Regions, pupils and their characteristics 2012-2014

Since 2010, the Department for Education (DfE) has been releasing information on pupil numbers broken down by characteristics, based on school census data. In mid March 2015, the most recent version of this statistical first release (SFR) (based on the January 2014 school census) was updated. At Learning Plus UK, we have used this, and the previous two datasets[1] to compare regional differences in pupil (primary and secondary combined) characteristics, from 2012 to 2014. Data on ‘children looked after’ comes from an additional DfE SFR [2].

Pupil numbers have changed very little over the past three years. The only exception being that the South East had slightly more pupils than London in 2012, but otherwise London tends to have the greatest numbers, with the North East having the fewest pupils. In order to adjust for this ongoing trend in numbers, we analysed the characteristic data proportionately. That is, we examined the number of pupils with a particular characteristic as a percentage of the overall number of pupils within that region.

On the main page of the infographic, the data show ‘pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals’. The hierarchy for this measure has remained similar since 2012. London has the greatest proportion of pupils with FSM, with 21% eligible and claiming, in 2014. The North East has the second greatest proportion (20%), despite having the fewest pupils in the country.
This characteristic is explored with comparison between FSM and Non-FSM pupils in the ‘FSM’ section of the infographic.

The main page of the infographic shows the proportion of ‘minority ethnic pupils’. This includes all pupils that do not fall under the ‘White British’ category of ethnicity.
Again, London has the greatest proportion of minority ethnic pupils, with the figure rising slightly each year (57% in 2012, 58% in 2013, 59% in 2014). The North East, South West and North West consistently have the lowest proportion of minority ethnic pupils, with just 6% of pupils not categorised as White British in the North West in 2012.
By clicking onto the ‘Ethnicity’ or ‘Region’ section of the infographic, it is possible to see this characteristic broken down into White, Asian, Black, Chinese, Mixed, Any Other Ethnic Group and Unclassified.

Data for English as an additional language are only available in 2013 and 2014. The data follow a similar pattern to that of ethnicity, with London, West Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber having the greatest proportion of pupils with a first language other than English (38%, 16% and 12% respectively). These proportions change very little between 2013 and 2014.
The ‘EAL’ section of the infographic breaks the data down into EAL, Non-EAL and unclassified. This can also be viewed regionally, by selecting a specific region from the main page.

The ‘Children looked after’ data shows a very different hierarchy to the other three characteristics. Here, it is the North West, North East and West Midlands that have the greatest proportion of children looked after, with over 1% of pupils in this category in 2012, 2013 and 2014. East of England, East Midlands and South East have consistently lower proportions (below 1%) of this characteristic. However figures are below 2% in every region, so caution must be taken in drawing any conclusions from these data.

Pupil characteristics are used increasingly in educational data. There is greater emphasis than ever on ‘Closing the gap’, and pupil attainment is often reported alongside these characteristics. Here at Learning Plus UK Data, we support our subscribers by including analysis by pupil characteristcs in many of our products. For example a range of charts and tables in the Post-16 LPUK Datadashboard, user-generated analysis in the Tracking and Monitoring Tool, or in our bespoke cross-phase datadashboards.

What is your experience of ‘Closing the gap’ provision? Which characteristic categories do you think necessitate the greatest levels of support? To share your thoughts, explore our Big Numbers and join us on Twitter (@learningplusuk), on our Post-16 Learning Forum or LinkedIn group.

[1] DfE SFR15, SFR21, SFR10: Schools, pupils and their characteristics.
Available from:

[2] DfE SFR36: Children looked after in England, including adoption.

Available from: