Contextual information

Gathering information about individual pupils' context helps to:

  • develop a more complete picture of the overall school context;
  • analyse attainment results and progress for specific groups of pupils;
  • analyse the progress of pupils with a value added approach (using prior attainment);
  • analyse the progress of pupils with a contextual value added approach (using prior attainment and other contextual indicators.

Find out more about contextual information:

What is contextual information?

Typical background information to collect about a pupil includes the following.

  • Gender
  • Special educational needs
  • Eligibility for free school meals
  • First language
  • Date of joining
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • In care
  • Home address including postcode
  • Attendance


Viewing and describing contextual information

As you view contextual information, search for characteristics that are not average (away from the centre line on this chart) and then look at the trend to identify if the background context is stable, rising or falling within the school population.

Statistics and distribution graph of a school’s statistics in 2003, 2004 and 2005, compared to the national average. Statistics include number on roll and the following percentages of that number: Girls; Pupils eligible for free school meals; Pupils from minority ethnic groups; Pupils whose first language is not believed to be English; Pupils with a statement of special educational needs; Pupils with special educational needs (including statements). The ‘pupils eligible for free school meals’ entry is highlighted, noting that the proportion of free school meals is falling in the school and that the proportion of free school meals is above average compared to the national average.

The following phrases are used to describe a school's context based upon the percentile value:

Diagram of the five phrases used in describing a school’s context based on its percentile value. From left to right: Well below average; Below average; Average; Above average; Well above average.

So for instance if a school was in the 87th percentile for number of pupils on roll, then the school is described as well above average in terms of the school roll.


Measuring pupil mobility

Pupil mobility is 'the total movement in and out of schools by pupils other than at the usual times of joining and leaving' (Ofsted 2002). It exists in schools but for some the high levels of mobility make demands on school systems, resources, staff and the stable community of pupils.

There are several ways of measuring pupil mobility including:

1) MOBILITY = Pupils joining school + Pupils leaving school × 100 Total school roll in a given year

2) The stability indicator (as used in RAISEonline) identifies the percentage of pupils who joined the school before the 1st October in a given year.

To help remember: high stability = low mobility   low stability = high mobility

Bar graph of a school’s percentage of inward mobility through National Curriculum Years 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1, compared to the national average. Year 6
School – 17.5%
Year – 25.5%;

Year 5
School – 10.5%
Year – 24%;

Year 4
School – 42%
Year – 21%;

Year 3
School – 13%
Year – 15%;

Year 2
School – 7%
Year – 11%;

Year 1
School – 6%
Year – 3%;


Attendance data

4 column, 10 row table showing school attendance figures
% attendance
School 88.9 91.5 91.7
National 91.8 92.0 92.2
% authorised absence
School 8.4 6.5 6.4
National 7.2 6.9 6.6
% unauthorised absence
School 2.7 1.9 1.8
National 1.0 1.1 1.2

Pupil attendance is registered twice a day. An authorised absence is absence with permission from the school and includes instances for which a satisfactory explanation has been provided (for example illness).

Unauthorised absence is absence without permission from the school and includes all unexplained or unjustified absences.

Attendance data can be used to:

  • provide background for a school;
  • judge a school on its improvements in attendance;
  • analyse progress or attainment by attendance.


Deprivation measures

FSM – entitlement to free school meals has been widely used as an indicator of deprivation and has often been used as a proxy for low income. 

IDACI – income deprivation affecting children index. It measures the proportion of children under the age of 16 in an area living in low income households. The indicator, used in RAISEonline, ranges from 0.00 (least deprived) to 1.00 (most deprived). The measurement uses seven domains that include income benefits, health statistics and recorded crime. The IDACI uses lower level super output areas that are similar size to electoral wards.

Acorn – a classification of regional neighbourhoods which uses data from the national census information, classifying each UK street as one of 56 categories and uses the whole postcode.


Trends by year group

Looking deeper into the school data, such as viewing the context information by year group, allows us to build a picture of how the school population is built up or changes. If differences occur, consider if it is as a result of a changing cohort over time.

7 column, 7 row table showing how school population is built up
NC Year Group NoRBoy/GirlFSMMinority ethnic group 1st language not English SEN
Year 7 195 54.9/45.1 40.5 74.9 36.4 31.8
Year 8 179 56.4/42.6 32.4 74.3 47.5 35.2
Year 9 178 55.1/44.9 34.8 80.3 50.0 39.9
Year 10 161 56.5/43.5 32.9 82.6 54.0 43.5
Year 11 157 60.5/39.5 34.4 82.8 64.3 46.5
Post-compulsory 187 46.0/54.0 14.4 86.1 62.6 18.2