Schools & Achievement

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1. Background

There is a well-established link between; low attainment at school, reduced economic output and familial disadvantage. Achieving GCSEs, A levels, and apprenticeships improves 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. The Department of Education (DfE) 2014 document GCSEs, A Levels and Apprenticeships: their economic value  states 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 when considering 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 government’s ambition for all schools to become academies has resulted in many schools, particularly secondaries, becoming single academy trusts (SATs). This has resulted in the majority of maintained primaries being small schools. In many cases, small schools are not attractive to multi academy trusts (MATs) due to financial considerations and geographical isolation. Small schools are affected by economies of scale.  In Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs 2014, the National Foundation for Educational Research argues that, sponsored academies have a lower overall attainment when compared with maintained schools (5A*-C including English and Maths). 

In Lincolnshire, although standards have risen over time, our children have performed less well on average than their peers nationally at every key stage. The gap in attainment and progress between disadvantaged pupils, SEND children and those from vulnerable groups such as Children in Care, and their peers widens form birth to post 16 and beyond. 

Raising attainment for all pupils is crucial to maintain and improve socio-economic cohesion and the productivity of communities in Lincolnshire. As described and explained by the Education Policy Institute, closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers – a gap which opens at or before birth and widens over time until adulthood – is a national (and local) priority. Liaison with the Regional Schools Commissioner influences and supports the education sector in building strong networks of schools which meet the needs of all children in the county.  

Many challenges remain for authorities; support for good mental health for pupils; creation and embedding of resources to support and develop speech, language and communication at the earliest possible stage. There is continuing work to ensure the curriculum is robust and supports a strong learning journey from reception to key stage 5. There is support for school leaders to develop best practice in transfer and transition arrangements for both curriculum and pastoral care in schools. 

2. Policy Context
3. Local Picture

Outcomes for children in Lincolnshire have improved over time – mirroring a rising national trend. Historically, the percentage of pupils in early years foundation stage (EYFS) (up to age 5) reaching standard levels of progress has been less than the percentage of their peers, regionally and nationally. This attainment gap continues throughout the school years and beyond. Lincolnshire has a relatively high proportion of private EYFS providers, including child minders, than comparable local authority areas. Lincolnshire’s schools at all key stages have performed poorly against previous years of national data. 

Data clearly show disadvantaged pupils, including CIC and Care Leavers, do less well than their peers, and that, schools with the highest proportions of disadvantaged pupils have lower performance outcomes as well as worse outcomes in Ofsted inspections (Source: DfE).  

Research from King’s College London has also found that young people who experience loneliness during early adolescence (age 12) are at greater risk of leaving school with lower grades than their non-lonely counterparts, even if they stop being lonely later on. This is concerning given “young people feel loneliness more intensely and more frequently than any other age group” (Source: BBC Loneliness Experiment). 

Closing the attainment gap is a national challenge. However, under-performance in certain schools, districts and regions is masked when looking at higher level UK measures. There is often a wide range of performance across and within districts.

SEND pupils and CIC are burdened with some of the lowest attainment of any pupil group. Many SEND pupils and CIC live within disadvantaged families. The potential cycle of under-performance will have a negative impact on this protected and vulnerable group. Closing the gap in educational outcomes – which began before birth – to achieve real socio-economic uplift for our most deprived communities is unlikely.  

As the result of work with schools and academies, pupil outcomes across Lincolnshire may remain stable overall but we aspire to attain outcomes at least in line with comparable local authorities. However, challenges remain to break the cycle of under-performance, poor outcomes, and low economic productivity which exist in already disadvantaged communities. 

4. Local Response

Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) maintains strong links and regular communication with the DfE and the Office of the Regional Commissioner, sharing intelligence to influence the structural pattern of schools and academies in the county. LCC maintain a neutral view as to the expectation for a school to become an academy – to ensure that the most effective school structures are in place to benefit Lincolnshire’s children.  

