Are University Technical Colleges the answer?

Table 1: Most popular GCSE and equivalent exam subjects at non-UTC state schools in England (2015)
SubjectNumber of entriesProportion (%)Difference with UTCs
GCSE Mathematics524,94810.7-2.4
GCSE English Literature380,0257.8+0.6
GCSE Science366,6027.5-1.0
GCSE Additional Science303,5476.2-1.5
GCSE English Language289,2115.9+0.9
GCSE Religious Studies251,9005.1+4.1
GCSE History214,8644.4+3.1
GCSE Geography197,7154.0+1.1
CIC English Language177,9523.6-1.6
GCSE French142,3072.9+2.6
GCSE Biology120,9032.5-1.2
GCSE Chemistry117,3472.4-1.8
GCSE Physics116,3282.4-1.9
GCSE Physical Education102,9272.1+1.4
GCSE ICT91,6941.9+1.0
GCSE Spanish80,9141.7+0.8
BTEC Applied Sciences80,8981.7+1.2
GCSE Art & Design79,4511.6+0.8
GCSE Business Studies69,0531.4+1.0
GCSE Drama & Theatre Studies67,2361.4+0.9
Sample size: 4,901,730 GCSE and equivalent exam entries at non-UTC mainstream state schools in England.
Abbreviations: CIC = Cambridge International Certificate. ICT = Information & Communications Technology
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Table 2: Most popular GCSE and equivalent exam subjects at UTCs (2015)
SubjectNumber of entriesProportion (%)Difference with non-UTCs
GCSE Mathematics1,12813.1+2.4
GCSE Science7298.5+1.0
GCSE Additional Science6617.7+1.5
GCSE English Literature6187.2-0.6
CIC English Language4485.2+1.6
GCSE English Language4315.0-0.9
GCSE Physics3674.3+1.9
GCSE Chemistry3654.2+1.8
GCSE D&T Product Design3333.9+3.1
GCSE Biology3213.7+1.2
Principal Learning Engineering3043.5+3.5
GCSE Geography2553.0-1.1
CNC Computer Appreciation2202.6+1.3
GCSE English Language & Literature1912.2+1.0
GCSE German1481.7+0.7
BTEC Engineering Studies1401.6+1.5
CIC English Literature1401.6+1.2
GCSE Environmental Science1221.4+1.4
GCSE Media Studies1211.4+0.4
GCSE History1121.3-3.1
Sample size: 8,621 GCSE and equivalent exam entries at UTCs.
Abbreviations: CNC = Cambridge National Certificate. BTEC = Business and Technology Education Council
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Table 3: Most popular A-Level and equivalent exam subjects at non-UTC state schools in England (2015)
SubjectNumber of entriesProportion (%)Difference with UTCs
A-Level Mathematics55,6658.9-2.4
A-Level Biology37,7226.0+2.9
A-Level History34,9795.6+5.6
A-Level Psychology33,8305.4+4.2
A-Level English Literature33,1685.3+4.2
A-Level Chemistry32,4255.2+1.6
A-Level Geography25,0304.0+3.3
A-Level Physics23,0923.7-5.1
A-Level Economics19,2013.1+3.0
A-Level Sociology16,6462.7+2.5
Sample size: 628,463 A-Level and equivalent exam entries at non-UTC mainstream state schools in England.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Table 4: Most popular A-Level and equivalent exam subjects at UTCs (2015)
SubjectNumber of entriesProportion (%)Difference with UTCs
A-Level Mathematics12611.2+2.4
Principal Learning Engineering (Diploma)1039.2+9.2
A-Level Physics988.7+5.1
BTEC Engineering (Extended Diploma)645.7+5.6
BTEC Computer Appreciation (Subsidiary Diploma)504.5+3.5
BTEC Engineering Studies (Diploma)454.0+4.0
BTEC Computer Appreciation (Extended Diploma)443.9+3.8
A-Level Chemistry403.6-1.6
BTEC Engineering Studies (Subsidiary Diploma)383.4+3.3
A-Level Biology353.1-2.9
Sample size: 1,124 A-Level and equivalent exam entries.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 1: Pupil characteristics (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-UTC mainstream state secondary schools: 3,227-4,450. Similar non-UTC schools: 185. UTCs: 37.
(Sample sizes vary because not all data fields are available for all schools.)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: GCSE attainment (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-UTC mainstream state secondary schools: 2,822-3,580. Similar non-UTC schools: 185. UTCs: 13.
Notes: Sample sizes vary because not all data fields are available for all schools. GCSE value-added scores are usually normalised to a mean value of 1,000. In this graph they have been renormalised to a mean value of zero to make it easier to see the differences between groups of schools.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: GCSE attainment (2016 provisional results)
 
Sample sizes: Non-UTC mainstream state secondary schools: 2,822-3,580. Similar non-UTC schools: 109. UTCs: 13.
Notes: Sample sizes vary because not all data fields are available for all schools. Progress 8 scores are normally expressed as a decimal fraction. Here they are expressed as a percetage in order to make them easier to display.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.

Now with added Progress 8!

  • It's a threshold measure, which means that each pupil either gets five good GCSEs or they don't – there's no information about the degree of over or underperformance relative to this standard. Not only does this make the measure incomplete, it also creates perverse incentives to focus effort on children who are close the threshold while ignoring the rest. Attainment 8 overcomes this by looking at a broader range of subjects and, most importantly, by using a continuous scoring system that takes into account each pupil's grade in every relevant subject.
  • It only measures absolute attainment. This depends not only on how well each pupil does while at secondary school, but also on their ability when they joined from primary school. Academic attainment is certainly important in creating life chances, but progress is a fairer basis on which to judge the performance of schools. The DfE has previously provided various "value-added" measures, so the ideas behind Progress 8 are not entirely new, but it will hopefully provide a new level of prominence and consistency to this approach.

Maps 1 and 2: Average Attainment 8 score (2016) and percentage of pupils gaining five good GCSEs (2015) by region
Maps 3 and 4: Average Attainment 8 score (2016) and percentage of pupils gaining five good GCSEs (2015) by parliamentary constituency
Maps 5 and 6: Average Progress 8 score (2016) and GCSE value-added score (2015) by parliamentary constituency
  1. Well, in education circles at least. I don't get out that much. ;-)

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