Schools fare badly in value-for-money survey

Photo: UK Parliament

The Skinners’ Company’s School for Girls in Hackney received the worst value-for-money rating for any comprehensive school offering A-level courses in England in 2010, according to official data released by Michael Gove, the education secretary.

The analysis is based on the financial cost of A-level grades and measures the money spent by each school to achieve 100 Level 3 points. Skinners’ received £13,997 in total funding per pupil and spent £2,733 for each 100 points achieved. This represents a value-for-money ratio eight times worse than at the best performing schools.

However, Liz Hutchinson, a spokesperson for The Hackney Learning Trust, the organisation running education services in the borough, explained the anomaly behind the school’s apparent poor performance: “ After the decision was taken for Skinners’ Company to close and an Academy put in its place, the school roll was gradually reduced in preparation. This is why the figure seems high, because the pupil numbers were not at the usual level.”

The school closed for good last summer and the Skinners’ Academy opened in its place in September 2010. The new Skinners’ Academy boasts state-of-the-art facilities and is committed to creating a high-performing Sixth Form. The school’s website states: “The academy is a centre of excellence […] giving [students] every opportunity to be successful citizens in the 21st Century.”

Other schools in Hackney fared a little better. For example, Stoke Newington School & Sixth Form Centre and the Cardinal Pole Roman Catholic School spent £1,295 and £1,002 per 100 points respectively.

Despite this, all schools measured in Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets featured in the bottom 25% of the national league table, and every school monitored in Tower Hamlets and Lewisham needed over £1,000 to secure 100 points.

In Lewisham, the best performer was the Prendergast-Hilly Fields College with a spend of £868 and the worst performer was Sedgehill School with £1,116. The highest performing school in the country, Colyton Grammar School in Devon, used just £334 per 100 points.

On a national and local level, a closer reading of the results indicates that relative wealth within catchment areas only plays a limited role in determining performance in this survey. For example, 44% of Skinners’ students qualify for free meals, whilst 38% of pupils receive the same benefit at the Cardinal Pole School.

The funding levels per pupil at all these schools are still below those experienced in the private sector. For example, fees for sixth form day pupils at Westminster School are set at  over £22,000 this year.

Michael Gove is urging parents to use the survey results like a consumer comparison website to hold individual schools accountable for effectiveness and to help make informed choices based on economic criteria when selecting schools.

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