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Topic on a Page - Educational Attainment (Key Stage 4)

Data Sources:

Education (Key Stage 4) - Supplementary Document Published: Apr 2018

Statistics: GCSEs (key stage 4)

Statistics: Destinations of key stage 4 and key stage 5 pupils

Absence and attainment at key stages 2 and 4: 2013 to 2014

GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics: 2015

Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England: 2014 to 2015

Achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers

Further Data Sources:

Scroll to the bottom of the page to view and compare further datasets


Department for Education (DfE):

Unseen children: Access and achievement 20 years on Published: June 2013

Research and analysis: GCSEs, A levels and
apprenticeships: their economic value
(published December 2014)

Assessing the Economic Benefits of Education Published: March 2013

Department for Education: Improving social mobility through education

Characteristics of young people who are long-term NEET

Parental responsibility: guide for schools and local authorities

HM Government Policy:

Resources: Education of Disadvantaged Children

National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE):

PH Guidance: Social and emotional wellbeing in secondary education [PH20] Published: September 2009

NHS Evidence:

Educational Attainment

Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

Educational Attainment at 16

Costs of child poverty for individuals and society: Literature review Published: October 2008


Institute for Fiscal Studies Research: Education and Skills

National Foundation for Educational Research: Key stage 4 policy reform and its potential impact on at-risk young people Published: January 2013

National Foundation for Educational Research: Reforming Key Stage 4 Qualifications Published: January 2013

National Foundation for Educational Research: Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs (2014) Published: July 2015

Increasing opportunities for young people and helping them to achieve their potential Refreshed: May 2015

House of Commons Library Briefing Papers:

Children and Young People's mental health – policy, CAHMS services, funding and education

ESA and PIP Reassessments

Troubled Families Programme (England)

Linked Topics:

Topic last reviewed: Apr-18

JSNA Topic: Educational Attainment: Key Stage 4


Key Stage 4 covers the two years of school education which incorporate GCSEs, and other examinations, in maintained schools in England it is normally known as Year 10 and Year 11, when pupils are aged between 14 and 16.

There is a well-established link between; under-achievement, low attainment at school, reduced economic output and familial disadvantage. Achieving GCSEs, A levels and apprenticeships improve earnings, employability and lifetime productivity. Even achieving at very low levels – just one or two GCSE passes compared to none – is associated with large economic gains. In the Department of Education (DfE) 2014 document GCSEs, A Levels and Apprenticeships: their economic value it is stated that, "Modest incremental improvements in GCSE attainment can also have sizeable lifetime returns, across the spectrum of GCSE achievement.”

The Centre for the Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) Report No.4: “Assessing the Economic Benefits of Education” notes that attaining GCSE qualifications has a significant impact on communities because “the most sizeable benefits of education come from the direct effect of education on individual wages and employment and from the effect of education on reducing criminal behaviour. This illustrates that education has benefits that accrue both to the individual and to society as a whole.” This is of particular concern for children and young people with additional needs. High quality universal services and the role of ‘additional’ interventions in addressing needs are vital to secure better individual and community based outcomes (Source: Centre for Excellence and Outcomes (C4EO)).

The National Foundation for Educational Research in the Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs 2014 argues that sponsored academies have a lower overall attainment (5A*-C including English and Maths) when compared with maintained schools.

Raising attainment in all secondary schools is crucial in order to maintain and improve the socio-economic cohesion and productivity of communities in Lincolnshire.


National Strategies, Policies & Guidance

NICE guidelines [PH20] 2009: Social and emotional wellbeing in secondary education: this guidance is for all those who have a responsibility for the social and emotional wellbeing of young people in education. It focusses on interventions to support all young people aged 11-19 who attend any educational establishment.

The Ofsted survey report Unseen children: access and achievement 20 years on reviews the current pattern of disadvantage and educational success across England. It draws on test and examination data, inspection outcomes, and published reports and research. The report aims to learn the lessons of recent policy initiatives and make proposals that would really make a difference.

People with the highest education qualifications tend to earn more, however the pay gap comparing employees educated to around the GCSE or equivalent level, with those educated to a higher level was lower in 2010 than in 1993 (earliest year for comparable data) (Source: The Office for National Statistics (ONS))

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2008 report; Estimating the costs of child poverty is a roundup document that brings together three specially commissioned reports that examine:

Ofsted provides a range of reports which provide best practice case study examples of school improvement and school performance across the UK. Among their stated priorities is a focus on the performance of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

The government has launched a national plan to support children and young people to reach their full potential - Improving social mobility through education

Local Strategies & Plans

Lincolnshire Learning Partnership (LLP) is the strategic board that steers and works alongside Lincolnshire County Council, representing the sector and has the ability to challenge, commission and drive forward sector led improvement against the needs of the children in Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire County Council provides the Virtual Schools for Looked After Children pages, the Virtual School works to support the education of Looked After Children and care leavers. The Virtual Schools Headteacher will take a key strategic role in monitoring and managing the educational attainment of LAC at KS4 by carefully monitoring in year attainment and support schools in devising effective learning recovery plans.

