Academic attainment and progress for SEND pupils are, as for all pupils, clearly important educational outcomes, albeit not the only elements of a child’s development. Better attainment and progress also suggests a more inclusive system with SEND pupils better supported to fulfil their academic potential in school. Our inclusion index looks at both attainment and progress scores across primary and secondary phases, with a focus on the pupils with more complex needs (i.e. those with EHCPs).
We calculate an attainment and progress score from a combination of:
- Average of progress scores in reading, writing and maths (RWM) of EHCP pupils at key stage 2 (KS2)
- Percentage of EHCP pupils achieving the expected standard or higher in RWM at KS2
- Progress 8 scores for EHCP pupils at key stage 4 (KS4)
- Attainment 8 scores for EHCP pupils at KS4
- Percentage of the 16 or 17 year old EHCP cohort who are NEET (not in education, employment or training).
This gives a broader measure of academic outcomes, accounting for both primary and secondary education, as well as those who fall out of education or training and end up NEET. While we do understand that success in school, especially for SEND pupils, is not just about exam results, we believe that these five indicators represent key outcomes for any pupil and are the best available public data. Including two progress indicators and a destination indicator helps to make this a more holistic measure of EHCP pupil outcomes than just measuring attainment. This attainment score is therefore the largest factor in the overall index, accounting for 42% of the overall score.
In this blog post we look at the landscape of attainment across England and, in particular, the large variation between LA areas. We then examine some possible causes of this variation, exploring contextual factors affecting attainment scores for SEND pupils.
Attainment index scores by region
Figure 1 – Regional attainment scores
There is a clear London advantage in attainment scores for the SEND cohort, which mirrors the good academic performance of London more generally. Outer and inner London’s average attainment scores are far higher than any region outside London. The North East and the East Midlands score lowest for attainment and progress of EHCP pupils.
Attainment index scores across England
The interactive map below allows you to explore attainment data for each LA area in England. Hover over an LA area on the map to see its average attainment and progress data over the last three years. The overall attainment score is calculated out of 100.
Figure 2 – Interactive map of attainment scores
Notably, seven out the highest scoring ten LA areas are in London. Six of these are in outer London, the most consistent regional performance across the four indicators we have looked at. Westminster (inner London), the highest scoring LA area has an EHCP average Progress 8 score of -0.28, compared to -1.45 in Liverpool. Average Attainment 8 scores for EHCP pupils vary from 5.8 to 32.8 between LA areas. Average RWM KS2 attainment ranges from 2% of EHCP pupils achieving the expected or higher standard, to 28%.
Figure 3 – Highest scoring 10 LA areas for attainment and progress
Figure 4 – Lowest scoring 10 LA areas for attainment and progress
There are no London LA areas represented in the lowest scoring ten. In fact, the lowest scoring London LA area is Enfield, scoring 32.6 for attainment, and all but three London LA areas have attainment scores over 50.
Figures 3 and 4 also show a strong relationship between the attainment and overall index scores. As the attainment score accounts for 42% of the overall inclusion index, it is not surprising to find this relationship.
We explored three factors in an attempt to explain the variation in EHCP attainment and progress observed:
- The cohort effect – are higher average scores a result of a larger cohort?
- Deprivation – can deprivation levels explain differences in attainment and progress across LA areas?
- Cross border movement – does the movement of pupils with more complex needs into LA areas with more special schools influence attainment and progress scores?
1. Does the EHCP cohort size effect explain variation in attainment?
As discussed in part 3 of this series, larger EHCP cohorts tend to achieve higher average attainment. We argued that this is likely to be due to the inclusion of pupils who have less complex needs. These pupils will tend to have higher attainment. Before any decision maker tries to understand the attainment of SEND cohorts in their area, they must consider the size, and nature, of the EHCP cohort.
Figure 5 – The relationship between attainment scores and the proportion of the SEND cohort with an EHCP
This relationship, in part, helps to explain why London scores so well on attainment. While Newham is an exception, London LA areas tend to have relatively large EHCP cohorts. As discussed, this is likely to increase average attainment of the cohort. On the other hand, almost all London LA areas sit above the trend line, suggesting that they have even higher attainment scores than would be expected given the relative size of their EHCP cohort.
Key finding: LA areas with larger EHCP cohorts tend to have higher attainment scores
2. Is attainment driven by deprivation?
In part 3 we argued that deprivation was a separate driver of both cohort size and attainment scores. Here we can see that deprivation also seems to play a role in the attainment and progress of EHCP pupils. We used IDACI (income deprivation affecting children index) scores to measure deprivation. A higher score indicates a higher level of deprivation.
