The London Intelligence – Issue 6


London pupils continue to outperform the England average at GCSE level, and a higher proportion choose to progress to Sixth Form instead of FE colleges, than in the rest of England. At the end of 16-18 education, English pupils perform slightly better on average than Londoners, although a greater proportion of London students go on to university than those across England. Despite overall apprenticeship numbers rising, completion rates remain low.

KS4 achievements

The new GCSE 1–9 point scale grading system is now in its fourth year, with the ‘Attainment 8’ score measuring how pupils perform in eight different subjects, and how they are progressing compared to expectations (see technical appendix). There has been a slight improvement on last year’s results and London schools have marginally widened the extent to which they outperform the English average, with provisional data showing London pupils scoring 4.9 points higher than their counterparts in England as a whole (equating to over half a grade per exam).

Progress 8 statistics (where a negative score indicates below expectation and a positive indicates above expectation performance) also show London outperforming the rest of the country, with London the only region in the country in which schools are performing higher than expected. London received a score of 0.22 compared to an English average of – 0.08. Though London schools on average outperform the rest of the country, there are stark Progress 8 differences at the borough level, with – 0.23 in Lewisham compared with 0.53 in Brent, and Ealing.

KS4 destinations

The latest figures show a higher proportion of students in London state schools choose to progress to Sixth Form either in a school or college – which offer A level qualifications and a more structured learning environment – than their peers in the rest of the country. However, a higher proportion of London pupils from a disadvantaged background – measured as those in receipt of free school meals –  progress into further education colleges – which offer vocational qualifications (including NVQ and BTEC), as well as A levels, and a wider range of subjects – than those from a non-disadvantaged background.

KS5 achievements

In contrast to KS4 (GCSEs at age 16), at KS5 (A levels and other level 3 qualifications at the end of post-16 study), London students continue to slightly underperform the English average, scoring 31.7 APS per entry against 32.9 for the whole of England. There was also a 0.5 point drop between the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 London cohorts.

This indicates there may be persistent problems with the post-16 education provision in the capital, as well as reflecting the wider take-up of A levels in London.

There are also borough-level differences in KS5 attainment, with Sutton, Kingston, Barnet and Westminster seeing consistent improvements over the last three years, while Croydon, Islington, Hillingdon and Waltham Forest saw results worsen.

KS5 destinations

In terms of post-18 destinations, a greater proportion of London students go on to university than those across England, while a smaller proportion move straight on to employment. There is also a slightly lower proportion of students who move on to apprenticeships, highlighting a preference for more academic pathways in the capital.

The differences in destinations between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged London students seem marginal, though this may be partly because these figures only include students from state schools. Nonetheless, only 19 per cent of disadvantaged students go on to study at one of the UK’s top third institutions, compared with 28 per cent of state school pupils from a non-disadvantaged background.

Recent attempts have been made to narrow social inequality in higher education, such as the introduction of degree level apprenticeships and the introduction of foundational programmes at some Oxford and Cambridge colleges.


London students still lag behind the rest of England in terms of apprenticeships take-up. The decline in apprenticeship starts in 2016-17 was driven by a 16 per cent fall in take-up of intermediate level apprenticeships, to just under 21,000 starts. The proportion of students undertaking higher apprenticeships however has continued to grow, more than doubling in 2016-17 (59 per cent) in comparison to the previous year.

This increase was driven by a surge (73 per cent, 3,330) in the number of those aged 25 and over starting a new higher level qualification. This trend looks set to continue, with 2,500 aged 25 and over having started a higher-level apprenticeship in the first three quarters of 2018. The surge in adult apprenticeships may be due to the closure of Train to Gain and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2016, so it may not represent a real increase in training.

Despite fluctuation in the number of apprenticeships starts, the rate of completion remains low. Just 54 per cent of apprenticeships in London resulted in completion in 2016/17 (compared to 57 per cent in England overall).

Stephen Evans, learning and work institute, apprenticeships