Where did all the GCSE pupils go – and why has no one noticed?

hen Ofsted inspectors published a report on Hewens College in Hillingdon, west London, in January 2016, they gave it a clean bill of health. Leadership and management were impressive, teachers had high expectations of their charges and the education provided overall was adjudged “good”. Any school would be proud of such a report.


However, one striking fact was not mentioned. The year group that had taken GCSEs the previous summer, and on whom much of the school’s latest achievement data was based, was only just over half the size it had been when these pupils joined the school in 2010.


For while 44 girls and 41 boys – 85 in total – had started out at Hewens in year 7, by the time they reached year 11, only 24 girls and 22 boys remained. This was a 46% drop, a loss of 39 pupils – well over a full class group. Neither was it a one-off: Hewens’ 2014 GCSE cohort was 31% smaller than it had been in year 7.


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