Heston School

Frequently asked questions: London Schools Gold Club programme

Frequently asked questions about the 2015 London Schools Gold Club programme in general.

What is the London Schools Gold Club?

The Gold Club is an annual scheme to identify and celebrate those exceptional schools in London that are succeeding with all their pupils – but especially the most disadvantaged – in different contexts. We will help Gold Club schools share their good practice so other schools can learn from a diverse range of approaches that have delivered great success.

We want to build on London’s educational success. London unusually for a capital city of its size outperforms the rest of the country and 2014 GCSE results show London as the top English region for the 6th year running. The latest London Annual Education Report shows pupils’ achievement in London to be significantly better than the national average at all key stages, with more high grades, and attainment gaps closing faster.

How does it work?

The programme works by identifying and sharing the good practice of Gold Club schools that are ‘bucking the trend’ with children on Pupil Premium or with low prior attainment. This shows that all schools can aspire to – and attain – excellence in this city.

The Greater London Authority will give recognition to Gold Club schools’ achievements and engage with and support them to show other schools how they achieved their extraordinary performance through a Gold Club school-to-school support programme.

Why is it an annual scheme?

An annual approach enables us to respond quickly to changes, such as new national performance measures, to keep the criteria current and challenging. It is important too that we review each year whether we need to raise the bar to ensure schools which close the achievement gap are properly recognised and that others can learn from their practice.

Do London schools have to take part?

Participation is entirely voluntary. In return for recognition of the Mayor and their peers, Gold Club schools will be asked as part of their membership to share their learning with other schools, such as presentations in seminars, conferences and hosting school development visits.

What percentage of London schools are eligible to be Gold Club members?

We aim to set the criteria for the Gold Club to identify a small number of schools representing about 7% of London schools. (We have only included those primary schools that submit their Key Stage 2 results and primary and secondary schools that have 30 or more children eligible for key stage testing.)

Will there be an even distribution of Gold Club schools across London?

Geographical spread is not part of the criteria as the Gold Club scheme aims to identify the best schools in London, not the best schools in each of the 33 local authority areas. However, a broad distribution across London is borne in mind each year as part of the criteria review.

In 2013 and 2014, only one local authority was not represented in Gold Club, in 2015 all but four local authority areas are represented in the eligible schools.

Will there be a de-designation policy for the Gold Club as exists for Teaching Schools?

Yes. This will be put in place to ensure that schools can be removed if circumstances require this.

What recognition are you giving to AP/PRUs in Gold Club?

Recognition of high performing alternative providers and pupil referral units is an aspiration for the Gold Club. For year 3 (2015-16) of Gold Club, the pupil destination data was identified as a potential criterion, ideally alongside another criterion to provide a measure for assessment that is appropriate for use with alternative providers and pupil referral units.

However, on reviewing the published data, while some AP/PRU providers are performing better than others in destination measures, it is not a particularly strong indicator for excellence in performance, which is our requirement for Gold Club membership.

What recognition are you giving to schools with high levels of SEN?

During 2015-16, we will undertake further analysis of the data to identify which Gold Club schools are performing well for pupils with SEN. We already know from analysis of the year 2 (2014-15) Gold Club member schools that a number of them have levels of SEN pupils which are above the average for London schools.

We plan to work with year 3 (2015-16) member schools with similar profiles to identify how they can share their expertise in achieving good outcomes with their SEN pupils.

What about the inclusion of infant schools, independent primaries and prep schools that do not participate in Key Stage 2 assessments?

These school categories could be included in future years of the Gold Club were we to identify any robust, non-statistical means of assessing independent primaries and prep schools that do not participate in Key Stage assessments.

What are the Gold Club criteria? Who judges the schools?

The Greater London Authority (GLA) develops the criteria each year after extensive, modelling and testing based on National Pupil Database and Department for Education performance tables’ data. The GLA draws on the expert advice of headteachers, directors of children’s services, educationalists and regional improvement programme leads.

What data are you using?

All of the data used for the Gold Club criteria is available from published Department for Education sources with the exception of the calculations for ‘5A*-C including English and maths but excluding GCSE equivalent examinations’ and for ‘the percentage of GCSE grades that were A*/As’ drawn from the National Pupil Database.

How well are Gold Club schools doing compared to other London schools?

London as a region has the best performing schools. However within this regional achievement performance does vary from school to school. Therefore several of the entry criterion for the Gold Club are set with reference to London and England averages. This means, for example, that London Gold Club schools’ pupil premium pupils get results which are mid-point between the national and London average.

