Free school meal status and educational attainment at age 16

This map shows the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) in each local authority in England and Wales not achieving five A*–C GCSEs including English and maths (or English/Welsh and maths in Wales).

The median for all local authorities is 70 per cent. In other words, in half of all local authorities more than 70 per cent of FSM pupils did not meet expected standards at age 16. There is a vast range of outcomes across local authorities. At one end of the spectrum, 41 per cent of FSM pupils in Westminster under-attained, while at the other, 84 per cent (more than 5 in 6) under-attained in North Devon.

Westminster and North Devon are consistent with some broad geographical patterns. Urban areas similar to Westminster have tended to out-perform rural areas similar to North Devon. To illustrate this, 9 out of 10 of the local authorities with the lowest FSM under-attainment were London boroughs. Not one of London’s 32 boroughs had a level of low attainment among FSM pupils that was worse than the national average. Five out of ten with the highest FSM under-attainment were rural areas, like North Devon, with a further three in the ex-mining and manufacturing areas.

Proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals not achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths

about the indicator

The map shows the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals who did not attain at least five A*–C grades at GCSE level including English (or Welsh in Wales) and maths at the end of Key Stage 4 (age 16) in England and Wales for lower tier local authorities (including districts, unitary authorities, metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs). The data is for all maintained schools (including academies and city technology colleges) and is based on the number of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 in each academic year.

Here free school meals are used as a proxy for poverty. A child is eligible for free school meals if their parent(s) receives an out-of-work benefit or Child Tax Credit but not the Working Tax Credit component. As such, children in low-income, working families are not included in this analysis.

A new methodology used in 2013/14 in this dataset means certain qualifications do not count as the same as a GCSE, does not count any qualification as worth more than one GCSE, caps the number of non-GCSEs to two per pupil, and counts only a pupil’s first attempt at a qualification.

Reliability rating: high.

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