Project: Benchmarking post-16 trajectories of disadvantaged students

Client: Future Frontiers

Future Frontiers is an educational charity working with disadvantaged students in year 10 and 11 in London who have predicted GCSE grades just below the sixth form entry requirements, meaning they are at risk of missing out on their chosen post-16 education pathway. Through a two-year mentoring programme, Future Frontiers aims to raise the attainment and aspirations of their students and increase the likelihood of them progressing to a sustained destination in education, employment, or training.

We were commissioned by Future Frontiers to help them benchmark the outcomes of students taking part in their programme. To do this, we accessed data on 142,000 young Londoners from the National Pupil Database (NPD) to compare their cohort with the progression and attainment made by statistically similar students across London.

Our analysis tracked the post-16 attainment of a similar cohort of disadvantaged young people up to age 19. This provided Future Frontiers with a suitable benchmark for the progression and outcomes of their students and therefore allowed them to more accurately assess the impact of their programme. Key findings from the analysis on the post-16 achievement rates of disadvantaged pupils with different characteristics are published here.

Project aim: To better understand and therefore improve the impact of the Future Frontiers programme, by providing analysis on the post-16 pathways and outcomes of comparable students.

Read the Future Frontiers summary report


Some headline findings so far:

The key initial finding was that even among students in the same GCSE attainment band, for example those with an Attainment 8 score between 3 and 5 (which reflects the Future Frontiers selection criteria), there is a persistent disadvantage gap post-16 outcomes.

  • Among students achieving between a 3 and 5 in Attainment 8, only 59% of students that had been FSM eligible in the previous six years achieved a full Level 2 (5 GCSEs at 4 or above) by the start of year 13, compared to 65% of students who had not been FSM eligible.
  • This disadvantaged gap in Level 2 achievement rates remained all the way up to the start of age 19 – with a qualification rate of 79% for FSM eligible students by age 19, compared to 88% for their peers.


Our method in six steps:

  1. We worked with Future Frontiers to determine the indicators of pathways and achievement rates to analyse, including consideration of what could be meaningfully compared to internal data they held on the achievement rates of the students taking part in the programme.
  2. We then determined which pupil characteristics to include in the analysis and how to define a comparison group. As well as a measure of economic disadvantage (Free School Meal eligibility), and GCSE prior attainment, we included demographic characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, and SEND.
  3. Having successfully applied to access the secure personal level NPD data, we were able to link data from multiple datasets together. This allowed us to bring together data on demographic characteristics and attainment of students at school, information on various post-16 pathways (including vocational qualifications and apprenticeships), and the qualifications achieved.
  4. By linking across different datasets and for multiple cohorts of students, this allowed us to create comparison groups at different levels of detail, showing average rates of post-16 achievement for a variety of different groups, including breakdowns for multiple demographic characteristics.
  5. We then produced analysis showing post-16 attainment measures for different characteristic and comparator groups. For example, showing the percentage of students achieving a full Level 3 qualification by age 19, broken down by prior attainment, FSM eligibility and ethnic group. These tables allowed Future Frontiers to explore how average attainment rates differed for very specific groups of young people, and consider how these differences relate to the approach of their programme.
  6. Finally, we created a weighted comparison cohort based on the characteristics of the students taking part in the Future Frontiers pilot programme. This gave Future Frontiers a representative matched-comparison group to benchmark the outcomes of their cohort against.