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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Education in the media: 19 January 2017

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Exams and qualifications, GCSE results, Myth busting

Today’s news review examines coverage of the GCSE results tables released today, and concerns around the school census.

Key Stage 4 tables

Today, Thursday 19 January 2017, we released the finalised KS4 performance tables which showed the overall GCSE results of individual schools.

This was covered by the Guardian, TES, BBC Online, the Telegraph, as well as widely in the regional media, and on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2.

Coverage largely reflects accurately the fact that from this year, we have replaced the 5 A*-C including English and maths headline measure with Progress 8. This new measure is fairer because it recognises the achievements of all pupils – not just those on the C/D borderline.

Certain outlets reported that grammar schools had not performed as well this year. In fact, today’s tables show that the average Progress 8 score for disadvantaged grammar school pupils was considerably higher than the score of disadvantaged pupils at state-maintained secondaries.

Additionally, the data shows that both academies which have been converted from council-maintained schools and selective schools made above average progress in 2016.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

Today’s figures confirm that the hard work of teachers and pupils across the country is leading to higher standards, and for that they should be congratulated.


As well as confirming that the number of young people taking GCSEs in core academic subjects is rising, today’s figures show the attainment gap between disadvantaged and all other pupils has now narrowed by 7% since 2011.


Under our reforms there are almost 1.8 million more young people in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, and through our new, fairer Progress 8 measure we will ensure that even more children are supported to achieve their full potential.

School census

There has been renewed interest in the school census. Today is the deadline for schools to submit the data they collected from pupils.

To coincide with this, campaign group Liberty is calling on parents to boycott the census, incorrectly claiming that we are collecting nationality and country of birth in order to build “foreign children lists” which can be trawled by the Home Office. This is, as we have repeatedly made clear, simply not true.

Data on nationality and country of birth has not and will not be shared with the Home Office or police and there is an agreement in place to this effect. However, where the police or Home Office have clear evidence of illegal activity or fear of harm, limited data including a pupil’s address and school details may be requested.

It is right that we share school or address data if it helps to keep a child safe from harm or to disrupt a crime. Anyone requesting data from the National Pupil Database must comply with strict confidentiality and security rules, or their request will be rejected.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

It is absolute nonsense to suggest that data on children’s nationality or country of birth can be accessed by the Home Office or used to improve data matching. As we have repeatedly made clear, this data has not and will not be shared with them, and there is an agreement in place to this effect. The only reason we want parents to return this information is so that we have a clear picture of how the school system is working. For example, being able to assess and monitor the impact that immigration may be having on the schools sector helps us ensure that we are allocating funds where they are needed, and that no groups of children miss out on the education they deserve.


We take privacy extremely seriously and access to sensitive data is strictly controlled. However, the census guidance is clear that parents can withhold information on nationality and country of birth if they choose, and we wrote to all headteachers earlier this month to reiterate this.

See a link to our full Q&A on the census data collection:

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