School achievement in all English towns and cities compared - see how your local area scores

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A major study scores towns and cities up and down England based on the educational achievement of those who grew up there. See how your hometown fares using our interactive charts.

Pupils from small towns have better educational attainment than those from larger towns and cities, a major study shows.

The research, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), followed the fortunes of state school pupils who sat their GCSEs in the 2012/13 school year, looking at how many went on to get A-levels, degrees and other qualifications. 

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NationalWorld has built interactive charts allowing people to explore the scores for every town and city in the country.

It is the first time much of this data has been gathered at individual town level, and shows:

  • People from smaller towns have better educational attainment, on average, than those who grow up in larger towns or cities;
  • Coastal and seaside towns have lower attainment scores on average than other towns;
  • Attainment is linked to income - towns with higher levels of deprivation score much lower on average than more affluent towns;
  • Of the top 10% of towns with the highest educational attainment scores, none have high levels of income deprivation.

Data on an individual’s attainment in later years was related back to the town they lived in when they sat their GCSEs, even if they moved away afterwards. This allowed the researchers to understand the relationship between long-term educational attainment and the town where the person grew up.

Pupils from smaller towns generally did better than those from larger towns, the analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows. Image: AdobeStock/Kim Mogg/NationalWorldPupils from smaller towns generally did better than those from larger towns, the analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows. Image: AdobeStock/Kim Mogg/NationalWorld
Pupils from smaller towns generally did better than those from larger towns, the analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows. Image: AdobeStock/Kim Mogg/NationalWorld | AdobeStock/Kim Mogg/NationalWorld

Richard Prothero, of the ONS, said: “It’s the first time ONS has looked at young people’s educational attainment by the size of town in which they went to school.  Those in smaller towns generally did better than those in larger towns, while those in cities, other than London and Brighton and Hove, typically had lower attainment than those in towns. One reason for this may be the link between levels of deprivation and educational attainment as there tends to be more deprivation in larger towns and cities than in small towns.”

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To compare towns, the ONS used a score to summarise the educational attainment of young people at different points throughout their education. A score of 0 is the average score of all areas, while negative scores reflect poorer than average performance, and positive scores mean better than average attainment.

Overall, small towns had an average score of 0.4. Scores decreased by size: medium towns had a score of -0.3 and large towns had a score of -0.9.

Every English city outside London had a worse-than-average educational score, except Brighton and Hove, which had a score of 0.7. Nottingham and Portsmouth came joint bottom, with a score of -4.5. 

The capital fared better than the national average, with Outer London scoring 1.3 and Inner London on 0.1.

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Of larger towns, Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands had the best score, at 6.4, while Basildon in Essex came bottom, at -5.4.

Looking at medium-sized towns, Harpenden in Hertfordshire came top with a score of 11, while Great Yarmouth in Norfolk scored the lowest at -7.6.

And of the small towns, Northwood on the edge of London came top with a score of 11.9, while Thurnscoe in South Yorkshire came bottom with a score of -10.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This analysis demonstrates how closely aligned educational outcomes are to levels of deprivation. 

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“Raising attainment is therefore dependent not only on ensuring that schools in areas of high deprivation are well supported and resourced, but also on wider efforts to tackle poverty and improve local economies.”

He called on the government to "work with schools, colleges, local authorities, other agencies and businesses to revive these areas and give families better opportunities”. 

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