Disadvantaged children ‘do particularly badly in large schools’

The Independent is reporting new analysis that suggests disadvantaged children do particularly badly in large schools.

The gap in performance between poorer pupils and their better off peers – in terms of those obtaining five A* to C grades including maths and English – is 26.1 percentage points at the country’s biggest 300 schools. This compares to just 20.3 percentage points at the 300 smallest.

The findings come as local authorities are planning new “super-sized” titan secondary schools in a bid to cope with an increase in the number of pupils over the next few years. At least 17 local councils are planning new schools with between 12 and 16 classes in each year group as councils attempt to provide more than 80,000 secondary school places over the next four years…

Analysis by New Schools Network, the charity which supports free schools, shows 42,000 of the 79,000 places created in existing schools have occurred in schools where GCSE results have declined in recent years.

“Many existing schools are expecting to address a huge growth in demand for places,” said Nick Timothy, director of the New Schools Network.  

He said the research showed that the expansion “can be bad for the poorest and most vulnerable students.   New and smaller free schools are “best placed” to meet the challenges of rising demand for places and improved education standards, he argued…

More at: Disadvantaged children ‘do particularly badly in large schools’


Clearly the New Schools Network wants to promote more new free schools – rather than larger existing local authority ones – but do you accept the claim that disadvantaged students are likely to be least well served in large schools?

It is not clear from this article exactly what the source of this analysis is, or whether other factors may be at play. 

Please give us your feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. neils46

    SchoolsImprove HeadJo22 but small schools which have always been ‘free’ have been doing this for 100 years and more!!

  2. peterabarnard

    SchoolsImprove We’re so lucky to have Nick advise us. He tells us how to limit and separate, exactly what not to do and think

  3. Nairb1

    The New Schools Network is a government funded ‘charity’ set up to promote government policy. Nick Timothy makes frequent statements in which he claims that free schools are the answer to any issue. Educational, social, financial … he claims free schools are the answer.

  4. Can’t find the ‘research’ on the New Schools Network site.  
    NSN makes much of declining GCSE results but seems unaware that these have declined in the last two years because of changes to what counts in league tables.  Any decline in groups of schools must be seen in this context.
    Too few free schools have entered pupils for GCSE yet but the tiny number which have have not done brilliantly (eg the two free schools run by the Seckford Foundation).  It would be unfair, however, to judge the whole free school sector on such a small sample.  But it’s fair to say that the ‘solution’ to allegedly low standards in Suffolk, the two Seckford free schools, doesn’t appear to have worked.  http://schoolsweek.co.uk/free-school-disappoints-with-28-gcse-rate/

  5. peterabarnard SchoolsImprove NSN appears to be getting increasingly desperate by spewing out this dubious ‘research’.  Morgan is doing the same re academies – she used discredited data in her recent CBI speech.   http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/11/morgan-thumbs-nose-at-uk-stats-watchdog-as-she-repeats-discredited-data-in-cbi-speech/

  6. Nairb1

    Interesting to see that the local MP commented that the Y11 group at the Seckford Free Schools was ‘predicted to be challenging’. Of course if that was a maintained LA school no such comment would have been made … low expectations and outcomes would be more likely.
    I see that these free schools, set up to be innovative, said “Our expectations are for each student to make above average progress and achieve to the very highest level in all that they do.” So that’s what separates them from every other school! Innovative indeed.

  7. edudatalab

    SchoolsImprove Gap between PP pupils and their peers might be narrower in smaller schools. But is level of attainment higher?

  8. natedtrust_marc

    SchoolsImprove I don’t understand why this self promotion (dressed up as research) is getting so much coverage in the media.

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