Attainment at London's state funded schools

Date 25 August 2017
Date updated 25 May 2018

Educational attainment is a key determinant of lifetime earnings, poverty risk and social mobility. Other indicators on this site note how low pay and employment status are associated with lower levels of educational qualification. The large improvements in education in London over the past decade are rightly celebrated in improving the life chances of its young people, especially as increasing attainment by disadvantaged pupils has been a key driver. 

However, the gap in educational achievement between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils is present from the beginning of schools and widens as pupils get older. These indicators therefore focus on attainment at age 16 and older. 

The GCSE attainment gap is significantly smaller in London than the rest of England (28% in the rest of England, 15% in London). The boroughs with the seven largest gaps are all in Outer London.

Progress on GCSE attainment has stalled since 2010/2011. 40% of students in Inner London and 39% in Outer London do not have 5 or more A*-C grades, including English and Maths, when they finish their GCSEs – a similar figure to five years ago. The proportion of 19 year olds without level 3 qualifications has continued to fall in London though, unlike in the rest of England where progress has stalled.

The percentage of disadvantaged pupils in Inner London who go onto Higher Education is actually higher than for non-disadvantaged pupils (59% vs 55%). The trend is reversed in Outer London, where non-disadvantaged pupils are narrowly more likely to pursue higher education (58% vs 56%). These figures will be important to monitor to assess whether they are affected by the abolition of maintenance grants in 2016.

Education: Indicators

GCSE attainment over time

The proportion of students lacking 5+ A* – C GCSEs at the end of Key Stage 4 (age 16) in London and England has changed over the decade from 2005/06 through 2015/16. 

Educational attainment across England has improved markedly over the past decade. This graph shows that educational attainment improved more in London (particularly Inner London) than in England as a whole between 2005/06 and 2012/13. Over the past three years, improvements in educational attainment in both London and England as a whole appear to have stalled. 

In 2015/16, 39% of pupils in Outer London did not attain this level and 40% in Inner London did not. The proportion not attaining this level in England as a whole was significantly higher – 47%.

A decade ago, GCSE attainment in Inner London was worse than in England as a whole. However, GCSE attainment in Inner London i…

10.2 The Disadvantage Attainment Gap in London boroughs

For the school year 2015/16, the difference between the proportion of disadvantaged pupils and the proportion all other pupils attaining an A* – C in maths and English GCSE at 16 (the attainment gap) in Inner London is almost half (16 percentage points) of the attainment gap in the rest of England (30 percentage points). Outer London has a larger attainment gap than Inner London (23 percentage points) but is still significantly smaller than the rest of England.

The shrinking of the attainment gap in London is a key factor in the ‘London effect’ whereby London pupils outperform their counterparts in the rest of England.

The size of a borough’s attainment gap is generally driven by poor attainment by disadvantaged pupils rather than high attainment by non-disadvantaged pupils.* Most of the boroughs with the biggest attainment gaps between di…

10.3 Demographics and attainment gaps

This graph shows that pupils in London of every ethnicity have better attainment than their counterparts in the rest of England, as do pupils who speak English as a second language, and pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

At 39%, Black pupils have the highest proportion of pupils not achieving A* – C in English and maths GCSEs in London, followed by White and Mixed (34%) ethnicities. 

Pupils who do not speak English as their first language have similar attainment as those who do. This is particularly important to attainment levels in London, where 40% (and 51% in Inner London) of pupils do not speak English as a first language. In the rest of England, only 10% of pupils do not speak English as a first language.

In 22 London boroughs, pupils who do not speak English as a first language are more likely to achieve GCSEs than those who…

19 year olds lacking qualifications over time

Educational attainment improved more in London than in the rest of England in the early part of the last decade, but since 2012/13, improvements have stalled in many areas. The exception is Level 3 attainment in Inner London, where the proportion of 19-year-olds lacking these qualifications has continued to decline steadily.

 In 2016, 19-year-olds in the rest of England were more likely to lack Level 3 qualifications than those in London. 34% of 19-year-olds in Outer London lacked Level 3 qualifications (AS and A-Level qualifications)*, compared with 35% in Inner London and 44% in the rest of England.

