). What this means is that, despite RPA, over one in five of young people aged 16 to 18 are not in any form of education and training, so they are not currently developing their skills and knowledge.

She says ‘in the interests of social mobility, and the long-term effect on our economy and productivity, we should find out more about these young people. For example, what types of schools did they attend? What careers education and guidance and exposure to the world of work have they experienced? How many GCSEs have they achieved? Would the NET figure be lower if more apprenticeships were available for 16-19 year olds and they were being recruited for apprenticeships? To what extent, if at all, are young people aware of apprenticeships?’


Cornwall local area SEND inspection outcome letter published, 25th August 2017


The effectiveness of the local area in improving outcomes for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities

The local area has made good use of its experience as a member of the SEND pathfinder group. Parents are now involved as much as possible throughout the process in their child’s early years.

The progress made by boys and girls with SEN statements, EHC plans or with SEN support at key stage 4 across a range of subject areas is better than similar.

Overall, the rate of persistent absence by pupils with SEN statements or EHC plans or those with SEN support is lower than in other local areas across the South West region and the national rate, as is the use of fixed-term exclusions.

The majority of post-16 learning providers develop good working relationships with a few large national companies or local employers.

Areas for development

Too many children and young people who have ASD do not benefit from the necessary support and resources to be successful at school. A significant proportion of those electing to educate at home have primary needs of ASD and emotional and mental health.

The progress made by pupils on SEN support in writing and mathematics across key stage 2 is low compared with outcomes for SEN support children in England. The improvement in the achievement in mathematics, spelling and grammar for key stage 2 children with SEN support and EHC plans is a priority for the local area


Vocational GCSEs may be holding girls back, research suggests, 22nd August: IOE

A new study by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at UCL, Institute of Education suggests that girls who take ‘applied’ subjects, such as health and social care or home economics, at GCSE may be facing educational disadvantage as a result.

The researchers used data from Next Steps, a study of 16,000 people born in England in 1989-90, and from the National Pupil Database. 

They found that young people who took applied GCSEs were less likely to stay on at A-level and to take ‘facilitating’ A-levels favoured by prestigious universities. Vocational subjects appeared to put both boys and girls at a disadvantage, even after taking into account the fact that less privileged young people and those with lower prior Key Stage test scores were more likely to take applied subjects at GCSE. 

Children and Young People Writing Postcards in 2016, National Literacy Trust, 2nd August

A short report looked at the frequency of children in 2016 sending postcards when they go on holiday.

Key findings:

  • Over half of children and young people (52.1%) never write a postcard on holiday these days. Just over 1 in 10 children and young people (10.9%) always write postcards when they go on holiday, while the remaining 37.0% do so sometimes.
  • 8-11 year olds are more likely than older children to write postcards

International: Wales

English Education: World Class? Perera and Andrews, 23rd August: Education Policy Institute

The report identifies what the new GCSE grades mean and their strength in the international context.

Key findings suggest that, looking at average overall attainment, England’s education system needs to undergo significant improvement if it is to keep pace with the world’s best education systems:

Comparing England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Key findings show that:

  • Wales’ performance in maths is significantly lower than England’s– just 38 per of cent pupils are high attainers, achieving the equivalent of an A*- B GCSE grade. This compares with Scotland (44 per cent) and Northern Ireland (43 per cent).
  • To keep pace with the world’s best in maths, Wales would therefore need to drastically improve the number of top performing pupils it has – by over a half. Scotland and Northern Ireland would each need to increase theirs by over a third.
  • At the lower end of the attainment scale, all UK nations face a huge task in reducing the proportion of pupils struggling to secure a grade C.Once again, Wales faces the biggest challenge – to meet the world-class standard in maths it would need to cut the number of low performing pupils in half – while the required reduction in Scotland and Northern Ireland is just under a half.

CSC Wales: Combined GCSE pass rates for subjects other than English and mathematics show continued improvement within the Central South Wales region, 25th August

The proportion of schools within the Central South Consortium achieving the top A*-A grades at GCSE, excluding the new qualifications of English, mathematics and mathematics numeracy has increased from 22.6% in 2016, to 23.5% in 2017.

Early information from schools and WJEC indicate that results in the key subjects of English and mathematics are lower than expected.  However, a series of changes makes comparison with previous years’ performance in these subjects invalid.

Cllr Sarah Merry, Chair of the Central South Consortium Joint Committee commented: “I’d like to congratulate pupils on their results and thank our teachers.  Naturally I am delighted to see continued improvement in the combined pass rate of so many subjects.

Minister highlights alternative career options as thousands collect their GCSE results, 24th August: Welsh Government

Skills and Science Minister Julie James highlights the various benefits offered by apprenticeships. The Welsh Government supports apprenticeships from level 2 through to higher levels. Last week the Minister visited IT Pie in Penarth to speak with one of the company’s apprentices, Jaimie Warburton, and Creative Director, Aran Pitter, to hear more about why apprenticeships work for them, from both a learner and business perspective.

To give one example: Jaimie, now 28 and from Caerphilly, outlined that he always had an interest in IT and web development but after leaving school at 16 he initially struggled to find his vocation:

“The great thing about taking on an apprentice (he said) is that you can take someone from ground level, mould their learning and development around the needs of the company and its clients and this not only supports business growth but it enables the apprentice to develop skills that are relevant to real-life.” 

Schools summer scheme in good health, 15th August: Welsh Government

Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams visited Llandrindod Wells CiW School to see the effect their summer lunch club is having on children from the area

Earlier this year, the Education Secretary announced half million pounds to help fund Food and Fun clubs in selected schools during the school summer holidays.The programme aims to enrich the school holiday experience of children in areas of high deprivation, and will see a number of schools providing free meals, as well as a wide range of food education, physical activity and other fun sessions during the summer break. Staff and volunteers at Llandrindod school provided a club for children in the area for three days of the week during the holidays and the Education Secretary was quick to praise efforts.

Kirsty Williams said: “……I have been really encouraged with what I have seen today and would congratulate those involved for the enriching experience on offer. While the scheme does offer a healthy free breakfast and lunch which tackle holiday hunger, I was especially pleased to see the fun and rewarding educational activities available which can also go a long way to improving learners’ health and wellbeing.”


NFER reacts to the DfE’s Statistical First Releases, 24th august: News

Statistical First Releases (SFRs) are the mechanism through which Government departments publish official statistics about policies they are responsible for, and our series focuses on education and children. Since June 2017, NFER researchers have been engaging with the SFR producing ‘same day’ analysis and commentary from in NFER perspective in our blog posts.

If you would like to be notified of all new NFER blog content including our analysis of the SFR, you can sign up to the email alerts here .

Achievement for All: possible areas for considerations

English Education: World Class? Perera and Andrews, 23rd August: Education Policy Institute

The report highlights areas where students are underperforming in GCSE including the Isle of Wight, Knowsley, Blackpool, and Nottingham and the new government ‘Opportunity Areas’, where on average, less than a third of pupils achieved the world-class standard in 2016. Schools in these areas would benefit from working with Achievement for All to drive better outcomes for ALL their pupils- and to embed this approach in their systems.