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.
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.
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.
UPDATED: This article was updated on 10 March 2013 to reflect the publication of final GCSE results for 2012 by the Department for Education. The original article referred to the provisional rate of 59.6 per cent of Hackney pupils achieving five good passes (A*-C), including English and maths, but this has been amended to 60.2 per cent to reflect revised Department for Education statistics.
After ten years in the private sector, responsibility for overseeing Hackney’s schools passed back to the council this summer.
The transfer of powers on 1 August means the council will again take on the role of supporting and providing guidance for local state schools. The education department will still be known as the Learning Trust, but the transfer has seen several changes at the top of the Trust’s structure.
The ten year period in which the Trust has overseen the borough’s schools has brought significant improvements in exam results. In 2002 the number of A*-C GCSE passes was considerably below the national average at 31.1 per cent, with provisional figures for 2012 showing the borough now to be outperforming the national average: 59.6 per cent60.2 per cent of students gained five good passes (A*-C including English and maths).