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Education

Children in Herefordshire generally do well throughout school compared to pupils across the whole of England.  In 2017, at the end of their first year of primary school, a higher percentage of pupils in Herefordshire achieved a ‘good level of development’ (75%) compared to nationally (71%).  Similarly, at GCSE level, the average attainment 8 score among Herefordshire pupils (45.9) was higher than that for England (44.5) in 2017.

However – as nationally – there are some groups of children who do less well than their peers due a complex range of factors, including individual characteristics, the wider family environment, the neighbourhood where children live and the schools they attend.[1] 

Disadvantaged children

Nationally, the gap in attainment between pupils from a disadvantaged background and those who aren’t has been slowly closing, but analysis by the Education Policy Institute has identified that the gap becomes more prominent in rural areas by the end of secondary school. [2] Recent research also suggests that disadvantaged children are not able to catch up between the ages of 3 and 16.

The proportion of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) in Herefordshire achieving a ‘good level of development’ by the end of reception year almost doubled between 2014 and 2017 to 59%.  Whereas it had previously been significantly lower than the national figure (56%) it is now higher.  Nevertheless, there is still a notable gap when their achievement is compared to children who aren’t eligible for FSM both nationally (73%) and locally (77%).

With regard to older children, in 2017, a slightly lower proportion of disadvantaged children in Herefordshire achieved the expected standard at GCSE level [3] than their peers nationally (34% compared to 37%).  FSM pupils taking their GCSEs in 2017 also made less progress [4] during secondary school on average than their peers nationally, their classmates locally, and the 2016 cohort.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

In 2017, Herefordshire pupils with lower level SEND (those receiving special educational needs support) did notably better on average than their peers across England at the primary school assessment stages, but broadly the same at GCSE level.  Those with higher level needs (children with education health and care plans), however, did less well than their peers nationally in measures across the whole school age-range (5-16).

Both nationally and locally, there remains a significant gap in the attainment of pupils with SEND compared to those without, and this is evident throughout compulsory education.  Furthermore, the progress 8 measure reveals that, as with children eligible for FSM, pupils with an education health and care plan in Herefordshire don’t make as much progress during secondary school as their peers nationally or locally.

Children who speak English as an additional language (EAL)

Since 2006, when Herefordshire saw high levels of migration from Eastern Europe, the number of pupils attending schools within the county whose first language is other than English has increased.   In 2018, there were around 1,850 school children with EAL across Herefordshire. 

In 2017, a lower proportion of Herefordshire children with EAL achieved a ‘good level of development’ by the end of reception year compared to their English-speaking peers nationally or locally, but the difference was barely noticeable among children at the of their end of primary school education.  However, Herefordshire pupils with EAL did less well than other pupils both nationally and locally at GCSE level in 2017.  

It should be noted when considering the attainment of EAL children that recent research has suggested that headline indicators are not an effective way of measuring the progress of EAL children, because of the amount of variation – affected by the length of time they have lived in the UK. [5]

 [1] Closing the achievement gap in England's secondary schools, Save the Children, 2012.

[2] Closing the Gap?  Trends in educational attainment and disadvantage,  J. Andrews, D. Robinson and J. Hutchinson, Education Policy Institute, 2017, p.6.

[3] As measured by the ‘attainment 8’ score.

[4] As measured by the ‘progress 8’ score.

 [5] Educational Outcomes for Children with English as an Additional Language, J. Hutchinson, Education Policy Institute and The Bell Foundation, 2018, p.7.