The Education Policy Institute today launched there newest report focused on access to high performing schools in England.
Widening access to high performing schools is crucial if the Government’s policy objective of improving social mobility is to be met. In this report, we analyse the density of good secondary school places across England, and compare the spread of good quality places in 2015 with that in 2010.
The report finds that:
- In both 2010 and 2015, around one-fifth of local neighbourhoods (as defined by Lower Super Output Areas) had no high performing secondary schools within reasonable travel distance of pupils. In these areas, pupils cannot easily access a place at a high performing school.
- In two local authority areas, there was no access at all to places at high performing secondary schools in both 2010 and 2015: these areas were Blackpool and Hartlepool.
- Access to high performing secondary schools has become more geographically unequal over the period 2010-2015, in spite of government policies aimed at improving school performance outside higher performing areas such as London.
- Access to high performing secondary schools is good in areas such as London and in parts of the South, but is poor in areas such as the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, and parts of the Midlands.
- From 2010 to 2015, local authorities with consistently good access to high performing secondary schools saw the proportion of pupils gaining access to such schools rise from 49 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2015. Many of these are in London.
- But in local authorities with consistently low densities of high performing school places, the proportion of pupils gaining access to such places fell from just 6 per cent in 2010 to 5 per cent in 2015. All these areas were outside London and the South East - and included areas such as Blackpool, Hartlepool, Barnsley, Redcar and Cleveland, Knowsley, and Middlesborough.
- Another way of looking at the same challenge is to consider the local authorities with the highest and lowest increases in the density of high performing secondary school places, between 2010-2015. Of the 20 local authorities with the biggest increases, 16 were in London. In these areas the proportion of high performing places rose from 36 per cent to 60 per cent from 2010-2015. Of the 20 local authorities with the largest decreases in high performing places, none of these were in London. In these areas the proportion of high performing places fell from 31 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in 2015.
- The largest riser was Harrow. The biggest faller was Blackburn with Darwen.
There are large areas of the country in which parents and pupils currently have no access to a high performing secondary school. In particular, the North East has virtually no high performing secondary schools. Given the wide geographic variation in the density of high performing school places, the Government’s Opportunity Areas initiative seems a positive step towards addressing this challenge. However, as yet there is now evidence on whether this intervention will be effective and there is no Opportunity Area in the North East. There is a need to ensure that measures are in place to raise the quality of provision available to pupils in this region.