LCC education team works to a nationally agreed model of school improvement whereby schools, as a sector, should lead their own improvement. LCC work closely with sector partners such as the Lincolnshire Learning Partnership Board (LLPB) and Teaching School Hub (TSH), to create and broker identified and essential professional development and resources for the sector. The Locality Education professionals provide direct advice and support for schools, as well as facilitating and signposting school leaders to expert support from elsewhere. Funding opportunities are explored to enable activity that will benefit communities and is based upon research and evidence of best practice. 

LCC operates a ‘sector-led model’ for school improvement, following the establishment of central government policy in 2011. This policy journey is to be completed with the ‘Reforming how local authority school improvement functions are funded’ setting out a clear expectation that, by 2023, all school improvement activity should be funded through de-delegated funding agreed by the local Schools Forum and/or directly from council corporate funding.  

LLPB is an elected group of school and academy leaders that works alongside LCC, to steer, challenge, commission and advance sector led improvement to meet the observed needs of children in Lincolnshire. 

Since 2021, Teaching Schools (introduced in 2015) have been superseded by Teaching School Hubs. Alongside other DfE funded Hubs, at local level, Teaching School Hubs now support schools to improve. LCC works with partners, such as Designated National Specialist Centres, Local Curriculum Hubs, designated Teaching School Hubs, and LCC statutory service partners, to create localised projects addressing specific needs of school communities. This is prominent for Key stages 1 and 2 to overcome barriers that impact on standards. Examples include; support for an institution’s approach to transfer and transition between schools; curriculum review; support and training to improve quality of teaching and learning within Maths and English with a focus on outcomes for vulnerable learners; and development of leadership at all levels. 

LCC provides a Virtual School for Children in Care (CIC). The Virtual School supports the education of CIC and care leavers. The Virtual School’s Headteacher has a strategic role in monitoring and managing educational attainment of CIC at KS2 and KS4. This is achieved by monitoring in-year attainment and assisting schools to devise effective learning recovery plans. 

5. Community & Stakeholder Views

Responses to Ofsted’s Parent View show the vast majority of parents are happy with their child’s primary school or maintained nursery . However, where data are available for secondary phase, this drops on average. Satisfaction levels pertaining to primary schools are  broadly in line or above national averages, however are lower for secondary schools. 

6. Gaps and Unmet Needs
  • Transfer and transition from pre-school/nursery (EYFS) to schools; and transfer between primary and secondary phase. Particularly in the areas of early speech and language and communication. This can be shown by the current offer from the Teaching School Hub  
  • Professional development to support secondary academies. There is too little effective CPD or resource available to develop a challenging and robust curriculum,  built firmly, with continuity, from the end of primary education, and that meet the needs of all children – particularly for pupils registered as SEND (in mainstream settings), or for disadvantaged or vulnerable groups. 
  • Unmet pupil needs in many schools, and gaps in provision in all districts, particularly (but not exclusive to) secondary schools – due to the lack of capacity of Single Academy Trusts or smaller schools, to invest in a sufficiently wide range of resources and strategies to meet all pupils needs well. In small primary schools and SATs, leaders have fewer central systems, fewer resources and fewer professional development structures to call upon. This is substantiated in Education supplementary documents for KS 2,4 & 5; government statistics for key stage 4 and key stage 5; and DfE guidance for academy trusts and prospective converters. 
    7. Next Steps

    We have identified that lack of development in early language and communication is a key issue and we are developing strategies and resources with our strategic partners to support educational settings to address this. 

    There is an emerging offer of resources and professional development from the Teaching School Hub (and other Hubs) to help leaders and teachers to build a stronger, more effective curriculum. This will ensure a robust pathway for progression of learning for all children. 

    The LCC Education Team is small, but continues to offer an essential service to our schools, particularly to maintained school; to offer school improvement advice; and to signpost to- and broker support within our sector led system. 

    8. Additional Information
    Lincolnshire JSNA People