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Specialist schools outperform non-specialist in all areas and academies top value added chart

Specialist schools continue to transform secondary education and perform better than non-specialist schools on every comparison, says a new report to be published next week by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

The report, ‘Educational outcomes and value added by specialist schools: 2005 Analysis,’ shows that specialist schools continue to outperform non-specialist schools in all the following areas: 5+ A*-C passes at GCSE including English and mathematics; value-added scores; in socially disadvantaged areas; and in the performance of more able students. Specialist schools and academies now account for 80% of all mainstream maintained secondary schools.

It also shows that the 14 academies with GCSE cohorts in 2005 performed best of all the types of specialist school on a value added basis. Based on key stage 2 English and mathematics scores, 29.5% of students in the academies should have got 5+ A*-C grades in 2005. In fact, as the chart below shows, 35.5% achieved this level, making a value added score of plus 6.0%.

Sir Cyril Taylor, Chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, said:

‘This report confirms what we already knew, that specialist schools are making a huge contribution to raising educational standards and are having a positive impact on the millions of students who pass through them. That specialist schools outperform non-specialist schools on all comparisons, including in socially disadvantaged areas, is an outstanding achievement.’

Type of specialism No of schools KS2 2000 Actual 5a-c 2005 Predicted 5a-c 2005 Value added Net value added vs non-specialist schools
Academy 14 24.3 35.5% 29.5% + 6.0% + 9.0%
Humanities 16 27.4 64.4% 59.3% + 5.1% + 8.1%
Technology 533 27.1 58.8% 56.4% + 2.8% + 5.8%
Science 207 27.4 61.9% 59.3% + 2.6% + 5.6%
Language 175 27.5 61.8% 60.3% + 1.5% + 4.5%
Arts 298 26.9 55.9% 54.5% + 1.4% + 4.4%
Business 146 26.9 55.8% 54.5% + 1.3% + 4.3%
Maths 140 27.3 58.5% 58.4% - 0.1% + 3.1%
Engineering 33 26.9 51.9% 54.5% - 2.6% + 0.4%
Sport 273 26.7 50.8% 52.6% - 1.8% + 1.2%
Music* 3 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Avg for all specialist 1,838 27.1 58.0% 56.4% + 1.6% + 4.6%
Avg for all non-spec 1,090 26.4 46.7% 49.7% - 3.0%  

* too small a group to calculate value added

Elizabeth Reid, Chief Executive of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust said:

‘Specialist schools have continued to go from strength to strength and the findings of this report are testimony to the hard work of teachers and students.

It is important that we now build on this success and ensure that there is continuous improvement in specialist schools and academies. The Trust’s network of innovative, highly performing schools is central to this and the links schools have with each other and the local community and business, as well as internationally, will help raise educational standards further.’

In addition to improving examination results, schools have identified many other factors that contribute to the specialist dividend including the positive impact on the use of technology and the sharing, developing and implementing of innovative strategies. Together these act as a catalyst for whole school improvement.

The key findings of the report, written by Professor David Jesson, University of York and David Crossley, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, are:

• Of the 367,171 students in specialist schools in operation from September 2004, 58.0% achieved 5+ A*-C grades at GCSE in 2005 compared to 46.7% for the 182,010 students in non-specialist schools. The analysis shows that when looking at 5+ A*-C GCSE grades, specialist schools performed 24% better than non-specialist schools.

• The average key stage 2 point count of the pupils entering the 1,838 specialist schools in 2000 was 27.1. These students should have achieved 56.4% 5+ A*-C at GCSE in 2005 but they actually achieved 58.0% - value added of plus 1.6 percentage points. The average key stage 2 point count of students entering the 1,090 non-specialist schools in 2000 was 26.4. These schools should have achieved an average of 49.7% 5 or more good grades at GCSE. They only achieved 46.7% - a value added score of minus 3.0 percentage points. Therefore, on a net value-added basis specialist schools performed plus 4.6 percentage points better.

On the new measure of 5+ A*-C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics, 44.4% of students in specialist schools achieved this compared with 34.3% for non-specialist.

Specialist schools perform better in socially disadvantaged areas. The report has compared the performance of the 328 specialist schools in socially disadvantaged areas with an average free school meals eligibility of 34% to non-specialist schools with a similar FSM. Specialist schools achieved 36.4% 5 good grades at GCSE compared to only 22.6% for non-specialist.

• The analysis shows that the most able students perform better at specialist schools. In specialist schools the 21,961 very able students – those achieving the top 5% of raw scores in key stage 2 English and mathematics in the year 2000 – achieved an average of 71% 5 A grades at GCSE (A* and A) and an average of 6.6 A* or A grades per student compared to 65% 5A*-A grades and 6.0A* grades per pupil for non-specialist schools.


Notes for editors

1. Professor David Jesson is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Performance Evaluation and Resource Management at the University of York. He is a recognised authority on value added and has published widely in this field
2. David Crossley was head of three very different schools including one of the early technology colleges. He now leads the Achievement Networks Directorate at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which supports schools in raising achievement and maximising the specialist dividend.
3. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is the leading national body for secondary education in England, part funded by the DfES, delivering the Government's Specialist Schools and Academies programme. The Government's aim is that by 2010 all schools will be specialist or academies.
4. There are over 3,000 schools affiliated to the Trust including primary, secondary and special schools and Academies.
5. 80% of all secondary schools in England now have specialist status. The 2,502 specialist schools are maintained English secondary schools which teach the full national curriculum but give particular attention to their specialist subject, sometimes through an extended school day. All maintained secondary schools are eligible to bid for specialist status. There are currently 27 academies.
6. Specialist schools are nearly all comprehensive schools dedicated to accepting pupils with a wide range of ability. Schools specialise in teaching the arts, business & enterprise, engineering, the humanities, languages, mathematics & computing, music, science, sports, vocational subjects, and technology. There are also SEN trailblazer schools.
7. Specialist schools are required to raise £50,000 of private sector sponsorship and submit a bid to the Secretary of State showing how, if designated, they will a) raise their standards overall and b) increase achievement in their specialist subjects and c) help at least six partner schools, mainly primary schools, to raise their standards.
8. All are committed to building more coherent 14-19 pathways and working with industry and employers to enhance learning opportunities for young people.
9. If successful, specialist schools receive a one-off grant of £100,000 from the Department for Education & Skills plus an annual recurrent top-up grant of £129 per pupil. A third of the extra annual recurrent grant must be spent helping partner schools.
10. Specialist schools are required to re-bid to retain their designation every four years, submitting new targets for achievement. Schools which are performing well are fast tracked in their redesignation bids and may apply to add a second specialism for which they receive an additional £60 per pupil per year. Schools which do not achieve their original targets for improvement or submit a weak bid may be de-designated.
11. For further information please contact Michael Turner, Media Relations Manager, on 020 7802 0971 or michael.turner@ssatrust.org.uk