Key finding: more deprived areas tend to have lower attainment and progress scores at KS4
Figure 6 – Deprivation on KS4 attainment and progress
Deprivation is correlated with both poorer attainment and poorer progress for pupils with an EHCP at KS4. In fact, the 50 most deprived LA areas have an average Attainment 8 score of 11.5, while the least deprived third had an average score of 15.3. The disparity is smaller for Progress 8 scores, with a 0.24 point difference between the average score in the most deprived LA areas and the least deprived. The slightly smaller disparity may be a result of EHCP pupils in more deprived areas having lower prior attainment.
There is also a correlation between higher levels of deprivation and the percentage of EHCP pupils who became NEET. In the 50 most deprived LA areas, an average of 11.1% of 16 and 17 year olds with an EHCP are NEET. This figure is 8.0% in the 50 least deprived LA areas.
However, Figure 6 shows that deprivation levels alone cannot explain why London scores so high for attainment. The London LA areas are not noticeably less deprived than others. Moreover, all but a handful of London LA areas sit above the trend line, meaning they are outperforming what might be expected for an LA area with their level of deprivation. Furthermore, many London LA areas are amongst the most deprived.
Figure 7 – Deprivation on KS2 attainment and progress
The relationship between EHCP pupil average attainment and deprivation is very different at KS2. Surprisingly, progress in reading, writing and maths at KS2 is positively correlated with deprivation meaning EHCP pupils in more deprived areas tend to achieve better KS2 progress scores. This relationship might be a result of small numbers of KS2 EHCP pupils having a prior attainment score, and therefore progress scores only being based on a small proportion of all EHCP pupils. Unfortunately, the published data does not give this information.
The proportion of EHCP pupils who achieve the expected or higher standard in RWM at KS2 is only weakly correlated with deprivation, in contrast to the strong correlation found above between Attainment 8 and deprivation.
Although less stark, Figure 7 again shows that a majority of London LA areas sit above the trend line, outperforming the scores expected for an LA area with their deprivation level.
Key finding: more deprived areas tend to have lower attainment but higher progress scores at KS2
3. The effect of cross-border movement
As discussed in part 4 of this series, LA areas vary in the number of special schools they have. Attainment data is based on school (not resident) populations. We therefore wondered whether areas drawing in a large number of special school pupils may end up with an EHCP cohort with relatively more complex needs, and therefore lower average attainment. If it is the case that special school pupils are likely to be those with the most complex needs, then this could be happening.
Looking at the effect of provision of special schools on attainment reveals some evidence of this. The 32 LA areas with ten or more special schools have an average EHCP Attainment 8 score of 12.9, compared with 15.0 across LA areas with three or fewer special schools. However, there does not seem to be a link to the numbers of pupils crossing borders to attend special schools. We found no evidence to suggest that high numbers of pupils coming in from other LA areas to attend special schools reduced average attainment. In fact, the average Attainment 8 score is higher across the 50 LA areas with the highest percentage of their special school pupils coming in from other LA areas, than the 50 LA areas with the lowest percentage. This is potentially because the higher levels of cross-border movement exist in LA areas in London which are the highest performing areas. Further analysis of the type of special school and their respective pupils, as well as why pupils are travelling across LA borders to attend special schools would help to understand this relationship.
What does this mean for inclusion?
- Attainment and progress of EHCP pupils varies substantially across England, with London outperforming other regions
- LA areas with a larger proportion of their SEND pupils issued with an EHCP tend to have higher average attainment
- EHCP pupils in more deprived areas tend to have worse attainment and progress in secondary schools than EHCP pupils elsewhere.
Next, in our final post of the series, we discuss our conclusions and learnings from creating the inclusion index.
- EHCP pupil attainment is particularly high in London LA areas
- Relatively large EHCP cohorts tend to achieve better average attainment
- EHCP cohorts in more deprived areas tend to have worse Attainment 8 and Progress 8 scores. However, counter-intuitively, higher deprivation is correlated with better progress at KS2.
While academic attainment is clearly important for all pupils, any analysis of academic outcomes of SEND pupils should take into account the cohort size and characteristics. It is also important for schools to monitor the non-academic progress of pupils with an EHCP, including social and emotional development.
- Section: National curriculum assessments: key stage 2
- Same data source used for 2018, 2017 and 2016
- Based on school population
- Section: GCSE and equivalent results, including pupil characteristics
- Same data source used for 2018, 2017 and 2016
- Based on school population
- Same data source used for 2019 and 2018
- Based on school population
- Section: File 11: upper-tier local authority summaries
- Income Deprivation Among Children (IDACI)
- Based on resident population
 This combined progress score is an average of the three individual subjects (reading, writing and maths) progress scores.