Isolated schools see worse results at GCSE

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:

Disadvantaged pupils at isolated schools do worse at GCSE than teenagers in more populated areas.

New research suggests that the proportion of disadvantaged students achieving five or more A* to C grades at GCSE (including English and maths) declines by just over one percentage point for every additional kilometre of isolation.

The study, entitled Isolated Schools: Out on a limb and conducted by the Future Leaders Trust, looked at the relationship between school performance and distance to the next nearest school.

Researchers calculated the distance between all state-maintained schools, then analysed whether relative geographical isolation can be linked to low attainment of students receiving free school meals (FSM).

They found that over the last three years schools less than one kilometre apart saw 49 per cent of their FSM students achieve five or more A* to C grades at GCSE (including English and maths).

In schools that were more than five kilometres away from their nearest counterpart this figure fell to 37 per cent. The decline in attainment for non-FSM students at isolated schools was not as substantial, on average decreasing by about 0.3 per cent per kilometre.

“The trend of disadvantaged students underachieving in relatively geographically isolated schools should be recognised and appropriate support provided,” said Heath Monk, CEO of Future Leaders. “One way we believe we can make a difference is to create professional networks that allow school leaders and headteachers to work together.

“The Future Leaders Trust encourages school leaders from Cornwall to Northumberland to collaborate to improve their schools and we are currently recruiting for Talented Leaders, a leadership programme for headteachers committed to working in schools in areas that have been isolated from educational investment in the past.”

Kevin Rowlands, a Future Leaders principal whose own school – Oasis Academy Immingham in Lincolnshire – is 5.5 kilometres from its next nearest school, has worked hard to address the problem.

“Immingham’s isolation has an impact on our students’ aspirations and self-belief,” he said. “With no direct link out of the town we are very remote. We are over an hour from any major city. With the exception of Lincoln it is close to two hours before you can access cultural and educational places of interest such as those to be found in York, Leeds or Manchester.

“As such, we’ve worked really hard to connect students with regional universities and professionals outside the town to prepare them for the next stage of their education and a fulfilling career.”

Isolated Schools: Out on a limb can be found at


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