Month: July 2013

Luton Destination Statistics: Where are our students going? – Part 2 – The characteristics bite back

As a follow-up to the new Destination Measures statistics that are now on the Dfe performance table website

(data for Luton High Schools here: )

and a previous blog about them here:

further data has now been released that distills from those figures the destinations for students who were eligible for Free Schools Meals (FSM), Special Educational Needs (SEN), Gender and by Ethnicity.


Before I do some amateur analysis it’s worth saying that for FSM & SEN data I won’t be comparing statistics at school level. There are two reasons for this:

1) The numbers of students in these categories are very small so, in some cases, just a difference of a few students can dramatically affect the percentage output. Of course this won’t stop some drawing conclusions but when the dataset is so tiny it can throw up outlying and disparate results very easily. I’ve discussed that happening here:*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1&trk=NUS_DISC_Q-subject#commentID_152580024

2) I’d like to believe that IAG and the wider support mechanisms for students in schools don’t run on autopilot for certain students because they fall into particular boxes. We don’t accompany Justin down to the Sixth Form for a individual look around and chat because he’s an FSM student but because he’s Justin and, because of his personality, staff believe that would help him transition.


Luton wide there were around 460 students who left in 2010 who were FSM eligible and around 1900 non Free School Meal (NFSM) students. The percentages of both types of students who took different routes (FE College, Sixth Form etc) was pretty similar but the difference in the % of students who went to onto make a sustained transition is interesting. 92% of NFSM students managed to successfully make such a transition into Key stage 5 while a lower figure of 86% FSM students did so. Nationally these figures are 90% for NFSM students and 82% for FSM. So there is a little to cheer here, locally we are getting more of both groups to make successful transitions and also succeeded in closing the gap between the two from 8% national to 6% in Luton. It will be a continuing challenge for the town to both raise attainment levels for these students and ensure quality Careers IAG so that this gap continues to narrow.


For students designated as those with SEN the picture is more complex to compare. This mainly because of the differences in the numbers of students identified as SEN in each High School. In some of the High schools as few as 20 students in that year group were classed as SEN while Icknield designated 170 students (out of a year group of 280) in this category. I’m at a loss to explain why this is but this system seems to have been remedied as only 22 of their 2012 leavers are classified as SEN on the performance table data. Again, when compared to the national figures, the Luton statistics compare favorably with 85% of SEN students transitioning to a sustained destination while only 84% of School Action, 75% School Action Plus and 84 % of Statemented students achieved this.


In this category it is worth comparing school’s data as it the raw numbers are from a whole year group and there are some very interesting percentages. Looking at the different routes Boys took after Key Stage 4 it’s obvious 3 schools stand out. Over 60% of Boys from Challney Boys, Denbigh and Icknield go onto to study at Sixth Form College while for all other schools this figure is below 40%. This affects the number of males who go onto study at FE College from those schools with only 15% of Challney’s boys going there compared to over 50% of both Barnfield South & West males. Clues as to why this is can be found under the next heading.

For the Girls it is a much more uniform picture with more girls than boys from every school choosing the Sixth Form route.


The ethnicity characteristics of each school are as variable and diverse as the wards of the town they inhabit. The two Challneys and Denbigh have by far the highest % of Asian students with all three recording over 66% in that ethnic category for that year group. The next highest is is, yep, you’ve guessed it, Icknield with 32% of students classed as Asian which, perhaps, added to the parental expectation to follow traditional routes I wrote about in the previous blog, is a driver of the boy’s decisions.

Elsewhere comparing Luton wide destination statistics by ethnicity against other nearby Local Authorities is a pointless task because of the difference in school Sixth Form versus Sixth Form College. Luton’s results are wildly out of context when placed against other Authorities with the more traditional School Sixth Form versus FE College stand off. Within the town there are noticeable differences between ethnic groups which follow the emerging trend. 72% of Asian students go onto Sixth Form College while only 16% go onto FE College, 49% of Black students go onto Sixth Form College while 33% attend FE College and for White students a larger proportion (46%) go onto FE College than the 32% that go to Sixth Form.


