GCSE data published today highlights the persistent disparities in educational outcomes between cities, and within cities. In Gloucester, 20 pupils out of a class of 30 achieved five or more A* to C grades including Maths and English in 2014. In Burnley, this drops to 12 pupils out of a class of 30.
Figure 1: Pupils achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs including Maths and English, 2013/14
For several cities, we can also look at the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. It’s immediately evident that that gap is much wider at GCSE level compared to the end of primary school. The gap in York at primary school age (KS2) is 23 percentage points. This widens to a 40 percentage point difference between disadvantaged pupils and their peers at GCSE level: just 29 per cent of disadvantaged pupils in York achieve five or more good GSCEs, while 69 per cent of their peers do. Disadvantaged pupils do particularly well in London where nearly 49 per cent achieve at least five good GCSEs and the gap between them and their peers is just over 20 percentage points.
Figure 2: Gap in attainment rates – KS2 and KS4, 2013/14
We’re obviously not comparing the same cohort of pupils, so the recent narrowing of the gap at primary school age may lead to a narrowing of the gap at GCSE level in a few years’ time (although how significant those effects will be is questionable). What is interesting is the differences between cities in the attainment gap at GCSE level follow the differences in the attainment gap at primary school age. This highlights, yet again, the importance of early years and primary school education, and the importance of working out why London appears to do so well.