Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Correction: Urswick School stats

Richard Brown, headteacher at Urswick School just called to clear up a couple of problems with the teacher/pupil ratio statistics published in the previous post.

The figures were taken from the Department for Education website and show Urswick has a much higher pupil teacher ratio than other secondary schools in the borough (20 pupils to 1 teacher while at the other end of the scale City Academy and Mossbourne have near 10 pupils per teacher).

But Brown said this was because Urswick is the only school on the list that doesn't have a sixth form (although he said he was consulting about changing that). Sixth form students have different funding and much smaller class sizes of 12 or less which brings down the pupil/teacher ratio for a school.

This means that the teacher pupil ratio provided by the Department for Education will not reflect the situation at GCSE level or lower. Consequently Urswick is one of the few schools in the borough giving a real picture of the pupil teacher ratio at that level.

Brown said that Urswick never has class sizes of more than 25 adding that many of the maths classes were smaller. The school has an annual intake of around 150 which, in other schools, would generally mean 5 classes of 30.

Brown also pointed out that year groups at the school can have very different levels of ability and that this could cause some large fluctuations in the schools performance in terms of GCSE results. Academies do not have the same problem as they use the fair banding system which grades the ability of pupils across the borough into A, B and C ability and a school can take a third of their intake from each band.

All of this means that Hackney parents will have their work cut out for them if they want to assess the schools they are expected to send their children to.

Another moral of the story is that I should check the stats better. I did try. I sent this email to the Learning Trust on 27 September 2011:

"I was hoping to get a comment from the learning trust about the significance - if there is any - of all the borough's academies having average or above teacher:pupil ratios while all non academies have average or below average teacher:pupil ratios."

The request included reference to where the stats had come from and a spreadsheet with all the details and a version of a graphic used to illustrate the differences.

No reply came.

Response time from the Learing Trust had dwindled somewhat following requests for a copy of the "assessment framework" which seemed to cause such an uproar at Cardinal Pole school last term.

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