The proportion of 19-year-olds lacking Level 2 (GCSE-level qualifications)** is similar in London and the rest of England. 14% of 19-year-olds in Inner London and 12% in Outer London lacked Level 2 qualifications compared with 15% in the rest…

The change in the FSM gap over time

For 19-year-olds in London in 2016, there was a 15 percentage point difference (attainment gap) between the proportion of pupils who had been eligible for free school meals (at age 15) and the proportion of all other students attaining Level 3 qualifications.* For the rest of England, the attainment gap was almost twice as big – 28 percentage points. 

The attainment gap has fallen in London (from 19.5% in 2006 to 15% in 2016) over the past decade, while in the rest of England it has not changed significantly. 

 As discussed in 10.2, the shrinking of the attainment gap is seen as a key factor in the ‘London effect’.

* In the London Poverty Profile 2015, this indicator used ‘proportion lacking five A* – C GCSEs including maths and English’ which cannot be used this year (see footnote 4). This year’s graph shows the attainment gap (in percenta…

19 year olds lacking a Level 3 qualification by borough

In every London borough, the majority of 19-year-olds have Level 3 qualifications. Barking & Dagenham has the highest proportion of 19-year-olds lacking Level 3 qualifications at 46%, followed by Havering at 44%.

There is huge variation across boroughs with a 21 percentage point gap between the worst performing borough – Barking & Dagenham, and the best performing boroughs – Redbridge, Kensington & Chelsea and Harrow (in all three, only 25% of 19-year-olds lack Level 3 qualifications).

The pattern of qualifications by borough looks similar to 2014, with boroughs in the Outer West & Northwest and Inner West generally performing better on this measure than Outer East & Northeast. In previous editions of this report, Greenwich has been the worst performer, with 48% lacking a Level 3 qualification in 2014. It is now 41%, an…

Post-school destinations of pupils

This graph shows that London pupils who entered an A-level or equivalent in 2014/15 were more likely to go on to higher education in 2015/16 (58% in Outer London, 57% in Inner London) than their counterparts in the rest of England (47%).

In the rest of England, pupils who undertake A-levels are more likely to move directly into employment at age 19 (24%), than in Outer London (16%) or Inner London (12%). This group of young people is a relatively small proportion of total youth employment at age 19 – 83,000 of the 360,000 employed 19-year-olds. The majority of 19-year-olds in the labour market probably did not take A-levels.*

Young people in London are less likely to undertake apprenticeships after A-levels (4% in Inner & Outer London) than the rest of England (8%). The government hopes the apprenticeship levy**, which came into effect…

Pupils entering Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs)

Both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students from London have higher rates of attending higher education institutions (HEIs) than pupils in the rest of England. Disadvantaged students in Inner London actually have the highest rate of attending HEIs – 59%. This will be important to monitor over time, as abolition of maintenance grants (2016) may lead to a decline in disadvantaged students attending HEIs.

This general pattern extends to the top third of HEIs (excluding the Russell Group), with higher proportions of both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils from London attending these universities than their counterparts in the rest of England. 

However, despite educational attainment gains in London for disadvantaged students, this is not translating through to improved representation of poorer students in elite Russell Group univ…

Adults lacking Level 3 qualifications by borough

The two worst performing boroughs for 19-year-olds lacking Level 3 qualifications – Havering and Barking & Dagenham – are also the worst performing boroughs for older adults lacking Level 3 qualifications (52% and 48% respectively).

However, in some boroughs, the proportion of 25 to 49-year-olds without a Level 3 qualification is significantly lower than among 19-year-olds. In Lewisham, 37% of 19-year-olds lack these qualifications, compared with only 26% of 25 to 49-year-olds. Some variation by borough is probably due to the age profile of the borough, as older people (40 and over) are more likely to lack qualifications than younger adults. It may also indicate an educational attainment gap between local school leavers and incoming young professionals. 

There is little change in the pattern from the previous edition of this report, al…

Employment by qualification over time

This graph shows the proportion of the working-age population who are in employment, or unemployed and lacking but wanting work, by educational attainment.* Those who are lacking but wanting work are economically inactive and not available to work for various reasons (such as being a student or ill). They are not counted as unemployed.

In 2016 the employment rate for each group had increased compared with 2011. Among workers with a degree or equivalent, the employment rate was 86% in 2016 compared with 83% in 2011. For those with no or unknown qualifications the employment rate was less than half of this in 2016 at 40% and 38% in 2011.

The employment rate increased the most for those with A-levels or equivalent and those with other qualifications. For workers with A-levels or equivalent the employment rate increased by 6 percentage points …