Department for Education and Employment: Grant Maintained Schools: Database
This dataset represents a snapshot of Grant Maintained (GM) Schools Database when it was transferred from the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) in 2000. It is effectively the final form of the database, as no additions or alterations are thought to have occurred after 1999 due to the redundancy of the system at the DfEE. The dataset provides information about the following subjects:
(1) GM conferences: The 'name' of the conference (normally the name of the town/city where the conference was held), the date of the conference, the venue of the conference (usually a hotel), and which schools attended the conference. In a small number of cases (210 records out of 5474 in the Attendance table), the status of a school's attempt to go GM is also indicated. Although the database was intended to record details of GM open days as well as GM conferences, in reality all of the records relate to GM conferences.
(2) Attempts to go GM: Details of attempts to gain GM status for schools, including who initiated the attempt (e.g. parents or the school's governors); the date when the attempt was initiated; the status of the attempt to go GM (e.g. whether the school was now operating as GM; whether proposals for going GM had been rejected by the Secretary of State); if parents had voted in favour of going GM, the date when the school published its proposals for acquiring GM status, the proposed date of operating as a GM school, and the date when a decision was taken by the Secretary of State to approve or reject the school's proposals. There could be more than one attempt to make a school GM provided that a ballot had not been held in the previous year. Each attempt is recorded in the database, together with its number in the sequence of a school's attempts; the maximum number of attempts appears to have been three.
(3) GM ballots: An attempt to obtain GM status would lead to up to two ballots of parents. For each ballot, the dataset records whether it was the first, second or a void ballot; the number of people eligible to vote in the ballot; the number and percentage who actually voted; the numbers and percentages who voted in favour and against going GM; the result of the ballot; whether the ballot was to be investigated by the DfEE (and the date when a decision to investigate the ballot was taken); the school's LEA at the time of the ballot; the political control of the LEA (for most LEAs this information is not provided); the school's parliamentary constituency and Member of Parliament at the time of the ballot, and the MP's political affiliation.
(4) Main data on schools: The name and contact details of a school; its LEA; its parliamentary constituency; the name of the head teacher; the name and contact details of the chairman of the board of governors; the name of a representative who had agreed to speak on GM issues; the 'phase' of education provided (e.g. primary, secondary); the type of school (e.g. grammar, comprehensive), and its type before becoming GM; the 'origin' of a school (a classification reflecting how it was maintained before becoming GM); any denominational affiliation; whether a school selected its intake of pupils; the number of pupils a school was approved to have in a single year entry; the lower and upper age limits of its pupils; whether a school had a sixth form, boarding pupils or nursery places; whether the LEA had submitted proposals for a school's closure or reorganisation, and the date on which proposals were published; why and when a school was closed; the gender of pupils of statutory school age at the school; and the category to which a GM school was assigned following the abolition of GM status. Some of these details appear in only a handful of records, and occasionally not at all (e.g. the GM Speaker Name field - which records the names of speakers on GM issues - is entirely empty). The schools covered include schools which became GM, schools where an attempt was made to become GM, and schools which attended GM conferences.
(5) Changes to schools' identifying details: If a school's LEA, name or 'school number' (the school's establishment number) changed during the life of the database, the former details are recorded, together with the date when the change occurred. Virtually all of the changes appear to have occurred to LEAs and establishment numbers.
(6) Changes to schools' characters: Where a significant change was proposed to the character of a GM or prospective GM school (e.g. to add or remove a sixth form or change the school's selection policy), the dataset records the type of change proposed; the date when the proposal was submitted to the Secretary of State; the result of the proposal (e.g. whether the change was approved or rejected); and the date of implementation of the change. The table which records significant character changes (the History table) also records the lower and upper age limits of pupils at the school, and (rarely) the school's selection policy. In some cases, the lower and upper age limits differ from those recorded in a school's main details (in the School table).
(7) Schools' Census data: A selection of data derived from schools' returns in the annual Schools' Census, held in January of each year. This includes: the year of the Census to which the data relates (data is held for the 1995-1999 Schools' Censuses); the numbers of full-time and part-time pupils at the school; the gender of pupils of statutory school age and outside the statutory school age; the numbers of full-time and part-time nursery pupils; the number of sixth form pupils; the numbers of full-time and part-time teachers, and the number of full-time equivalent teachers (i.e. full-time teachers plus the full-time equivalent of part-time teachers); the number of pupils with statements of special educational needs; the number of pupils with special educational needs but without statements; the numbers of 5 year olds and 11 year olds who entered the school that year; and the number of pupils receiving free school meals.
(8) Local Education Authorities: The names of LEAs, their political control, the date the LEA began operating (in the case of LEAs created by local government reorganisation during the lifetime of the database - a 'dummy' date is entered for LEAs which predated the database), and the date an LEA was dissolved.
(9) Members of Parliament: The names of MPs, their constituencies and their political affiliations. The list of MPs (in the MP table) reflects the composition of the House of Commons following the 1997 General Election.
(10) Groups of GM schools: Schools which decided to group together under a single governing body are identified. In practice, only one group (or 'cluster') consisting of two GM schools is recorded.
The datasets in this series are available to download. Links to individual datasets can be found at piece level.
