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Edinburgh secondary schools: some alternative ratings

(26 Posts)
Cornopean Sun 05-Apr-15 22:29:36

Traditionally secondary schools are rated primarily by exam results, but I've crunched some numbers to attempt to find a better way of rating how good a school is, and found some surprises. Read on and I'll explain why, present the results, and then I'd be interested if your experiences match them or not.

There are problems with an over-reliance on exam results. Success in exams correlates extremely highly with wealth - while there are many exceptions at individual levels, on the whole children from wealthier families receive more support at home, via tuition etc., and do better at school. Schools with a wealthier catchment will therefore do better for the same quality of teaching, good teaching may be masked by poverty in a poorer catchment, and bad teaching could theoretically be hidden by a wealthy catchment.

Firstly, I've taken a weighted measure of exam results and adjusted it for poverty, as measured by the number of people qualifying for free school meals (broadly speaking household income £16k or less). Secondly I've looked at all the inspection reports on teaching quality and simply grouped schools by similar results there. I'll post the results in replies to this message.

On numerical method: exam results are weighted 2x "five or more A-C highers %" + 1.5x "three or four A-C highers %" + 1x "one or two A-C highers %". That sum is then divided by the percentage of students NOT receiving free school meals, e.g. if 20% take school meals, the weighted exam result total would by divided by 0.8. There are doubtless many other ways of doing this but a similar result is likely. Results to follow.

Cornopean Sun 05-Apr-15 22:42:49

Here are the exam results, weighted for poverty. The numbers don't mean anything other than a comparison, they aren't percentages for example. Most schools are within a couple of places of their traditional locations in league tables, which tend to default to the percentage of students who achieved 5+ A-C Highers. Notable exceptions are Drummond, which shoots up six places, and Wester Hailes which rises five. Drummond is particularly notable as in addition to its catchment role, it acts as a city-wide destination for students who need additional learning support, without which it would likely perform even better.

1 St Thomas Of Aquin's High School (129)
2 Boroughmuir High School (128)
3 James Gillespie's High School (127)
4 Firrhill High School (106)
5 Currie Community High School (103)
6 The Royal High School (98)
7 Craigmount High School (96)
8 Queensferry High School (95)
9 Holy Rood High School (90)
10 Balerno Community High School (86)
11 Broughton High School (80)
12 Portobello High School (77)
13 Leith Academy (69)
14 Drummond Community High School (67)
15 Trinity Academy (67)
16 Wester Hailes Education Centre (66)
17 St Augustine's High School (61)
18 Liberton High School (58)
19 Gracemount High School (52)
20 Tynecastle High School (51)
21 Forrester High School (50)
22 Craigroyston Community High School (30)
23 Castlebrae Community High School (21)

Cornopean Sun 05-Apr-15 23:15:21

And finally, here are the schools organised by teaching and environment quality as per their most recent inspection. The list order goes from most recently inspected to least. Again this is a very general metric, but then so is the exam performance that most people default to. An asterisk indicates that the inspectors have noted improvements since those ratings were given, so the school should improve at the next full inspection.

Gracemount High School
St Thomas Of Aquin's High School
James Gillespie's High School
The Royal High School
Currie Community High School

St Augustine's High School
Boroughmuir High School

Craigroyston Community High School
Balerno Community High School
Holy Rood High School
Craigmount High School
Forrester High School
Drummond Community High School
Portobello High School
Firrhill High School *

Trinity Academy
Queensferry High School

Liberton High School
Broughton High School
Tynecastle High School *

Wester Hailes Education Centre

Leith Academy *

Castlebrae Community High School *

No Edinburgh schools were either weak overall or worse, or very good overall or better. Of particular note in this table is Gracemount, where poor exam performance belies very good teaching, and Craigroyston, overall good despite coming near the bottom of Highers result tables. St Augustines (RC) did significantly better for teaching quality than its exam table position suggests, and Drummond again did likewise.

Cornopean Sun 05-Apr-15 23:33:56

Final post: here's my spreadsheet, as an image (if it works), so you can compare and contrast the ratings. It's in the traditional order of most 5+ A-C Highers.

If I was to summarise my analysis: none of the best schools are rated Excellent for their teaching, which you might expect, so those near the tops of league tables definitely "could do better" given their intake. Boroughmuir, for example, is outperformed in some respects by Gracemount. Drummond does far better given its intake than league tables might suggest. And I can't summarise the nuances of all the written inspection reports, but it's clear that each of these schools is a varied and functioning community, in which many students succeed at both a personal and more widely measurable level.

