Post code – a key factor in GCSE results says Centre for Cities
“Young people growing up in cities with the weakest economies face multiple disadvantages, including poor schools, lower GCSE grades, and more likely unemployment.
According to Top marks? School performance across UK cities, a new briefing by Centre for Cities, only 47% of pupils from all schools in cities with weaker economies achieve at least 5A*-C GCSEs including Maths and English, compared with 59% in the most economically successful cities.
Economically successful cities have been defined by The Centre for Cities’ through its Agenda for Growth research programme as including London, Milton Keynes, Reading and Bristol. The same research named Bolton, Barnsley, Middlesborough, Hull, Blackburn, Birkenhead, Burnley and Stoke as struggling cities.
The new briefing shows that pupils in struggling cities are more likely to go to ‘inadequate’ or ‘satisfactory’ schools. Nearly 40% of schools in struggling cities fell into either of these categories, when they were last inspected, compared to 26% in buoyant cities.
This means that schools in struggling cities are less likely to meet the GCSE floor target set by government of 35% of pupils getting 5 GCSEs A* to C. Just over 1 in 50 schools in economically buoyant cities fail to meet this target. This figure rises to 1 in 10 schools in struggling cities. If the GCSE-based benchmark is raised to 50% in 2015, as the Government has suggested recently, then by today’s standards nearly 40% of schools in struggling cities would fail to meet the floor target.
Achievement of skills in Maths and English are critical for young people’s own future prospects, says the briefing, but also for the success of the local labour market they will enter. The government must therefore focus on improving standards of GCSE English and Maths attainment as a priority.
While pupil background is a strong determinant of educational attainment evidence from schools in London clearly demonstrates that disadvantage can be overcome. More than 47 percent of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in London achieve at least five A*-C GCSEs (or equivalents) including Maths and English, compared with 35 percent nationally.
“The government must address this issue as a priority” says Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities. “Far greater emphasis must be placed on supporting children to secure A* to C grades in GCSE Maths and English in particular; these are the qualifications that we know employers look for. There should also be greater focus on ‘place’ when looking at how to improve school performance. Policies such as the London Challenge, bringing in experts to help schools improve their performance within a local area, are an example of how to make a difference.”