Destination data is ‘incomplete and dangerous’

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Headteachers have issued a “serious health warning” after the Department for Education (DfE) published its first league table of student “destination data”.

Headteachers have issued a “serious health warning” after the Department for Education (DfE) published its first league table of student “destination data”. 

The information, which the DfE itself said is “experimental statistics” shows what proportion of students in every state-funded school, college and local authority in England have gone on to further or higher education or employment/training after key stages 4 and 5.

It is designed to help parents when choosing a school or college for their children, but headteachers said that the data was so incomplete that it was “dangerous”.

The information relates to maintained schools, further education and 6th-form colleges and covers both key stage 4 and 5 students.

It shows what proportion and number of students were in education and employment for at least six months after they completed key stage 4 and after their A levels or other Level 3 qualifications. The data relates to students finishing their studies in the 2010/11 academic year.

The tables also show how many students went on to university, broken down to Oxbridge, Russell Group, a university ranked in the top third, or any higher education institution.

However, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, emphasised that the data is “experimental and incomplete”. He explained: “Schools are only one of the influences on young people’s long-term choices. It is misleading to draw sweeping conclusions about the effectiveness of schools based on experimental data, especially as it does not cover all schools and only reflects destinations of pupils shortly after they leave school. 

“Many pupils take gap years or they delay going to university or into long-term employment for all kinds of reasons. This is not reflected in the data.

“It is right for destination data to be shared with schools but it is dangerous to publish it when it is so incomplete. It is irresponsible to encourage parents to make decisions about schools based on experimental and untested data. Data should prompt more detailed questions, not be used to draw hasty conclusions.”

The data shows that after taking an A level or equivalent at key stage 5 in 2010/11, 62 per cent of young people were in some form of sustained education, with 48 per cent at a higher education institution. In the year after key stage 4, 89 per cent of young people were in sustained education or employment/training.

Schools minister David Laws said: “We are publishing this data so people can see for themselves how different schools, colleges and local authorities perform. Parents have more information than ever before on which to base decisions.”

The data is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/destinations-of-key-stage-4-and-key-stage-5-pupils-2010-to-2011


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