Education and Skills – A Summary
Wolverhampton is a city with a rich educational history, with compulsory schooling beginning locally in 1870. At present, it has 87 primary schools, 27 secondary schools, and 26 educational institutions which offer courses for 16-18 year olds. Education provision in the city is diverse, encompassing state and independent provision for many different age groups. The city also has a university: the University of Wolverhampton become a full university in 1992, but has been offering courses since the middle of the 19th century. It offers degree-level courses in a range of subjects, and has 20,500 students. For more information about the university, please go to http://www.wlv.ac.uk.
Education in Wolverhampton has improved significantly over recent years. At both Key Stage 2 (tests for 11 year olds) and at Key Stage 4 (tests for 16 year olds), Wolverhampton has narrowed the gap to the English average. At Key Stage 2, the percentage of pupils attaining Level 4 or better in English and Maths rose by 9 percentage points between 2005 and 2011, compared to a 5 percentage point rise for England. At Key Stage 4, the percentage of pupils attaining 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths rose by 20 percentage points between 2005 and 2011, compared to an 11 percentage point rise for England.
Although attainment at national examinations has undoubtedly improved over time, and the attainment of pupils overall across the city continues to rise close to national standards, there are still some significant pockets of underperformance. For example, boys’ attainment at all ages is, on average, lower than girls’ although there are signs of improvement. Children and young people entitled to free school meals are 50% less likely to achieve 5 A*-C grades with English and Maths. Disadvantage, therefore, remains a key determinant of future attainment in the city with children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds doing less well than their peers at all stages. There also remains a gap between outcomes for young people in Wolverhampton compared to national results meaning that our young people can be at a disadvantage when seeking employment and higher education places. In addition, pupils with learning difficulties do not always achieve their full potential. Narrowing the attainment gap continues to be central to local strategies if we are to improve the life chances of young people and provide local business, and those that might re-locate to the city, with employees with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Attainment gaps are so important because educational achievements are crucial in determining individuals’ prospects. Even low-level qualifications can reduce the probability of unemployment and worklessness (a cause of poverty), and higher level qualifications are one of the factors that can increase an individuals earning power. Helping all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve at school can help change the inter-generational cycle of disadvantage. This in itself is important for the local and national economy; only by helping all children gain the skills required in the workplace, can the whole economy perform to its full potential.
The pattern with education attainment in the city is broadly encouraging, because levels of attainment have risen in the city over the past few years. As well as the narrowing of the gap between the city and England at school-age exams, Wolverhampton has also shown strong improvement in Foundation Stage Profile results.
Foundation Stage Profile (FSP) – The introduction of a Foundation Stage was a significant landmark in education. The early years were given a distinct identity, and a more detailed, focused curriculum, where the emphasis is on learning through planned play activities. The Foundation Stage Profile is a way of summing up each child’s progress and learning needs at the end of the foundation stage and it is a statutory assessment for children. For most children, this is at the end of the reception year in primary school. A good level of development is considered to be % of children who reach the benchmark of 78 and above. The table below shows that in Wolverhampton 58% of pupils achieved a good level of development in 2012 compared to 30% in 2007.
However, in common with all educational attainment, it is known that results for FSP are not uniform across all groups of children, and that the performance of different groups does vary markedly. While an individual child might attain well, there are various factors (free school meal eligibility, class, gender and ethnicity) which are known to influence attainment. There is wide variation, for example, between the highest and lowest achievers.
The list below shows the gap between the lowest achieving 20% in foundation stage compared to the rest of the cohort. As you will see, in 2005 (academic year 04/05) the gap was 42% for Wolverhampton, however by 2012 the gap has reduced to 35.7%. Although this is good progress, Walsall have reduced the gap for Walsall pupils from 41.4% in 2005 to 30.4% in 2010.
Key Stage 2 (KS2)
Key stage 2 covers the four years of schooling in maintained schools in England and Wales from Year 3 through to Year 6, when pupils are aged between 7 and 11, and tests are taken at the end of Key Stage 2. Level 4 is the national standard expected at Key stage 2. The graph shows that in 2008, 69% of pupils achieved a level 4 or above in English and Maths, compared to 78% in 2012.
Disadvantage remains a key determinant of future attainment. Reducing the attainment gap is key, so that those pupils eligible for free schools meals (FSM) achieve the same outcome as those not eligible. The graph shows that Wolverhampton is reducing the gap. In 2005 the gap between those eligible for free school meals achieving level 4 or above in KS2 for both English and maths was 24.5%, however this has reduced to 16.0% for 2012.
Key Stage 4 (KS4) – Key stage 4 covers the four years of schooling in maintained schools in England and Wales from Year 7 through to Year 11, when pupils are aged between 11 and 16, and tests are taken at the end of Key Stage 4. The table below shows the % of children attaining 5 A-C GCSEs including English and Maths. In 2007 (academic year 06/07) 37% of pupils attending Wolverhampton schools attained 5 A-C GCSEs including English and Maths, however this has risen in the last 4 years to 56%.
A key target for Wolverhampton is to reduce the percentage point gap between pupils known to be eligible for FSM achieving 5A*-C grades at GCSE (and equivalent) including GCSE English and mathematics, at KS4 and pupils ineligible for FSM achieving the same outcome. The graph shows that the achievement gap for Wolverhampton has increased. In 2005, the gap was 20% however this has increased and in 2013 the gap was 22.0%.