The 2013/14 East Midlands regional report by Ofsted, provides a comparative picture of educational provision within the East Midlands including Lincolnshire and identifies the needs and sets the priorities of the region.

The Lincolnshire Teaching Schools Together provide a broad and balanced offer of continued professional development (CPD) targeting learners through the quality of teaching and learning, leadership and management and sharing of best practice to enhance outcomes for vulnerable groups. Schools are responsible for this on the whole, as in the secondary sector, most schools are academies. As a consequence, they do not directly report or have to engage with the local authority, but this will be managed in conjunction with the Regional Schools Commissioner where risk assessments deem it appropriate.

The Local Authority (LA) will provide strategic co-ordination of opportunities to access broader co-ordinated school improvement activity through local, regional and national projects. Lincolnshire County Council will provide co-ordination of participants to ensure that project scope is relevant to the needs of the organisation and learners. Funding opportunities will be explored to enable activity that will benefit communities and is based upon research and evidence of best practice. For example, the Strategic School Improvement Fund, which enables this at a national level. At a local level, the LA will support partners to create localised projects that address the specific needs of communities and overcome barriers that impact on standards; for example, curriculum approaches, impact of exam specifications, potential opportunities for leadership teams to work together, and collaboration on matters such as recruitment of high quality teaching staff.

What is the picture in Lincolnshire?

What the data is telling us

  • In 2017, 64% of pupils in Lincolnshire achieved grade 9-4 in English and Maths GCSEs at the end of Key Stage 4.
  • Lincolnshire's percentage achieving grade 9-4 in English and Maths is in line with the national average (64%) and 1% above the East Midlands regional average (63%).
  • The strongest districts performing above the national average in % achieving 9-4 in English and Maths are North Kesteven at 70%, South Kesteven at 70% and West Lindsey at 64%.
  • The poorest performing districts are Boston at 49%, Lincoln City at 52% and East Lindsey at 60%. These districts continue to underperform compared to other district areas in Lincolnshire and the national average.
  • Girls continue to perform better than boys. In 2017, 67% of girls in Lincolnshire achieved grade 9-4 GCSEs in English and Maths, compared to 60% of boys.
  • Compared to regional and national averages, girls in Lincolnshire performed 1% better than the East Midlands average of 66% but 1% below the national average of 68%.
  • Boys in Lincolnshire performed in line with the regional average of 60% but 1% below the national average of 61%.

Further details and analysis is available in the Supplementary Data Document.


  • Evidence from School Census data shows that the number of pupils in secondary school has fallen slightly from 45,728 (January 2017) to 45,664 (January 2018), with the number of pupils at key stage 4 increasing from 14,710 in 2017 to 14,817 in 2018.
  • Lincolnshire's percentage of pupils achieving grades 9-4 in English and Maths GCSEs has marginally improved (by 2%) on the previous year's percentage achieving A*-C in these subjects.

Further details and analysis is available in the Supplementary Data Document.

Key Inequalities

  • The Free School Meal (FSM) cohort is a strong indicator for disadvantage, at GCSE our FSM cohort does not perform as well as their non FSM peers; 36% compared to 67% respectively achieved grades 9-4 in English and Maths. This puts disadvantaged children at risk of not getting the best start to the world of work and readiness for adulthood when they leave school.
  • The attainment gap between the FSM cohort and non FSM cohort in Lincolnshire is narrowing slightly, see Figure 7 in the Supplementary Data Document.


  • English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils in Lincolnshire, perform significantly worse at Key Stage 4 than EAL pupils nationally, 52% compared to 64% respectively achieved grades 9-4 in English and Maths. This has widened the gap between National and Lincolnshire EAL compared to previous years.
  • The attainment gap between the EAL pupils and non EAL pupils in Lincolnshire is widening, see Figure 5 in the Supplementary Data Document.


  • Looked after children (LAC) in Lincolnshire perform better at Key Stage 4 than LAC nationally, 21% compared to 18% respectively achieved grades 9 -4 in English and Maths.
  • Non LAC attainment data is currently unavailable, therefore the attainment gap we have measured is between LAC and All Pupils. The attainment gap between LAC and All Pupils in Lincolnshire is narrowing for percentage achieving grade 9-4 in English and maths.
  • There is no significant difference between the performance of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) pupils in Lincolnshire compared to national SEND pupils, performance of SEND pupils in Lincolnshire but saw a slight drop in 2017 of approximately 1%.
  • The gap in attainment between Lincolnshire FSM pupils and National FSM has continued to narrow, now at 4% compared to the previous year of 6%.
  • The gap in attainment between Lincolnshire LAC and National LAC has narrowed, 2016 shows a gap of 4%, in favour of National, whereas 2017 shows the gap as 3% in favour of Lincolnshire.

