John Denham says Southampton’s schools must maintain their focus on raising standards. Recent marked improvements in results have still not taken the city far from the bottom of key national league tables.
A new analysis from the House of Commons library confirms an overall improvement in Southampton’s schools. But on the most widely used and most important secondary school measure – good GCSE’s with Maths and English – the city still ranks among the worst local authority in the country. On this measure Southampton relative performance has actually worsened over recent years. A gap is also beginning to emerge between students from poorer and from better off homes, with children on free school meals performing well below the national average.
The new statistics do show a dramatic improvement at primary level as local schools come close to the national average for the first time in recent years. They also show improvement in secondary school GCSE passes where students do not necessarily get good grades in Maths and English.
The analysis highlights:
- On the key measure of the percentage of students getting 5 A* to C grades including English and Mathematics, Southampton schools have dropped from 114th down to 136th out of 151 local authorities in the last 3 years. 
- In the last 2 years, Southampton has risen 27 places in the rankings when comparing the percentage of pupils achieving 5 A* to C grades (but not necessarily including Maths and English) halving the previous 9.4% gap with the national average. 
- Only 47% of Southampton pupils on free school meals achieved 5 A* to C GCSEs last year, well below the national average of 57.8%. 
- Southampton’s primary schools have nearly closed an 8% gap with the national average of pupils achieving level 4 or above in both English and Maths in Key Stage 2 tests, rising from just 64% in 2009 up to 73% in 2011. 
John Denham, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, said:
“Some great progress has been made and this reflects real commitment and hard work by teachers, but the fact remains that our secondary schools are still not doing as well as they could. The recent success at primary level shows that city children are capable of achieving the same results as children right across the country. There is no reason secondary schools cannot do the same, and as the latest group of higher achieving primary children go through secondary education we should expect to see standards rise.
“It is particularly important that the City Council works with schools to understand why children from the poorest homes do so much worse than they would do in other parts of the country”.
- 5 A*-C Including English and Mathematics: Despite the percentage of Southampton pupils achieving this target rising from 36.2% in 2005/06 to 51% in 2010/11, it has actually dropped in terms of the national ranking. Southampton schools are now ranked at 136 out of 151 local authorities, closer to the bottom than when ranked 121 st in 2005/06 and 114 th in 2007/08. Southampton results have not improved as dramatically as the rest of England.
- 5 A* – C GCSEs: Out of a total 151 local authorities in the country, Southampton schools have climbed 27 places in the rankings since 2008/09. Southampton schools have achieved this improvement by raising the percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more A* to C GCSE grades from 60.6% in 2008/09 to 76% in 2010/11. This has more than halved the gap with the national average from 9.4% to just 4.1% below.
- Free School Meals: 47% of pupils on free school meals obtained 5 A* – C GCSEs, with 71% of pupils not on free school meals achieving the same target. When you include English and Maths, the relative gap widens from 23% up to 51%.
- Primary Schools: In 2009, Southampton Primary Schools were 8% below the national average with just 64% of pupils achieving level 4 or above in both English and Maths in Key Stage 2 tests. This gap closed to just 1% in 2011 as 73% of pupils achieved this target. Southampton Primary Schools have also reached the Key Stage 2 maths national average, having been 5% below in 2009.