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“Urgent rethink” of schools’ assessment required to equip UK for post-BREXIT world

Your Life has today published a new school ranking based on STEM subject performance and ability to deliver skills for the jobs of today and the future. Several schools have climbed more than 1,000 places in new STEM rankings, while Eton and Harrow drop out of the top 100. In some instances poorly performing schools according to Ofsted have a higher than average STEM ranking. On the back of findings, Your Life Chair Edwina Dunn, has called for an ‘urgent rethink’ of the way schools are assessed to equip the country for a post BREXIT world.

Download the STEM Top 100 Ranking here.

Current schools’ performance analysis is too narrow, and the way schools are assessed is not in line with the skills required for the jobs market now and in the future. This is the conclusion of a cutting-edge analysis of schools’ performance, carried out by Starcount Chief Data Scientist, Clive Humby on behalf of the Your Life campaign.

Your Life, the campaign to boost A Level Maths and Physics take up has analysed School Performance Table Data from the Department for Education on England’s 2500 secondary schools. In doing so it has provided the first in-depth analysis of schools’ performance in terms of both STEM subject and grade performance. The new league tables show some dramatic shifts with several schools moving by more than 1,000 places, compared to rankings based on grades alone. The rankings are based on the proportion of all A Level grades achieved which are grades A*-B in STEM subjects.

An “urgent rethink” is now required by Government with more emphasis being put on STEM A Levels according to Edwina Dunn, co-founder of Tesco Clubcard, Starcount CEO and Chair of Your Life. A predicted 7.1 million UK jobs will rely on science skills by 2030 – a 1.3m increase on today’s number (according to insight from the Science Council).

Some of the key findings include:

  • As expected there is a positive correlation between delivery of A*-B A levels in all subjects and delivery of high grades in STEM A levels, but the percentage of A level entries in STEM varies greatly per school and therefore so does overall STEM ranking.
  • Some schools within the top 500 when ranked by A level grade performance in all subjects drop by more than 1,000 places when looking at the overall STEM ranking (e.g. The Harrodian School falls from 166 to 1,525.) Meanwhile Eton drops from 9th to 110th while Harrow also falls out of the top 100, down 46 places.
  • The new rankings highlight the success of grammar schools and specialist free schools, such as Reading School and Kings College Maths School, which now tops the ranking.
  • While ‘Outstanding’ schools have the highest average number of STEM A level entries, poorly rated Ofsted schools (Inadequate) have on average a higher STEM entry rate than those achieving a ‘Good’ or ‘Requires Improvement’ Ofsted rating
  • University Technical Colleges (UTCs), Sponsored academies and free schools perform significantly better when considering STEM. However interestingly on average independent schools and converter academies perform less well.

Speaking on the findings Dunn says: “You get what you measure and simply put schools are incentivised to reward grades rather than subjects, even though this is not what businesses need and not where the jobs will be in the future.”

She continues: “The challenge of BREXIT is upon us and the clock is ticking if we want to have the workforce we need to compete in the world. School performance measurements should more closely reflect the skill requirements of the UK economy and reward subject expertise in the most demand skills areas. I am calling for an urgent rethink of how schools are assessed to give greater weight to the subjects that open up the most career prospects.”

The research was carried out for the launch of a new web-app connecting A Level subjects with jobs. The Future Finder web-app shows which subjects lead to which jobs and reveals a significant economic premium to Maths and the sciences, based on salary information.  You can access the free Future Finder platform here and additionally we will shortly be launching a new tool enabling parents to track the performance of schools in their area when looking at STEM.

To be first to be informed about the launch of the new schools tracking tool, simply email