Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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"Shocking fall" in GCSE performance for pupils on free school meals in Reading

The performance of secondary schools in Reading is a cause for concern, Ofsted said yesterday.

The inspectorate has published a letter calling on Reading Borough Council to do more to help improve exam results – particularly for children on free school meals (FSM).

Bradley Simmons, Ofsted Regional Director for the South East, said that GCSE results in Reading show a wide and worsening gap between the achievement of FMS pupils and their better-off peers in the same borough and across England.

The overall percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C including English and mathematics fell from 59.3% in 2014, to 57.5% in 2015. Yesterday’s letter says this decline is overshadowed by a shocking fall in the GCSE performance of those pupils eligible for free school meals. In 2014, 30.7% of FSM pupils achieved 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and mathematics. In 2015, only 23.8% achieved this level.

Bradley Simmons said:

Pupils on free school meals in Reading get the worst GCSE results of any area in the south east. Reading’s results show a wide and worsening gap between the achievement of these pupils and their more advantaged peers, both locally and nationally.

I am concerned about overall GCSE results in the borough. These pupils deserve better if they are to have a brighter future. Local authorities have a responsibility to champion their most vulnerable pupils. That is why I am calling on Reading Borough Council to explain what they are doing to address this serious situation.

In 2014 Ofsted expressed concerns about the poor performance of primary schools in Reading. Steps have since been taken to improve the situation; however, Ofsted remains concerned that the problem has been transferred to the borough’s secondary schools.

Notes to editors

  1. Read Ofsted’s letter to leaders of Reading Borough Council.

  2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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