Frequently asked questions
What is The Schools Guide?
The Schools Guide provides a wide range of indicators to help parents, students and teachers to find schools that are not simply ‘good’ in some generic way, but the best match for their particular priorities and expectations.
It presents information previously available mainly to education professionals, and uses a powerful set of personalisation features to provide views of each school that go well beyond crude league tables.
Which schools does it include?
It currently covers all mainstream state primary and secondary schools in England. These include university technical colleges and studio schools. We intend to expand into other sectors and geographies, and welcome feedback on which ones would be most useful to our users.
Why does it only cover schools in England?
We would love to cover the whole of the UK (and beyond), but are limited by access to data, which at the moment is most readily available in England.
Which schools doesn’t it cover?
Currently, we do not cover independent (ie, private) schools, standalone sixth-form colleges or FE colleges. We hope to add these in future.
What indicators does it use and what do they mean?
There are up to 10 'school' indicators and 5 'staff' indicators'. Each one provides a score between 0 and 100. A score of 50 shows that the school is about average on that particular dimension. A higher score indicates that the school is above average. Scores are calculated based on the three most recent years for which data are available (eg, 2019-2021), but weighted towards more recent years.
What are the school Indicators?
- Admissions: This indicates how easy it is to secure a place. Schools that are not full, or which give a relatively large number of offers compared to the number of applicants, rank highly. Data come from the DfE.
- Attainment: This indicates how well pupils perform in national tests such as SATs, GCSEs and A-levels. It does not take into account pupils’ academic performance when they arrived at the school (for that, see the Progress indicator below). Data come from the DfE.
- Attendance: This indicates how reliably pupils attend school. It takes into account the general absence rate among all pupils as well as the proportion of pupils who are persistently absent. Data come from the DfE.
- Destinations: This indicates what happens to students after they leave school at 16 or 18. Those where very large proportions of students go on to sustained education or employment destinations rank highly. It doesn't apply to primary schools. Data come from the DfE.
- Disadvantaged pupils: This indicates how well the school performs for pupils from poorer families. It takes into account academic progress and (in the case of secondary schools) post-school destinations. Academic and destinations data both come from the DfE.
- Environment: This indicates the relative healthiness and safety of the neighbourhood around the school. It takes into account local pollution, traffic and crime levels. Data come from the ONS.
- Finances: This indicates the financial sustainability of the school. Those whose budgets have been in balance or surplus in recent years rank more highly. Data come from the DfE.
- Representation: This indicates how closely the socio-economic and ethnic balance of the school matches that of the local community. Schools with high rankings are not necessarily diverse, but are in balance with their local pupil populations. Data come from the DfE and the ONS. Note also that this analysis builds on research by the iCoCo Foundation, The Challenge and SchoolDash.
- Progress: This indicates how much academic progress pupils make between joining the school and sitting tests such as SATs, GCSEs or A-levels. The highest ranking schools are those that admit relatively low-attaining pupils and turn them into high attainers. Data come from the DfE.
- Sixth form: This indicates the effectiveness of the sixth form (where one exists). It takes into account A-level attainment, progress between GCSE and A-level, and post-school destinations. Academic and destinations data both come from the DfE.
What are the staff indicators?
- Assistant:teacher ratio: This indicates how many teaching assistants there are for each teacher in the school. The more assistants per teacher, the higher the score. Data come from the DfE.
- Staff development: This indicates how much is reported to have been spent each year on staff development, allowing for differences in the number of teachers at each school. Data come from the DfE.
- Pupil:teacher ratio: This indicates how many pupils there are for each teacher in the school. The more pupils per teacher, the lower the score. Data come from the DfE.
- Qualified teachers: This indicates the proportion of teachers that have qualified status. Data come from the DfE.
- Unfilled vacancies: This indicates the proportion of permanent teaching positions that were either unfilled or filled by temporary staff. Data come from the DfE.
Where do the data come from?
All data is from official sources, chiefly the Department for Education (DfE) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). See above for further details about each indicator.
How do I determine which schools are ‘good’ using these metrics?
The Schools Guide uses a series of indicators (see above) that can be weighted according to a user’s personal priorities. Every school is assigned a score between 0 and 100 for each indicator. A score of 50 shows a school is at the national median. The overall score shows the average across all indicators, weighted according to the user’s preferences. Overall scores for each school and any rankings based on them are therefore individual to each user, and one score or ranking should not be considered more ‘correct’ than any other.
What is a ‘good score’? Is 50 bad?
The Schools Guide has been designed to go beyond the binary thinking that labels schools as simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and all scores should be considered in that spirit. Statistically speaking, 50 is average. Almost all schools have some scores above 50 and others below 50. Whether any given indicator represents an achievement or a disappointment depends in part on the circumstances, history and priorities of the school, as well as the priorities of the user.
No school excels on every indicator, but being able to see where a school’s relative strengths lie helps parents, students and staff to make informed decisions. It is precisely this diversity of strengths and weaknesses that The Schools Guide seeks to reflect.
What data do you collect?
How often do you update the scores and other information?
Usually every week on Monday morning. As well as applying the latest available data, this sometimes also involves changing the way that scores are calculated or adding new functionality.
How do I give feedback or ask a question?