I’ve written previously about the scraper I’ve produced, which grabs Ofsted inspection ratings for open and closed free schools. (See here for a blogpost on the Python back-end, and here for a blogpost on the original front-end.)
Briefly, my reason for doing this was that there’s no easy way to get up-to-date Ofsted ratings for a particular group of schools, such as free schools. And in the absence of a track record of exam results by which to judge the new schools, Ofsted ratings offer one of the few ways we have of assessing how they’re performing.
Updated, 9 May 2015: See bottom of the post for the changes.
This is part two of a pairseries of blogposts about scraping free school inspection ratings from the Ofsted website. Part one can be found here. All posts can be found here.
I finished the last blogpost having scraped the Ofsted ratings with Python, using Scraperwiki to turn the data into a JSON API. So, what to do with the output of my scraper?
Well, my ambitions were fairly modest as far as presenting or visualising the data went. For now at least, all I wanted to produce was a basic table of all inspection ratings. Importantly though, it had to update automatically as new schools were inspected and additional ratings came through.
Updated, 9 May 2015: See bottom of the post for the changes.
One of the projects I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on over the past year has been the specialist free schools news site I co-founded, EverythingFreeSchools [NB: as of September 2014 this site is no longer live. The free school Ofsted ratings resource I’ve developed can now be found here.]
The site has performed well, building a regular readership of people with an interest in the policy. And besides the news stories the site has broken, one thing that has proved popular are data resources – such as this look at how many teachers without Qualified Teacher Status each free school used.
As a site, we cover the Government’s flagship education policy of free schools, and have set out to do so in a way that is balanced and incisive. As well as straight news stories, we’ll also be bringing more analytical pieces, and data-driven stories, trying to understand what impact the policy is having.
The site builds upon my interest in education, and public policy more generally, and it’s been pleasing to see the response it has received so far.
Another short post, just to pull together the output of a couple of weeks spent working with Trinity Mirror Regionals’ recently established data journalism unit.
The unit have adopted a smart operating model that makes the most of the reach of the Regionals group of papers, and the fact that, when it comes to dealing with national datasets, story ideas can be worked up efficiently by one central team before being offered to local teams.
Similarly, if something works well as an FOI request in one part of the country then in many cases it will work well elsewhere too.
The focus of my work with the unit was therefore on supporting the whole Regionals family. I did find some data/story ideas which lent themselves to stories for the Manchester Evening News, though, and – originating from that part of the country – couldn’t resist writing those myself. Stories as follows:
There also seems to be widespread acceptance across the group of the benefits which a good visualisation can bring to a web story, so I produced a couple of interactive maps, used by the MEN, and the Newcastle Chronicle.
Widely accepted as being at, or very near, the top of British higher education, the question of who gets in to Oxford and Cambridge universities has been the subject of interest since the year dot.
State school pupils, students from minority ethnic backgrounds, those from lower socio-economic groups – all are groups that Oxford and Cambridge have been accused of under-representing in the recent past.
But one question that doesn’t seem to have been asked before is: where do Oxbridge students actually come from?
My story with Richard Adams for the Guardian suggests that undergraduates at the universities aren’t drawn evenly from across the country, with a golden triangle centred on Oxford, Cambridge and London contributing disproportionately many students.
A ‘golden triangle’ of local authorities centred on London, Oxford and Cambridge send a disproportionate number of students to Oxbridge, as Richard Adams and I report for the Guardian:
Undergraduate places at Cambridge and Oxford universities remain dominated by students from London and the south-east of England, according to data released to the Guardian, highlighting the country’s wide gaps in educational achievement and the stubborn failure of efforts to encourage applications from more diverse backgrounds.
Surrey sent almost as many young people to study at Cambridge and Oxford last year as Wales and the north-east region of England combined. Yet 868 applications were received from Surrey, compared with 1,187 from Wales and the north-east – which between them had more than 100,000 more young people in the comparative age group.
A single London borough – Barnet – alone had 130 offers of Oxbridge places from 408 applications last year. That equates to 46 applications and 15 offers for every 1,000 16 to 17-year-olds in the borough, according to the latest census figures. Meanwhile, Dudley in the West Midlands – with a similar-sized age cohort – had just 61 applicants and 13 offers, or seven applications and 1.58 offers per thousand.
Three London local authorities – Richmond upon Thames, Kensington and Chelsea, and the City of London – sent more than 25 students to Oxbridge per 1,000 16 to 17-year-olds in 2012, compared with an average of just over 2.5 students per 1,000 for England and Wales as a whole.
You can read the full story here, and an accompanying analysis piece can be found here.
The story was based on freedom of information requests I submitted to Oxford and Cambridge universities. I’ll be posting more about the data behind the story shortly.
Hackney Council has apologised after “a very small number” of families received details of other people’s children in primary school place offer letters sent out last week.
Sarah Miller, who lives in Homerton, contacted the council after receiving a pack that contained the name, date of birth and school offer details of another child.
The main letter in the offer pack related to Ms Miller’s daughter but a second document, which gave details of how to decline a place that had been offered, contained details of another child who shared the same surname.
Speaking to the Hackney Citizen, Ms Miller said that the incident was “pretty worrying”. She had been left wondering where the second part of her family’s offer pack had gone. “I don’t know who’s got the details of my child”, she said.
You can read the full story here. After I filed the story, Hackney Council confirmed that they were aware of seven offer letters that had been sent out containing details of someone else’s child.
One of the most interesting stories in Hackney at the minute is the attempt by a group of residents in the north of the borough to take on planning powers, setting up a neighbourhood planning forum by which to do this.
The proposal – which, to put it mildly, has split opinion – covers Stamford Hill and surrounding areas, and those involved have argued that changes to planning responsibilities are needed to reflect the rapid growth of the local population, including the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jewish community.
Details of the proposed Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum – and a rival forum proposal – can be found here. The Guardian also had a great analysis of the situation the other day, which drew out the back-story to some of the claims and counter-claims being made.
But what are the facts of the matter? Are the wards that would be covered by the Stamford Hill forum – Springfield, New River, Lordship, Cazenove – different to others in the borough? (Complicating the picture slightly, the rival North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum proposal covers Brownswood as well as these four wards).