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Isolated schools: Out on a limb

This research paper explores the relationship between school performance and relative geographical isolation in England.

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Date published 19 November 2015

Last updated 21 March 2024

The research particularly looks at how this relates to the GCSE attainment of students in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM students). It establishes a correlation between poorer outcomes for FSM students and relative geographical isolation.

Download a PDF of the report here.

Key findings

  • As relative geographical isolation of schools increases, the average attainment of FSM students decreases.
  • For each additional kilometre between schools, FSM students’ attainment of five or more GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths (5+A*-C[EM]) declines by an average of 1.06 percentage points.
  • Looking at average attainment over the past three years, both FSM and non-FSM students perform worse in schools that are further apart, but the impact on FSM students is greater.
  • Over the past three years, schools less than 1km apart saw 49% of their FSM students achieve 5+A*- C(EM). In schools that are 5km or more apart, this falls to 37%. The three-year national average in state-maintained schools for all FSM students in this study is 42.6% and for all non-FSM students is 64.9%.
  • The majority of schools where the proportion of FSM students attaining 5+A*-C(EM) is above the national average for all students are within 1km of another school.
  • Even after taking into account school and student characteristics (proportion of students who speak English as an additional language [EAL], students with special educational needs [SEN], FSM students and total student population), FSM students’ 5+A*-C(EM) attainment still declines by an average of 0.745 percentage points for every additional kilometre between schools.

Download the full report here.

This article originally appeared on the website of Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019, the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.

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