Sutton’s schools generally perform well and the competition between them starts as early as primary school, where children are assessed based on their performance in the SATS taken in year 6. These high standards of achievement continue throughout secondary school and up to GCSE level, where GCSE results are used as a measure of achievement.

The London Borough of Sutton has this year come top of the England GCSE league tables. The key benchmark upon which all schools in England are measured is the percentage of pupils achieving five good GCSEs (A* to C) including English and Mathematics. The national average for 2011 was 58.2%. The average for Sutton was about 15% above the national average, at 74.7%. This represents far higher achievement of Sutton schools than many other schools in England. Only three other local authorities were able to achieve an average above 70%. They were Kensington and Chelsea, with an average of 73.1%; Hammersmith and Fulham, with an average of 71.3% and Kingston upon Thames, with an average of 71%.

There are currently five selective and one independent school in Sutton and some argue that the success of the borough is at least partly to do with the performance of these schools. Sutton Grammar School, Nonsuch High School, Wallington County Grammar School and Wilson’s School all had 100% of pupils achieving the benchmark set by the government. Wallington High School for girls had 99% and Sutton High School, an independent school, had 98%. However, the performance of the borough cannot be put down to this alone, as only 3 of Sutton’s 15 secondary schools had an attainment rate lower than the national average. These were Carshalton High School for Girls, Carshalton Boys Sports College and Stanley Park High School. The borough average therefore reflects the general level of achievement in Sutton.

There was a much wider range in the percentage of pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate (A* to C) GCSE passes in Mathematics, English, two science subjects, a language and either history or geography). Percentages ranged from 91% to only 1%, with many pupils across the borough failing to achieve the given grades in the required subjects to qualify. The league tables display a similar story when it comes to value added scores, which show the progress made from the end of key stage 2 to the end of key stage 4, giving a score of 1000 as the national average. In general, the results show that students made very good progress, again with only 3 schools below the national average.

The difference in results across the borough perhaps provides the opportunity for more partnership between schools, not only to improve the results of schools with lower rates of attainment, but also to enrich the schools that already perform well. This could further improve the results of Sutton’s students. Nevertheless, 2011 was a great year in terms of the results of many students in Sutton, with nearly three quarters achieving the basic benchmark of five A* to C passes. Hopefully, this success will continue in the years to come and with the recent conversion of Sutton’s secondary schools to academies, it will be interesting to see what difference this new status has on the performance of Sutton’s schools, if any.