The Sunday Times’ Parent Power league tables 2019 make a fascinating read for anyone looking at which secondary schools to send their children to. This year’s results reveal that state schools are starting to close the gap in the independent sector.
State schools close the gap on the independent sector
Who doesn’t love a league table? Although we may all claim to look beyond their superficiality, many of us are still secretly obsessed with them.
First introduced by the then Prime Minister John Major as part of a Citizen’s Charter, School League Tables have been published since 1991. For nearly 30 years they’ve been poured over by schools, parents, even children who like to compare how their school is doing with those of their friends.
Last Sunday (November 25th, 2018), The Sunday Times published its latest Parent Power League Table supplement. Comprising tables for the top 150 independent and state secondary schools, it is the newspaper’s 26th edition of the league tables. It is based on recent 2018 GCSE and A-level exams results – the percentage of pupils achieving Grade 7-9 at GCSE and grades A* to B at A-level.
Unfortunately, if you want to get the full information on schools in your area then you will need to subscribe to The 2019 Schools Guide at a cost of £8 for 8 weeks. This includes the Top 2000 schools in the UK. However, we’ve presented the main findings in this article below.
State school improvement
So what do this year’s results show? One of the main findings is that the gap between independent schools and state schools is narrowing. There were concerns that the introduction of a Grade 9 at GCSE (which is above the old A*) might favour independent schools. However, the reverse seems to be true.
In 2016 before the new grade system was introduced, just 79 schools managed to get 50% of their pupils achieving an A*. 63 of these were independent schools and 16 state schools. This year 38 state schools achieved the equivalent benchmark, approximately one-third of the total number.
Nor is it just selective grammar schools whose results are improving (though these schools still dominate the highest places). Ten of the leading non-grammar state schools have increased their proportion of top grades by nearly 50%. Conversely, results in the independent sector have remained broadly similar to previous years.
But it’s a complex picture. State school results are not improving uniformly across the entire UK. The Sunday Times’ analysis shows that of the Top 500 schools, 275 were in London and the South. Furthermore, 9 out of the top 20 state schools were in the capital.
Boys’ grammar Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet tops the list followed by girls’ grammar The Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb with Wilson’s School Wallington in Sutton in the third spot. (All three schools occupied the same league table place as last year.)
Regionally, areas with grammar schools fare better in the league tables too. For example, Northern Ireland where there are grammars has double the number of schools in the Top 500 than Wales where there aren’t grammars. This is despite Northern Ireland only having half of Wales’ population.
Outside of London and the South East, the best-performing state selective grammar schools in England were Pate’s Grammar School (ranked 7) and Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (ranked 11). In Northern Ireland, the highest ranked school is St Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls (ranked 23).
Perhaps not surprisingly, 10 of the 20 highest achieving independent schools in the UK were in London. Indeed the top three all remain unchanged from last year. St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith is in number one spot followed by the City of London School for Girls in the Barbican and King’s College School in Wimbledon.
Top independent schools outside of the capital include Wycombe Abbey School in High Wycombe (number 4), Magdalen College School in Oxford (6) and Brighton College (7).
What does it all mean?
While obviously, these league tables are only part of the picture, inevitably they are bound to put even more pressure on certain, ‘high performing’ schools. Many of these, it seems, are the selective state schools.
Last year, 2,400 children sat the entrance test for Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet which tops the Sunday Times list. More than 860 achieved the minimum academic standard but only 180 places were available. Tougher still was Henrietta Barnett which has 2000 applicants for 100 places.
Getting into these schools is only set to get tougher in 2019 as parents look at how well they are performing in the league tables. With the gap between selective schools and the independent sector narrowing in terms of performance, good selective state schools look set to remain the most competitive in the UK.
For more information go to Schools Guide 2019.
National Schools of the Year – according to The Sunday Times Parent Power list
State Secondary School of the Year
Wilson’s School, Wallington
Independent Secondary School of the Year
Comprehensive School of the Year
St George’s School, Harpenden
Sixth Form College of the Year
Exeter Mathematics School
IB School of the Year
Westbourne School, Penarth
Scottish State Secondary School of the Year
Boroughmuir High School, Edinburgh
Scottish Independent Secondary School of the Year
St Leonards, St Andrews
Northern Ireland Secondary School of the Year
St Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls, Belfast
State Primary School of the Year
St Bede’s RC Primary School, Marske-by-the-Sea
Independent Preparatory School of the Year
Seaton House School, Sutton
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