These statistics add to a widely known evidence base of the qualification baseline and educational ambitions of the inhabitants of the town. They show that, if you are a white male you are significantly more likely to continue your education in a vocational pathway post 16 than if you are an Asian female. On the flip side, no matter your gender, if you have Asian heritage you are significantly more likely to attend Sixth Form and so continue your academic learning post 16.

Is either of those realities inherently wrong? Or a situation that needs to change? I feel it is unsuitable to judge but that does not mean impartial and independent IAG should step back from the act of challenging those realities. Engaging with parents, families and communities to provide information on all routes is the very least we can to do to offer young people a chance to find their path of best fit, no matter their background.

GCSE RESULTS DAY: Prepare your IAG war face


GCSE results day is a strange beast for IAG workers in schools.

The build up is like preparing for battle, your presence on the day is expected, advertised and relied upon, your target audience is tense, your colleagues are tense, everybody is REALLY TENSE…the appointed hour arrives…and then…the vast majority of students pay you absolutely no attention at all.

Admist the post envelope opening screams of joy and relief I usually find myself strolling through the crowd, giving out the odd “well done” and matey backslaps of congratulations to young people who visibly lift from the weight of stress being removed from their shoulders. Groups of them hug and cheer and scramble to grab their phones from their pockets to pass on the good news to their parents blissfully unaware of my presence.

All that is, apart from the occasional student. As you pause in the crowd you begin to notice the ones who have stepped back from their group of friends. Those who are hiding their results printouts close to their chest and not lost in a frenzy of sharing and comparing grades.

Those are the students who, subtly, with a glance or a quick “ok?” frown, I try to make contact with. The expectation in the build up to results day means that many young people will be reluctant to admit that things have gone wrong or that they have not achieved all that they had hoped.

Those that are brave enough to wear their disappointment on their sleeves soon find themselves comforted by teachers or tutors. Sometimes these bawling bundles of despondancy are sign posted on to me but sometimes they prefer to talk to a favourite teacher. On a past results day, a young man who had set himself extremely high standards, missed out on some of those top grades and was clearly upset. In that instance he was quite clearly being ably advised by his English teacher who, after speaking to me briefly to confirm entry requirements for the A Level pathways to medical routes, then went back to the student. The IAG happened and it happened it a way right for the student.

The quieter ones, those more reluctant to advertise their unease, are the students from whom I learn more about how to approach difficult IAG conversations and how best to structure an interaction so it finishes on a positive expectation of action.

Of course, it’s hard to catch every student that wants or needs to discuss things on the morning. In the days after, I find parents and students will get in touch through the school email, sometimes just to confirm small things about enrollment at Colleges, so I check regularly. Small hint here: I wouldn’t advise stumbling about for thirty  minutes outside the main arena at Reading Festival trying to get a good web signal on your phone.

Results day is a wonderful morning of celebration and achievement and during the very best of them, I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do.

Checking the small print for FE College Study Programmes

A seemingly massive change to 16-19 education is due to arrive with the new term in September. The outcomes of Alison Wolf’s recommendations for students starting this stage of their education will have seen Further Education Colleges and Sixth Forms working hard over the past 12 months to finalise their plans for Study Programmes.

This will see students study an approved set of substantial qualifications, for longer hours, with options for work experience and employability skill learning and if appropriate, a continuation of English & Maths study until required levels are met.

What this will look like in reality has been illuminated by a number of case studies collected by the Association of Colleges

and some of the work here should make Careers practitioners hearts sing as it puts solid Career and Employability learning closer to the heart of this period of education.

Such fantastic work and such fundamental changes to the structure of their provision would surely be something these Colleges would be eager to promote to their potential customer base right?

Barking & Dagenham College

All students will work towards an employability qualification and, where relevant, English & Maths qualifications. All students will undertake a minimum of 36 hours work experience and complete a log of their learning activities which will be an online log from 13/14

Their prospectus

(online version on the right of the page)

makes no mention of these substantial parts of a student’s learning at all (but you get a free breakfast!).

Middlesbrough College

All students will study 34 hours of the “Skills 21” programme consisting of employability, enterprise and personal development learning. This programme will be delivered by a dedicated tutor team.

