New research 'busts faith school academic excellence myth'

By agency reporter
November 1, 2019

New research published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the University of Bristol has revealed "dramatic" changes in the performance of secondary faith schools in England when the background of pupils is fully considered. The ‘Fairer Schools Index’ finds religious schools’ "scores reduce substantially once the educationally advantaged nature of their pupils is considered".

In response to the findings, Humanists UK has called for the UK Government to change its official performance measures to similarly take into account the background of pupils.

The Government currently measures the value secondary schools add to pupil attainment using something called ‘Progress 8’. This looks at how well pupils perform in their GCSEs (taken at the end of secondary school) and adjusts this to take into account their key stage 2 tests (at the end of primary).

However, the academics have now produced a measure called ‘Adjusted Progress 8’, which as well as taking into account key stage 2 results, also "accounts for pupil age, gender, ethnicity, English as an additional language (EAL), special educational needs (SEN), free school meal status (FSM), and residential deprivation." Doing so shows a dramatic decline in the performance of faith schools, particularly Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh faith schools.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Richy Thompson, commented: "There is a persistent myth amongst some sections of society that faith schools are academically stronger than other schools, but research has consistently demonstrated that if pupil background is considered, such differences in performance go away.

"This latest research shows how even the Government’s main measure of pupil progress perpetuates this myth. The Government should can adjust this measure to better capture the value schools add to pupil performance."

* The research is available in various formats here

* Humanists UK https://humanism.org.uk/

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