Pupil Mobility versus Social Mobility
Pupil Mobility is a measure of pupil movement during the academic year. The calculation is simple: add all the movements in and out and express that as a percentage of the number on roll. Our Pupil Mobility measure is at its lowest level in 7 years, at just 2.6%. It is now less than one fifth of the Sheffield average. There were just 11 pupils leaving or joining our school during term time in the last 12 months.
Parents can be worried about a negative impact on their children if they move during a key stage. They should be assured by the research evidence that shows that any negative impact is actually due to other factors, such as EAL, economic disadvantage and SEN. When simply accounting for prior attainment at the end of key stage 1, there is no negative impact on attainment due to moving schools.
The gross impact is much harder to measure. The schools with the highest levels of pupil mobility are also those with highest levels of disadvantage. There are correlations and coincidences in the data groups, but not necessarily any causal link. Pupil movement may be driven by four causes and circumstances and we can easily see how each might lead to both disadvantage and lower attainment:
- International migration — Children joining / leaving schools as a result of families moving from / to countries overseas
- Internal migration — Children joining / leaving schools as a result of families moving home within the UK, whether over long or short distances
- Institutional movement — Children changing schools without moving home, including exclusions and voluntary transfers
- Individual movement — Children changing schools as a result of moving alone, such as moves between separated parents or to live with foster parents.
Conversely and positively we can look at each of these factors as a factor likely to indicate aspiration and hope for improvement. International migration may be to escape hardship but is also a movement towards better, and presumably betterment. Which parent ever wanted less for their child than they enjoyed? Moving home and city (or just catchment area) can be as a result of new careers, career advancement and ‘making it good’. With it comes the chance to enjoy the schools offered in the new area. The vast abundance of data and other information about schools is supposed to allow parents to state their preference of school, and if they feel one is not right for their child then they have the right to seek a move to another. (This does require spaces to be available of course.) In an urban area parents often have to choose from many nearby schools, and they do do so for many reasons. Almost always it is sought for the child’s best interests. A child moving home does not mean a school move will have to happen, but hopefully the home change is also a positive one, and supports the child’s growth and development.
So, very few children leave Lydgate Junior School mid-year (maybe 5 or 6 in any 12 months), and a similar small number join us (coming in from a waiting list or via and Admission Appeal Panel decision). I remain convinced that the reason so few children leave is because we do provide a very good school experience for every pupil. We look after each well, and we promote very good standards of learning. That we always fill vacancies is for the same reasons: it is recognised that we do a good job for families and children. Sheffield is a great place to be. S10 is a great area within that city, with vibrant, welcoming, communities. People want to be here; they have made choices and, possibly, sacrifices to do so. When someone wants to move into the area, or get their child into a school in the area, it is because they want all these good things for their families.
Pupil Mobility can be used an indicator of other things. When it is low it indicates stable communities with all the advantages that brings. It is hard to find a downside to low Pupil Mobility in fact.
Social mobility is the movement of an individual or family between social strata relative to their current position. This is often linked to educational achievement and income. Unless all schools can give the same outcomes for all pupils, and then this lead to equality of opportunity at the next stage, parents will continue to look for a school that does better than the other so that their child has a better chance on life. Research suggests that we aren’t doing so well – children of rich parents stay rich and children of poor parents stay poor, by and large. The educational achievement gap can be as much as three years’ worth by the age of 15 between children from different advantage backgrounds.
That low mobility then seems to get in the way of the aspirational, ambitious parent. They perhaps see admission to a good school with good results as a passport to social mobility, but with no places available the door is simply closed. We are full, and at 120 pupils more than the school original design. We cannot simply take more pupils to support a social mobility goal as we have no room to take them into.
I do not have an answer other than the same line that has been stated over and over by politicians and education leaders at all levels for as long as I have been a school leader – every child deserves a good school, every community should have a good school, and every school should be a good school. (I suppose that most are just that already.)
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