Further details and analysis is available in the Supplementary Data Document.

Current Activity & Services

Lincolnshire has a large number of secondary schools, including 3 maintained, 1 free school and 51 academies (as at January 2018).

Regular analysis and scrutiny of progress for all groups will be maintained through the Council's Learning Advisors within Lincolnshire.

The Virtual Schools Head teacher will take a strategic role in monitoring and managing the educational attainment of LAC at KS4 by carefully monitoring in year attainment and support schools in devising effective learning recovery plans.

Unmet Needs & Gaps

  • Effective targeted interventions, carefully mapped/matched against the needs of learners to ensure accelerated progress is secured.
  • Recruitment of teachers to provide specialised intervention and support in settings.
  • Where appropriate, FSM and LAC should be given access to Child and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or support which develops emotional wellbeing in children. Children not able to access CAMHS may be able to get this support from the Behavioural Outreach Support Service (BOSS). Developing emotional stability and reducing the number of placements; to reinforce the importance of learning and remaining in school, is key in providing a way forward for learners.
  • Some districts are more likely to attract mobile families and the constant temporary nature of those families negatively impacts those learner's abilities to be successful as they are not in sustained, stable educational placements.
  • Change in examination styles means that vulnerable children no longer have the opportunity to sit modular exams and therefore resit them in year to improve their results; this is further compounded by exams no longer including coursework as part of the qualification.

Local Views & Insights

The JSNA topic expert panel identified a number of issues around this topic, including:

  • Confidence of teachers in subjects addressing the needs of pupils.
  • Vulnerable children at 14+ years are a growth area in the care sector and this impacts stability which in turn holds them back educationally.
  • More representation from the secondary sector is required to inform the view of requirements in Lincolnshire.

Individual schools may consult with parents and pupils about the range of provision that the school offers but there is no central mechanism for collating this information.

Risks of not doing something

Poor attainment outcomes for vulnerable groups at the end of Key Stage 4 means that learners enter the world of work lacking the qualifications to enable them to overcome barriers in terms of further education and employment. As a result, this places disadvantaged children at risk of not getting the best start as they are not ready for adulthood when they leave school. There is a danger that improvements in attainment could widen the gap for those with an inequality and this gap will continue to widen unless inequalities are tackled.

A good basic education is fundamental to a person's ability to make a positive contribution to society. Failure to provide this education has significant social and financial consequences. The Marmot Review (2010) identifies a strong link between good educational attainment and reduced inequalities including better employment, income, and physical and mental health.

A report by the Department for Education in 2014 found that:

  • Individuals achieving five or more good GCSEs (including English and maths) as their highest qualification are estimated to have lifetime productivity gains worth around £100,000 on average, compared to those with below level 2 or no qualifications. This is equivalent to around 3 additional years of work.
  • Individuals who just cross the five good GCSEs threshold have considerable lifetime productivity returns compared to those who don't. Men holding 5-7 good GCSEs (including English and maths) as their highest qualification have lifetime productivity gains worth around £73,000 compared to those with only 3-4 good GCSEs, for women the figure is £55,000.

Therefore there is a strong economic imperative that all children fulfil their educational potential, as even modest GCSE improvements – at all levels – deliver large returns.

What is coming on the horizon?

Provision audit developed by the Virtual Schools Headteacher team to identify areas for improvement within schools and direct them to access the best practice.

The development and implementation of a School Improvement Strategy which will introduce a risk rating approach to improve the quality of teaching in schools.

In late 2016 the government consulted on plans on a number of reforms to the education system. A consultation paper entitled Schools that work for Everyone was launched in September 2016 asking for views on:

  • allowing new selective schools to open, existing ones to expand, or non-selective schools to convert where there is demand; in addition, these schools must meet certain conditions such as guaranteeing places for children from disadvantaged backgrounds or helping to establish non-selective free schools.
  • stronger, more demanding requirements for independent schools to retain the benefits associated with charitable status; this could include offering bursaries to those less able to afford them or sponsoring schools in the state sector.
  • requiring universities to open or sponsor schools in exchange for the right to raise their tuition fees.
  • Lifting the cap on new faith free schools which requires them to limit the number of pupils admitted on the basis of faith to 50% and replacing it with new measures to ensure all new faith free schools are truly inclusive.

The outcome of the consultation and formal policy changes are available on the DfE's consultations page.

What should we be doing next?

  • Sharing of best practice from authorities that have secured the performance of vulnerable groups at the end of Key Stage 4.
  • Maintain a focus of monitoring and support across the authority to strategic guide and advise the practice of schools for vulnerable groups across Lincolnshire.
  • Access to mental health and well-being support.
  • Educational provision for FSM and LAC at Key Stage 4 to support attainment.
  • Targeted use of pupil premium funding on interventions matched against need and regularly monitored for impact.


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