In their prospectus

some of the course pages indicate that a work placement must be undertaken as part of the course and, on page 7, there is one sentence saying “there is a strong focus on enterprise activities.”

Bolton College

Plans for all students to continue their English & Maths learning offering progression from their GCSE results. In some subject areas and for students with different qualification levels this will taught in stand alone sessions, but for others such as Level 3 students. this will be folded into the subject curriculum.

Their prospectus

clearly states on page 11 that English & Maths are part of the study programme for all students aged 16-19.

Just from these 3 examples from the case studies we can see the different approaches the FE sector has been taking to informing potential students about what they would exactly be studying should they enrol.

Those of us advising young people about their Post 16 options rely heavily on Prospectuses to inform conversations with both students and parents. The detail included in them about Study Programmes and the impact these courses will have on a potential learners experience of the College are at the nub where marketing meets IAG. I would wager that most College marketing teams are wary of including too much detail for fear of “putting off” potential applicants who would balk at the prospect of further English & Maths study or extra work on top of their chosen course and skim over it in promotion material.

Perhaps, over the next few years, Colleges will be more comfortable with how the programmes will run in practice and so more willing to sing their praises as part of their marketing efforts. In the meantime, school careers advisers will be left telling slightly skeptical learners and parents that, yes, if you don’t get your ‘C’ in your GCSE English, you will have to retake it no matter what course you do at College.

In the meantime, a vacuum of clear information leaves learners stepping into a Post 16 course which might include surprises for some of them.

The work experience visit: Dance 2 “the gee up”

Goes a little something like this.

Me: “So, this looks great, what sort of stuff have they had you doing?”

Student: “Well, I pick up the stuff from here..”

Me: “Uhuh”

Student: “And I put then I put it over there.”

Me: “Right, right, sounds like physical stuff! I’m sure you’ve been going home tired every night!”

Student – just looks at me

Me: “So what sort of skills do you think you’ve been able to display on the placement then?”

Student: “Well, my ability to pick stuff up. And then put it down again.”

Me: “Been working in a team at all?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Riiiiight, so you’ve shown a lot of perseverance to get the job done.”

Student: “Yes.”

Me: “Has it helped you think about your future at all?”

Student: “Yep. Not to do a job like this.”

Me: “Okayeeee. But I hope you see, the fact that you’re sticking with it is really good. Still doing a good job, even though you don’t like it shows you’re a dedicated person.”

Student: “I tweeted some friends last night. Daniel has been working on a new design for a wing mirror on a F1 car.”

Me: “Sounds like he’s been thrown in the deep end.”

Student: “I told him about the 3 different types of scaffold I’ve been carrying.”

Me: “Well done for sticking with it. It really will impress College.”

Student: “What’s happening back at school?”

Me: “Not much, it’s very quiet with all you lot out.”

Student: “I miss it.”

The work experience visit: Dance 1 “the push & pull”

Goes a little something like this:

Employer: “We don’t normally do work experience but I know his mum so we made an exception.”

Me: “Well, we’re really grateful that you did, it’s hard to find quality placements. How’s he been?”

Employer: “Really good actually, we’ve been able to give him a lot more to do than we thought we would.”

Me: “So he’s shown an interest in the business, asked intelligent questions?”

Employer: “Yeah, it took him a while to come out of his shell but he’s cottoned on very quickly.”

Me: “So, it’s been a positive experience?”

Employer: “Yeah, he’s really got on with things.”

Me: “So you might think about running it next year as well?”

Employer: “Well, maybe…”

Me: “That would brilliant if you could. Like I said, we’re always on the lookout for quality placements.”

Employer: “Well, I’ve got to speak to HR…”

Me: “Of course, but we could help get the right students to you, bring them over for a chat, ask them to submit a letter of application…”

Employer: “And then there’s the health & safety…”

Me: “You’d be surprised how easy that is now, for the paperwork you just treat them like an employee really.”

Employer: “Our Director would have to have the final say.”

Me: “Of course, but we really do appreciate interesting placements like this though.”

Employer: “Well, like I said, we’ll see.”

Me: “You’ve got my number if you need to talk about it.”

Employer: “Sure.”

Me: “Look forward to hearing from you soon.”

Employer: “Sure.”