Using four years of data from secondary schools in England, the Guardian and the Open Public Services Network (OPSN) have developed an online database that will allow parents, teachers, and school governors to compare the GCSE results of secondary schools by subject for the first time.
The Guardian GCSE schools guide uses results data from every mainstream secondary school across England over a four-year period. Also, the schools guide is using an innovative measure called "school impact", which shows how successful certain schools are at improving their pupils' performance compared to schools with similar intakes, according to Richard Adams of The Guardian.
The schools guide allows parents to select multiple schools and compare their achievements by subject, as well as by the proportion of students awarded five A*-C grades, including English and Math, using the government's benchmark.
The value-added measure merges pupils' previous attainment with social factors such as gender, the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and the number speaking English as an additional language, as well as the proportion of pupils with special educational needs.
Using the school impact measure, schools such as Parkwood academy in Sheffield and Ifield community college in Crawley – which are well above the national average in the number of pupils with special needs or pupils eligible for free school meals – are revealed as having consistently better-than-might-be-expected results.
Using a combination of the school impact and exam results, the guide can highlight a select group of nine state schools in England that combine high scores and sustained above-average improvement in the performance of their pupils.
The guide should be a valuable tool for parents, Education Secretary Michael Gove said, adding that it comes at a time when in some parts of the country there is increasing pressure to exercise choice over which secondary school children attend.
"More transparency is vital if we are to raise standards. It is right that the hard work of teachers and pupils in schools which do well can be shown and celebrated – while schools which let pupils down, or are coasting, need to be exposed," Gove said. "Parents should have the fullest picture possible of what a school's strengths and weaknesses are. Making this data more easily accessible is a great piece of public service journalism by the Guardian."
The coalition government has given the public greater access to all key stage exams and GCSE results. The guide uses that data and also pupil and school characteristics from the national pupil database, Ofsted inspection reports and other publicly held information.
RM Data Solutions and Cambridge Assessments, which manages the OCR and Cambridge International Examinations boards that offer GCSE and international GCSE exams, also contributed to the school guide.