Following the coverage of St. Olave’s school in The Guardian, I revisited the analysis I did on Year 12 retention to examine the prevalence of drop-out from selective schools.

I look at a subset of pupils: those who made it to the end of Year 12 and were entered for at least three AS-Levels in summer 2015 (the final year prior to the phased introduction of reformed AS-Levels).

This means pupils are not included if they took fewer than three AS-levels (including those who were studying for BTECs), or if they drop out during Year 12.

In total, 160,000 pupils are included, of whom 24,000 were at a selective schools.

Overall, 87% went on to complete Year 13: 92% in selective schools and 86% in other schools.

However, this masks some variation, as the chart below shows. Pupils who achieved below CCC were more likely to leave selective schools, particularly those who did not achieve at least three A-E passes. (The numbers of pupils on which this chart is based can be found in the table at the foot of this post.)

So the threshold for continuing to Year 13 tends to be a bit higher in grammar schools than in other schools.

How many of the 13% that left did so voluntarily? How many were persuaded to leave? How many were told to leave? Unfortunately, we do not know from this data. But there do appear to be a number of schools with rather low retention rates among lower attaining pupils, who may well be concerned at the response to the St Olave’s coverage.

I had initially thought that the proposed publication of a “returned and retained” measure [PDF] in performance tables might improve matters.

But in fact it appears that most large schools, both selective and others, would be able to lose a small number of pupils – in whatever fashion – and still achieve a relatively high retention rate.

Number of pupils included in this analysis by AS-level grades achieved

Selective Others
BBB or higher 11,790 28,825
BBC to CCC 5,492 29,548
CCD to CCE 2,991 24,496
CDD to EEE 2,531 27,320
Below EEE 1,206 24,769
All pupils 24,010 134,958

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