5 tables showing the best and worst places to go to school if you’re eligible for free school meals

by Stephen Tall on February 5, 2014

I’ve taken a quick look at the data of how pupils did in their GCSEs according to where they live by local authority.

In particular I wanted to find out how about how pupils eligible for free school meals (broadly those from households with income below £16k) are doing in their GCSEs compared with all other pupils – the difference is what’s termed the ‘attainment gap’.

The results may surprise you. Well, they surprised me.

The 10 local authorities where pupils eligible for free school meals do least well

Here’s the 10 local authorities in England where the absolute attainment of pupils eligible for free school meals at GCSE was lowest in 2013:

ks4 fsm by local auth 2010-13 - 4

The 10 local authorities where the results of free school meal pupils are declining and where the attainment gap is growing

Three of the local authorities above, where absolute attainment of the poorest pupils is lowest, also appear in the table below. (South Gloucestershire, North Lincolnshire and Cheshire East). This table shows the 10 local authorities where both the absolute attainment of free school meal pupils has gone down over the last four years AND where the gap between free school meal pupils and all other pupils has grown since 2010:

ks4 fsm by local auth 2010-13 - 1

Six other local authorities where pupils eligible for free school meals aren’t doing well

There are a further six local authorities where absolute  attainment at GCSE among free school meal pupils has increased, but where the attainment gap is not only already large but also getting larger. I’ve grouped them into two sets, below. The first set of three local authorities shows only marginal improvements in absolute attainment for free school meal pupils, but a growing attainment gap. The second set shows quite reasonable increases in absolute attainment for free school meal pupils, but where the worryingly large attainment gap is still growing.

ks4 fsm by local auth 2010-13 - 2

London: an educational transformation, yes – but there are still some concerns

Then there’s the London boroughs. Overall, London state schools have achieved nothing short of miraculous results in the past decade, especially for pupils from free school meal backgrounds. However, there are five boroughs where the absolute attainment of free school meal pupils appears to have stalled (though it remains higher than in all the local authorities above), at least in relation to all other pupils, as shown by the growing attainment gap:

ks4 fsm by local auth 2010-13 - 3

But the simple fact remains: if you’re eligible for free school meals there is no better place to go to school than London

Here’s the table of the top 10 local authorities in England where pupils eligible for free school meals achieve the best GCSE results AND where the attainment gap between the poorest pupils and all other pupils is lowest. You’ll notice a trend here – they’re all London boroughs:

ks4 fsm by local auth 2010-13 - 5

Update: I’ve uploaded the spreadsheet I was working off here.