How Good Are Our Schools In Gloucester?

When anyone with children is thinking of moving to a city, or lives there already with children, one of the key questions is always going to be ‘how good are the schools: so how do we measure ourselves and what’s the answer?
The aggregate result of Gloucester’s secondary schools is very strong: 72% of pupils achieving 9-4 grades in Maths & English at GCSE (2017: Centre for Cities). But in a city with 4 grammar schools this masks quite wide divergences and the fact that the results do not precisely mirror our geography: many grammar school pupils are from outside Gloucester, and many Gloucester pupils go to schools just outside the city (Henley Bank – ex Millbrook – Chosen Hill, Churchdown and even Newent).

So let’s start with our primaries. Their 2018 results are now measured as follows (you can see the full list from the link below)


The second column (Progress score and description) shows whether the results by pupils have gone up or down in reading, writing and maths between the end of key stage 1 and the end of key stage 2 (a minus sign is negative progress). Overall 64% of pupils in Gloucester primaries reached the expected standard and 9% reached a higher standard: the relative figures across England were 65% and 10%. So we are almost exactly at the average national level for Primary School teaching results.

Of course that’s not the only measurement. Ofsted ratings and reports matter a great deal, and are widely used by parents looking at schools. 63% of our Primaries are rated good or outstanding, and many of these are in areas which are not rich, like Robinswood, Coney Hill and Finlay. This confirms the crucial fact that great leadership and good teaching can achieve good results anywhere.

A big change over the last decade has been the introduction of Academy Trusts and Academies. The very first in our county was Robinswood School and today Robinswood Multi Academy Trust is responsible for 5 Gloucester primary schools, and that may increase soon. I’ve spent time with the MAT to see not just how their schools benefit from economies of scale, getting more for their money, but also from a bigger pool of teacher talent (and opportunities for staff), and more support on business and admin issues – so their Heads can focus more on the pupils and teaching. I have no doubt that this model is working well.

Seeing is believing: with the Robinswood Multi Academy Trust and School leaders

That is helpful for secondary schools - their pupils arrive with better skills than before. Measuring teaching at secondary schools is then all about how much better results are by pupils at Stage 4 than at Stage 2 (the Progress 8 or ‘value added’ score in the table below). This is based on 8 qualifications, including English and maths. It’s all relative: a score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than pupils across England, a score below zero means pupils made less progress, on average, and a negative progress score means pupils in the school made less progress than other pupils. Gloucester’s attainment 8 score of 51.9, is above the UK average of 46.5 (2018: HoC Library).
However only a third (32%) of our secondary schools are rated by Ofsted as outstanding or good, showing that we need to do better at all our comprehensive schools except Barnwood (already ‘good’).
Here are the detailed 2018 results:


On this rating, for example, Barnwood has done very well recently which I attribute to strong leadership and good teaching from Head Sarah Tufnell and her team. They received great GCSE results, with 1 in 6 results being grade 7 (formerly a grade A) or better with a record number of grade 9s, and more than 50% of students achieving at leave one 7.
You can also see this at Henley Bank High School (ex Millbrook): (Progress 8 currently stands at 0.54 which is up from -0.33 in 2018). I attribute this to new input and leadership from Multi-Academy Trust Greenshaw, which has also taken over the former Beaufort Co-op Academy (now Holmleigh Park High School). I am very optimistic for 2019-20 after visiting there recently.   

Talking with Head, staff & pupils at break time at Holmleigh Park

What about Special Needs pupils – are we able to support them properly? There has been an explosion in ‘statemented’or SEN pupils across the country, which no-one has convincingly able to explain. That has brought financial pressures and was why Gloucestershire’s MPs lobbied hard to secure an extra £1.35m for two years running (2018-2020) to the County Council for children SEN). Even more important of course is the overall funding for schools: Gloucestershire suffered for decades as one of the f40 underfunded counties. We made good progress in 2018-2019, with many schools getting more, but the game changer has been the Prime Minister’s pledge to give all primary schools a minimum of £4,000 per pupil and every secondary school a minimum of £5,000 per pupil. This should make a huge difference, as Heads have confirmed as me. I hope to have a complete breakdown of the all the figures shortly.

So, things are better, academies have helped and MATs already making a difference. The measurements for secondary schools, and the progress of ambitious Multi Academy Trusts may soon show that our comprehensive can outperform the grammars at adding teaching value to the results of their pupils.
Meanwhile I have tried to increase the number of pupils at our grammar schools who both live in Gloucester and are on pupil premium, so that the grammars live up to their founders’ goals of educating bright local scholars. The admission policies of three of the four to reflect good progress – but there is always more to be done, and I’ll continue to encourage this.

As for new schools? Yes, the demographics suggest we need to start planning a new secondary in the Kingsway/Hunts Grove area: and there may be a case for another primary around Matson to reflect new housing there. The case for any ‘free school’ bid, with County Council evidence on the demographic need, has to be made to the Regional Schools Commissioner, who knows our patch well. I will always listen both to those interested in running new schools but also to residents, both about the demand, the type of school and the geographic and logistical challenges involved. I think this is an exciting time for education in Gloucester. Significant progress has been made in many schools – and improvements at some needed, especially at Holmeigh and the Gloucester Academy.

I haven’t mentioned Further Education or Higher Education (ie Glos Col and the Uni of Gloucestershire or Hartpury University - just outside the city, but with a big impact on us - and hope to do that in a different e news.

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