Since 2012, the Department for Education has included a similar schools measure in the key stage 4 performance tables. This allows secondary schools to compare their performance data with that of schools with similar intakes in terms of prior attainment. The guidance below is from the Department for Education's website.
KS4 Similar Schools Guidance
This measure is designed to give more information on the context schools are working in and help them identify local schools working in similar circumstances that they can collaborate with and learn from.
Schools in the measure
All state-funded, mainstream schools, with 2012 Key Stage 4 attainment data published on the performance tables, are included in the measure. Though they have excluded any schools whose data is suppressed in the performance tables under the small numbers rules.
The methodology for defining similar schools
The methodology used to define similar schools and group them is:
based upon the prior attainment of pupils which we have used to estimate their future attainment;
We have then averaged the estimates of pupils within schools to create a school level attainment estimate;
The school level attainment estimates have been used to select a unique group of similar schools for every school included in the measure;
Therefore, the pupils of all schools in the same similar schools group have similar prior attainment and, as such, those schools are predicted to achieve similar outcomes for their pupils.
For a more detailed explanation of the similar schools methodology please visit the KS4 Similar Schools Technical Note.
Inclusion in the performance tables
The DfE taken the groups drawn by the above method and presented them on the performance tables website alongside their attainment scores. This allows the user to see how a school has achieved compared to those selected as similar. They have also included an average grade per pupil on similar school group pages to offer wider context to the measure.
Why have unique groups of similar schools for every school in the measure?
They have chosen to provide every school in the measure with its own unique group of schools because it allows us to ensure that, based upon the attainment estimates, each school is located at the very centre of its group.
This allows a fair chance to demonstrate performance within the group according to actual attainment. There is opportunity to demonstrate movement either upwards or downwards the group ranking. The DfE outlined that presenting static groups of schools, rather than providing unique groups for each school, would mean many schools are prevented the fair opportunity to demonstrate progress amongst their similar schools as a result of being at the top or bottom of a group from the outset.
Why highlight better performing schools?
The DfE outline that to promote opportunities for collaboration they have, where possible, highlighted statistically better performing schools in each group that are located within 75 miles of the focus school. The criteria a school must meet to be highlighted in this way is explained in the KS4 Similar Schools Technical Note.