Access to high quality education plays a crucial role in enabling our residents to maximise the opportunities available to them, achieve their potential and make a contribution to the county’s economy.
Educational qualifications are a key determinant of future employment and income, and educational attainment (or lack of it) is a key risk factor in teenage pregnancy, offending behaviour, truancy, and alcohol and drug misuse. There are also clear links between attainment, absenteeism and both current and future health outcomes for children and young people.
What are the key issues?
Educational attainment in Warwickshire remains positive, with pupils achieving above the regional and national average at both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4. Warwickshire has a smaller proportion of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSMs) than the national average. North Warwickshire has the poorest educational attainment levels in the county at Key Stage 2 and at Key Stage 4. Given that educational qualifications are strongly linked to future employment, these findings suggest that pupils in North Warwickshire start at a disadvantage, meaning they are less likely to enter successful employment than their peers in other parts of the county.
Educational Attainment Gap
‘Disadvantaged’ pupils are defined by the Department for Education as those who have been eligible for Free School Meals at any point in the last 6 years and Children who are Looked After. In 2015 this definition was widened to also include those children who have been Adopted From Care. ‘Other’ pupils are all pupils that are not Disadvantaged.
The proportion of ‘other’ pupils achieving the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Mathematics at Key Stage 2 in 2017 is 68.0%, significantly higher than ‘disadvantaged’ pupils (42.0%). Similarly, at Key Stage 4, there is a significant gap between pupils achieving a strong 9-5 pass (English and Maths GCSEs) – 22.7% for ‘disadvantaged’ pupils compared to 52.7% for ‘other pupils’.
The first chart below looks at the proportion of ‘other’ pupils and the proportion of ‘disadvantaged’ pupils achieving the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Mathematics at Key Stage 2, broken by down district and borough in 2017. The second chart looks at the proportion of each cohort achieving the new 9 to 5 strong pass in English and Maths at Key Stage 4 in 2017. At both Key Stage 2 and 4, ‘other’ pupils outperform ‘disadvantaged’ pupils – there is a distinct gap. Moreover, across all of the districts and boroughs the gap between the two cohorts increases by Key Stage 4, apart from in North Warwickshire Borough where the gap decreases from 27.5% points to 18.0% points. At Key Stage 2, Stratford-on-Avon District has the largest attainment gap between ‘disadvantaged’ Warwickshire pupils and National ‘Other’ pupils (29.5% points). At Key Stage 4, the largest gap is seen within Warwick District (40.4% points).
In line with national trends, the number of young people (aged 16-19) who are NEET has decreased to 5.1% (920), representing a decrease of 0.4% points from 5.5% (1,010 estimated NEETs) in 2013/14. Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough experienced the greatest reduction in the proportion of NEETS in the county between January 2014/15. This can be attributed to successful targeted activity, funded with an additional £50,000 sourced in January 2015. Targeted activities included, the recruitment of additional trainee NEETs advisers and complementary home visits. Despite this reduction, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough still has the highest proportion of NEETs in the county.
A skilled workforce is needed for a strong economy. Apprenticeships offer both employment and skill development, with a programme designed by employers. Figures indicate there was 2.6% decrease in the number of apprentice starts in 2015/16 on the previous year. The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) has played a pivotal role in encouraging local businesses to provide apprenticeship opportunities. The County Council also has a dedicated Apprenticeship Hub to recruit, support and promote apprentices across the council. The Warwickshire Employability Charter has also been launched. The aim of the charter is to improve the employability skills of young people and to reduce skills shortages. The charter encourages companies to work with schools, in order to offer valuable work experience placements. It also aims to create links between businesses and schools. National Grid, Burgis and Bullock Chartered Accountants, Southam College and Stratford-upon-Avon College were the first organisations to commit to the charter. There were 1,180 Apprentice starts in Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough in 2015/16, this was the largest number in the County. Conversely, North Warwickshire Borough has the smallest number of Apprentice starts in the county.
Warwickshire, the County Council is increasingly operating as a broker to help identify the emerging needs of local businesses and to ensure nearby schools, colleges and universities are developing those required skills. We’ve also seen the growth of ‘studio schools’ on our county borders, which specialise in nurturing young talent in specific industries and preparing them for future careers. The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) has played a key role in urging local businesses to offer apprenticeship opportunities, and the County Council now has a dedicated Apprenticeship Hub to recruit, support and promote apprentices across the council.