Why Sir John Leman High School performs better than Woodbridge School

Woodbridge School
Throughout the whole free school debacle in Suffolk the Seckford Foundation and the DfE have constantly made references to “poorly performing” schools in Suffolk as a reason to open free schools.

I guess they would have to with some 10,000 spare secondary school places in Suffolk it is hardly about capacity.

The Seckford Foundation have suggested that a school run by them is bound to increase results and they have not exactly been challenged on this assertion. Indeed until I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority they actually ran adverts claiming Beccles Free School (which isn’t even open) was “outstanding”. A label many of us in the State Sector have worked hard for years to obtain.

If you take a closer look it is not just the meaningless claims about attainment in Suffolk being “below the national average” or Seckford’s shameless re-definition of North Suffolk’s boundaries to make sure that the results look particularly bad by including the low performing area of Lowestoft and excluding the higher performing Stradbroke, Debenham, Eye and Framlingham.

Sir John Leman School

The real issue is the substantive claim that Woodbridge School performs better than local Suffolk state schools is itself dubious. Indeed I will show below that DfE performance data in fact suggests that Sir John Leman High School outperforms Woodbridge.

At Woodbridge 95% of pupils get 5 A-C's at GCSE including Maths and English

If we compare this with Sir John Leman High School
If you look at the data carefully you will see that for "high attainer" pupils Sir John Leman actually beats the results at Woodbridge with 96% getting 5 A-C's inc Maths and English.

The "high attainer" pupils are simply those who did better than Level 4 at the end of KS2 ie they got Level 5s.

Now Woodbridge School is an academically selective school. The FAQs on their free schools websites described it like this:
Woodbridge School is one of the premier schools in the East of England and gains exceptional academic results as well as reaching a national standard in music, drama, sport and other activity. Woodbridge is highly selective.
So as the school is highly selective and so I think it is reasonable to assume that its pupils would at least match the high attainer criteria on entry to the senior school in Year 7

Unfortunately the data required to make a more certain like for like comparison is not available
This school (Woodbridge) is not included in the 2011 KS2 Performance Tables
I have already written to Seckford with a straightforward challenge asking them to release all the data relating to Woodbridge so we can see for ourselves. I have asked for the selection process and papers and the KS2 SATs scores of Y7 entrants. I have asked for KS2 SATs results for their junior school. So far they have not even acknowledged my request.

If they do not agree with my claim that their school performs worse than Sir John Leman then they need to produce some data to prove this.

If attainment is an issue in Suffolk I do not see why a school run by Seckford is the solution. Where is the evidence that they can add value to the educational attainment of children? By this I mean that they do better than expected. No disrespect but anyone can run a school that takes Level 5 children in Y7 and produces almost all 5 A-Cs in Y11. It would be hard to fail at this.

My guess is that the "success” they are aiming at is in recruiting as many Level 5 children into Y7 as they can and going for meaningless headline GCSE results. As such they would be taking the credit for the work of state primary schools that did all the hard work. Overall results would not increase at all.

Personally I would like to see less of the tax payer funded marketing and some real evidence that they can offer success not just a load of aspirations. Plenty of schools aspire to be great, it is actually delivering that counts.

A level playing field between schools would also be good. It is almost as if private schools prefer glossy adverts to supplying actual data. Whilst we are on the subject why can they not be inspected by Ofsted too rather than “independent” inspectors? If we had the same data and inspection regime then parents would be in a better place to make informed decisions. I guess that might be too much of a risk for some.
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