As the debate about grade inflation continues and young people start their new school term, a policy briefing published today by Centre for Cities shows that pupils studying for their GCSEs in schools in struggling cities are facing multiple disadvantages.
They are more likely to go to a poorly performing school, more likely to get lower grades in GCSE Maths and English; and, because the Centre’s research shows a strong correlation between school performance in GCSE Maths and English and youth unemployment, they are more likely to be out of work when they leave school.
Over 59% of pupils from all schools in the most economically successful cities achieve at least 5A*-C GCSEs including Maths and English, compared to 47% in cities with weaker economies. This gap of over 12 percentage points must be addressed to ensure that pupils in struggling cities are securing the skills in Maths and English they will need to get a job when they leave school.
The briefing also 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 50schools in economically buoyant cities fail to meet this target. This figure rises to 1 in 10 schools in struggling cities. If the 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.
Despite these challenges, the research also indicates that schools and teachers in struggling cities are doing a good job at supporting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many struggling cities have demonstrated that they are better at improving the performance of these pupils than economically strong cities. While there are fewer pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in buoyant cities, they are less likely to achieve good GCSEs than disadvantaged pupils in struggling cities.
On the day that the Government publishes its monthly update on the performance of the Labour market, the briefing shows that supporting young people to secure good GCSEs in English and Maths is critical not only for their own future prospects, but for the success of their local labour market. The government must focus on improving standards of attainment in GCSE English and Maths as a priority, for the benefit of the individual and the city in which they live.
Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities said,
“The research shows that many teachers in struggling cities are doing a good job of supporting our most disadvantaged children, but it also highlights striking disparities between cities when it comes to overall GCSE performance in Maths and English. Children living in cities with weaker economies are facing multiple disadvantages. They are more likely to go to a poor performing school and get lower grades in GCSE Maths and English, and the combination of a weak local economy and lower qualifications means that these young people are also more likely to face unemployment when they leave the education system.
The government must address this issue as a priority. 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.”
For further information or to request a copy of the briefing please contact Rachel Tooby on 0207 803 4316 / 07748 183 026 / email@example.com
Press and External Affairs Officer