As we've yet to move to Edinburgh and we haven't chosen a location to move to, I have no connection with any school mentioned. I will certainly not be saying "we absolutely must move to [the top catchment area]", as all this has helped me to place the results in a more nuanced context.
I hope my analyses have provided some alternatives to the traditional exam results-led tables and given you some food for thought.

3nationedinburgh Mon 06-Apr-15 00:00:09

Interesting research and would tally with our perception in the
Currie/Balerno/ Firhill side of town where there are many of the primary students "creamed off" to private school before reaching secondary. Two comments though. 1) the inspection reports can be very dated and not reflect either the current head/management team nor the investment in school buildings and the increased attainment which will arise from both, e.g. Currie high schools last inspection was March 2007 since which time there have been two changes of head teacher and more than one whole cohort of students passed through. 2) Craigroyston/ St Augustines and
Forrester have all got fantastic new buildings and sports facilities in recent years which are contributing to increasing attainment and improved reputations.

eightytwenty Mon 06-Apr-15 08:14:57

Interesting perspective.

One other criteria to consider would be strength of leadership though don't know how you'd quantify that.

I know the head of St Thomas' has recently changed but don't know what the impact of that has been. Likewise IMO the head of Broughton was dynamic with a good vision for his pupils.

Ooo what does the number in brackets mean.

GrooveeCar Mon 06-Apr-15 10:29:37

Interesting to see where my childrens school is. Yet their recent results would suggest otherwise as both are in the accelerated programmes which have been introduced.

With more schools also receiving the SFA school of football and not just Broughton anymore there has been changes as parents choose other more local schools for the football schools.

The Education Scotland reports are very out of date for a lot of schools in Edinburgh.

Cornopean Mon 06-Apr-15 11:30:00

Yes, 3nationedinburgh, inspection reports don't look at each school at the same time either, which is why I've not tried to quantify those ratings and include them in a numeric score.

eightytwenty the number in brackets is the weighted exam result, adjusted for intake poverty as measured by % qualifying for free school meals. Think of it as a "value added exam result" score. If I revisit these numbers for newer exam results (these are based on 2013 for all schools) I might normalise them so the scale is more intuitive (I won't confuse things by changing these now).

GrooveeCar yes the problem of almost any rating is that you're it's based on past performance, and things change everywhere. There is clearly an ongoing focus on improving schools in Edinburgh. I find it strangely reassuring that even the schools at the top of the conventional tables have >25% of pupils who don't get even 1 higher at C or above, as this exercise has made me realise there is less between the "best" and "worst" schools than our natural interpretation of a league table.

eightytwenty Fri 10-Apr-15 23:39:18

Thanks for doing this. We are deciding between schools this year and your research is helpful.

thedicewoman Fri 10-Apr-15 23:51:55

This is really interesting data,unfortunately only adds to my worries!. Any chance you can pm the actual spreadsheet? Not sure if that's even possible...

Cornopean Sat 11-Apr-15 11:25:49

I've had a look but it doesn't seem possible. I may be able to share it some other way, but I don't know if it is done to post links to random file sharing services here, I'm not sure I trust them let alone want to post them!

On adding to worries I would hope it has the opposite effect. There is less between these schools than seems to be the case - we naturally perceive these tables as running from best to worst, but put in the context of the whole of Scotland, there are many better schools than Boroughmuir or James Gillespies, and many worse than the lower performers in Edinburgh. At least a quarter of students at B and JG didn't get any Cs or above at Higher level, and last year a student at Drummond got five As (not in these tables yet).

Teachers can't do as much in terms of pure exam success with students who don't want to learn, or aren't supported at home, or who struggle with language, or who have other learning needs etc. That doesn't mean that what they do achieve with those children is less important. And while some of those are factors of catchments or particular school intakes, at least two of them we can affect directly as parents, and I'm not talking about moving to a different catchment.

Can you tell I used to be a uni admissions tutor with a liking for stats? smile

Misamisagrl Sun 24-May-15 22:02:43

This is so helpful. Thank you very much for posting. My daughter is due to start P1 next year, we are worried naturally on whether to go with our ND state school (Trinity)or for a smaller increase on exam result go with an RC (St Mary's Leith/Holyrood) There is also Gaelic Primary to throw into this occasion. Moving into the catchment areas of the top schools aren't an option for us. :/
So my main worry is how different the quality of head teachers/teachers between these schools, what they offer to their students. only if I know some parents whose kids are going to some of these school.

eightytwenty Sun 24-May-15 22:35:00

Can vouch for trinity ps. Head Mrs Scott is very dynamic and the kids are largely enthusiastic learners.