What happens when new performance data tables are published by the Department for Education?

There will always be some time lag between the official publication of a school’s results and any scheme like the Gold Club, which is based on validated school performance data. The data we are using is from 2014. We will not rerun the data with 2015 results.

Wouldn't it be better to work out eligibility by an average of the last three year's results?

It's important that the criteria for the Gold Club are simple and transparent. It is also important that all schools in London can quickly recognise the achievements of Gold Club schools in ‘bucking the trend’ for their pupils including those who are most disadvantaged.

Having annual criteria is more straightforward than looking at averages over time, particularly when national changes cause annually fluctuating results. The Gold Club does not replace performance tables or Ofsted reports where trend data is available.

Why do different schools have to meet different standards at the same Key Stage? Doesn’t this mean we are more ambitious for some pupils than others?

We want to reflect the reality of different pupil intakes, at both primary and secondary school level, and keep the focus on ensuring high ambitions for all schools. It is important to ensure that the Gold Club is not dominated solely by schools with more privileged intakes. It is vital that joining the Gold Club can become an aspirational and relevant ambition for schools with all intake profiles, such as those with more disadvantaged backgrounds based on being on Free School Meals or children in care as used in the Pupil Premium.

Extra information

We have segmented London schools at each Key Stage using categories based on pupil characteristics known to be strongly associated with achievement and progress - the percentage of pupils eligible for Pupil Premium and the percentage with low prior attainment at Key Stage 2.

For primary schools we have not segmented by prior attainment because we consider that primary schools must deliver high standards of achievement for the full range of pupil abilities including those children who are least prepared for school by their early learning experiences.

In order to keep the criteria simple and straightforward, we have not included service families which are included in Pupil Premium nor been able to take account of schools with a high intake of migrant children for whom we have no prior attainment data.

Why are independent and selective schools eligible to join the Gold Club?

Independent and selective schools are eligible to join the Gold Club if they meet these criteria because the purpose of the Gold Club is to disseminate good practice and enable schools to learn from a diverse range of approaches that have delivered success for London schools. This is in line with the Mayor’s Education Inquiry’s focus on improving partnerships.

Independent and selective schools face tougher criteria for entry to the Gold Club to reflect their advantaged pupil intakes. Only a small proportion will therefore be eligible in this category of schools.

Are you using Ofsted ratings to decide on eligible Gold Club schools?

The Gold Club is about focusing on outcomes from the most recent round of tests and examinations. It is anticipated that in any given year there would be very few, if any, schools meeting the Gold Club eligibility criteria that do not have a current Ofsted rating of ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. However, inspection cycles may mean that some schools’ latest results are not reflected in their most recent inspection report.

It would also need to be checked that particular areas requiring improvement within a school’s overall rating did not undermine the school’s achievement in ‘bucking the trend’ for all their pupils including the most disadvantaged. So, we will consider schools qualifying against the criteria – but without a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted judgment – on an individual basis before confirming membership.

What happens if a Gold Club school’s outcomes fall below the criteria during its award period?

Gold Club membership in 2015-16 is awarded from the start of the 2015 autumn term until the end of that school year, and is based on a school’s test and examination outcomes from 2014. While a school’s Ofsted rating is not a criterion for membership, we recognise that it could be difficult for a school that has changed Ofsted grading adversely to continue to host seminars or promote best practice as part of the Gold Club programme.

We would consider the circumstances of the individual school and a decision made on their continued participation in providing the school-to-school support.

How is the Gold Club taking into account the implementation of the Wolf reforms to reduce the number of GCSE equivalencies (or non-GCSE qualifications) counted in performance tables?

We agree with the change in government policy to phase out these equivalencies and ensure that schools’ Key Stage 4 results reflect only those qualifications proven to enable the majority of young people to progress to further study and into employment. In each year of the Gold Club, we shall count out these equivalencies once they are no longer part of the national performance tables and have been phased out in line with government policy.

However, our criteria for secondary schools require them to achieve highly in the 5+ A*-C including English and maths measure both with and without current GCSE equivalent examinations. We are anticipating that all equivalency measures will be removed next year with the introduction of Best 8 and Progress 8 Measures.

How is the Gold Club affected by planned government reforms on attainment measures?

It is planned that nationally the current A* to G grades for GCSEs will be replaced in favour of numerical marks, and that a new attainment measure based on average point scores will replace the 5+ A*-C GCSEs including English and maths, with the introduction of Best 8 and Progress 8 next year.

We shall revise the Gold Club criteria once the new measures are in official usage.