There are a lot of statistics in the school structures non-consultation document. They appear conclusive. They are not. Beware simple conclusions from complex data.
For example, at the end of Key Stage 4, when pupils sit their GCSE exams, it is asserted that Bedford is well behind both the national average and our 10 “statistical neighbours” (SNs).
The DCSF’s preferred measure now is 5 GCSEs at A*-C including both English and Maths, so for brevity, let us concentrate on this measure in this blog.
Our average is 46.7%; the national average is 47.6%; the average among our SNs is 53%.
First of all, we are pretty similar to the national average. We are not “well behind”. This is just natural variability around an average – some authorities are slightly higher and some slightly lower.
Secondly, our 10 “statistical neighbours” include 5 authorities (Kent, Bromley, Trafford, Sutton and Warwickshire) with selective education systems (grammar schools). Therefore they include many children who would be privately educated if they lived in Bedford where the Harpur Trust schools and Rushmoor / St.Andrews schools. They are not comparable systems at all.
The 6th SN (Herts) has apparently comprehensive schools such as Watford Boys’ and Girls’ Grammar who take 25% of their pupils through a competitive entrance exam and another 10% through music scholarships. Comprehensive, eh? Maybe not.
That leaves 4 more realistic SNs. Milton Keynes (43.0%), Swindon (42%), Northamptonshire (46%), and Stockport (53%). Not very different from Bedford (47%) in fact, although MK and Swindon are well below our results.
The schools structures non-consultation document misrepresents the GCSE statistics. In a future blog, we shall show how the KS1 results are misleading too.
We agree that Bedford needs to improve its results, just like most other authorities in England. This is unlikely to happen by creating organisational chaos and more likely by targeting resources, time and effort on the real problems in schools with underprivileged intakes.
We are now asking everybody to email their MP to demand that SMS are invited to give their side of the story at the 6 public consultation meetings. It is about time that they intervened to help stop this nonsensical waste of public funds.