Misamisagrl Sun 24-May-15 23:02:37

That's good to know. Thank you very much for your reply. I had a look at the school last year when they had their open day. Students seem to be very enthusiastic and confident but the layout of the building and whole atmosphere looked so tired and dated.
One thing I would like to know how they approach teaching foreign languages. I heard students don't have a say on what language they pick each year, can be different depending on which teacher they have. Do you know if this is the case?

eightytwenty Tue 26-May-15 07:40:58

Building awful - and facilities could be better. Waiting for an upgrade on the playground but council dragging heels despite successful funding by Psa.

But if you ignore the fabric of the building - I'd say the atmosphere is good. The kids don't get to choose a language - don't know if that's the case elsewhere or not.

Misamisagrl Tue 26-May-15 10:21:09

Thanks again for your reply. Shame about the council delay. Quality of teaching is more important than the building's over all look. Not so bothered about choosing a particular foreign language either but sticking with same one for a few years is essentials for children to get a good grasp of it. If it switches every year like I heard depending on which teacher children receive, that is a very poor approach, it is signals a lack of understanding of how to teach languages and really puts me off. :/

GrooveeCar Tue 26-May-15 18:24:15

Both my children learned Italian in p3&4 then changed to French from p5 onwards and when both moved on to high school it was French. The year between them did German.

Pentland primary teach French from nursery.

Misamisagrl Tue 26-May-15 23:04:45

Grooveecar, thank you, was your kids at Trinity primary then? I thought each primary start teaching languages from P1. :/ Does anyone of you know what is the best way to reach more parents to get feedback about any primary schools mentioned above?

StatisticallyChallenged Wed 27-May-15 18:25:48

Mismisagrl, not feedback as such but there's a school fair on at Trinity this Saturday which might be useful for getting a wee bit of a feel for the community? We've generally heard positive things about Trinity (we're setting up a childcare business in the area)

It might be worth starting a separate thread on this board actually, naming the schools? it might get missed in here.

Misamisagrl Wed 27-May-15 19:01:44

Oh that sounds like a good opportunity. I will start a new thread for the listed schools.

Thanks for the info.

GrooveeCar Sat 30-May-15 20:59:30

My kids didn't go to Trinity. They were at a west Edinburgh school.

muiwobaby Mon 23-Jul-18 09:56:52

Hi everyone,
I've started a new thread about this but haven't received a single reply as yet, so when I read about the research made by Cornopea I thought I'll give it a try here.

We will relocate from Italy to Scotland in 2020.
Our flat is on Leith Walk and have looked up at the catchment schools: LA, Drummond High and St. Thomas RC are the ones we're focusing on and we won't be looking into private schools.
DD has been brought up bilingual (EN/IT) since birth, gone to British school up to P2 then, for economic reasons, transferred to Italian state school where has now finished a very successful first year Middle school. She knows and loves Edinburgh since birth, has some similarly aged pals too but they go to Heriot's.

She's a very sensitive, creative, bright all-arounder who has so far had exceptional achievement record in all subjects; thrives in supportive, encouraging environments rather than competitive ones (in facts shuns anything too competitive). So we're looking into a school where children are encouraged to learn because it can be rewarding and where they are happy, rather than somewhere just famous for their academical standing.
Good support for transition from foreign schools would be a bonus grin
Suggestions anyone?
Many thanks to all.

Ewarwoowar Mon 23-Jul-18 16:33:16

Oooh interesting. Must update.

Anyone got the spreadsheet?

Cornopean Sat 28-Jul-18 13:10:41

I have smile But I still haven't worked out how to share it. And TBH looking at it again after only 3 years it's a bit over my head at first, so I'd be reluctant to throw it out there and expect others to figure it out better than I can! OTOH it would be easy enough for me to update it - being lazy, does anyone know if CEC released exam results from later than 2013, which are the ones I worked on? Won't have time to update until late August.

And like anything, this is just data, and misses nuance. muiwobaby , go visit the schools, preferably during the school day, and get a feel for their atmosphere, and the attitude of the teaching staff. I went to the worst secondary school in a poor council area (not Scotland). I'm sure academically I would have done better had I gone to a better school (probably Oxbridge), but let's just say that at uni and in jobs/life since I've done well enough (inc funded PhD at top 10 UK uni), and I value the perspective on life and opportunities I gained from the school I went to, which has helped me value things other than traditional success - e.g. neither OH nor me have full-time jobs, by choice, while DCs are young.


preggersneveragain Tue 11-Sep-18 19:55:05

Just come across this, really interesting read and certainly makes you think. Thanks for posting Cornopean would love to see any updated stats if you /when you get to it.

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