Hardware: 'Version 101A' of the GM Schools Database was accessed via networked PCs. No information is available regarding the hardware used prior to that time.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows NT 4 at time of transfer to NDAD in 2000.
Application Software: 'Version 101A' developed in Microsoft SQL Server 6.5. This database management system was used in conjunction with a report writing application, R&R Report Writer SQL.
User Interface: Hierarchy of users headed by a database manager, with a small number of individuals authorised to add or amend data, and a larger number with read-only access. Users moved through the system via a series of menus and windows which allowed them to view or add data, generate standard and ad hoc reports, produce mailing lists, search for records on a particular school etc. The standard reports which could be generated included a 'Progress' report, which provided statistics on schools' attempts to become GM; and a report which listed selected details on an individual school (also known as a 'Data Dump' report).
Logical structure and schema: The GM Schools Database was a relational database consisting of tables linked in 1:many and many:1 relationships. The system included a number of lookup tables which defined the codes entered in certain fields in the data tables. The Dataset Catalogue provides a full listing of the tables in the dataset, while the Table Catalogues linked to the Dataset Catalogue give a detailed description of each table.
Dynamic or closed: Appears to have had a mixture of dynamic and closed (static) elements. Many tables clearly record data which was intended to be preserved and would not have been overwritten. On the other hand, it is likely that data in the School table (the main information about schools) was meant to be amended as new information was received, as it was felt necessary to preserve a record of changes to certain identifying details of schools in a separate History table. The listing of Members of Parliament (in the Mp table) was also altered reflect the membership of the House of Commons after the 1997 General Election.
How data was originally captured and validated: Most of the information in the database was gathered through the administrative processes connected with the monitoring of GM and prospective GM schools by the DfEE and its predecessors. Data on GM ballots was supplied by Electoral Reform (Ballot Services) Ltd (a subsidiary company of the Electoral Reform Society), which was responsible for administering GM ballots. Information was also derived from schools' proposals to the Secretary of State for acquiring GM status. Schools' Census data was supplied by Analytical Services Branch of the DfEE, which was responsible for administering the Schools. A facility appears to have been developed to automatically extract data from the annual Schools' Census datasets and import the data into the GM Schools Database.
Random checks of data input to the database were carried out to ensure that data had been keyed correctly, but otherwise no attempt was made to validate the data.
The concept of grant maintained schools was introduced by the Education Reform Act 1988. This allowed schools which had been maintained by a Local Education Authority (LEA) to 'opt out' of the LEA's control and receive their funding via grants from the central government. When a school obtained GM status, its governing body was reconstituted, taking over ownership of the school's property from the LEA and becoming the employer of the school's staff. It also became responsible for the school's admissions policy. Initially, only LEA-maintained secondary schools and primary schools with at least 300 registered pupils could seek GM status. The removal of the size limit on primary schools was announced by the government in 1990, while the Education Act 1993 allowed special schools (i.e. schools for pupils with special educational needs) to become GM. The 1993 Act established the Funding Agency for Schools to administer and monitor grant payments to GM schools. The provisions of the 1988 and 1993 Acts were consolidated in the Education Act 1996, which laid down the following procedures whereby schools could become GM:
- Each year, the governing bodies of schools were obliged to consider whether to hold a ballot of parents on whether to seek GM status.
- Governing bodies were required to ballot parents if a written request to do so was received from the parents of at least 20 percent of the registered pupils at the school.
- A second ballot of parents had to be held if less than 50 percent of those eligible to vote did so; the results of a second ballot were final. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment could invalidate a ballot and order a further ballot if irregularities were detected.
- If a simple majority of parents voted in favour of becoming GM, the governing body had to publish proposals for the acquisition of GM status. These had to be produced within four months of the ballot and had to be approved by the Secretary of State, who could require modifications to the proposals.
- Once a school's proposals had been accepted, the new governing body would be incorporated. It would take over the running of the school from the previous governing body on the date named for the implementation of the proposals.
- Any proposal by a school to change its character significantly (e.g. by adding or removing a sixth form) or significantly expand its premises in conjunction with an application for GM status would have to be approved by the Secretary of State. Similarly, no existing GM school could significantly alter its character or enlarge or move its premises without the Secretary of State's approval.
- Two or more schools could seek GM status as a 'group', which would be conducted by a single governing body if the attempt to go GM was successful. Groups - or 'clusters' - were introduced by the Education Act 1993 to encourage small primary schools to become GM. Existing GM schools could also opt to come together as groups.
- New GM schools could be established by the Funding Agency for Schools or by 'promoters', subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. GM schools established by promoters could be former independent (i.e. private) schools.
Despite the encouragement of GM schools by the 1979-1997 Conservative governments, relatively few GM schools were established. By January 1998 there were 508 GM primary schools in England (compared to 17,804 LEA-maintained primary schools) 667 GM secondary school (versus 2,900 LEA-maintained secondary schools); and 21 GM special schools (versus 1,143 LEA-maintained special schools and 65 'non-maintained' special schools). In 1998 the new Labour government abolished GM Schools by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, which transferred responsibility or the maintenance of GM schools back to LEAs. The Act provided for the reclassification of former GM schools as foundation, voluntary aided or foundation special schools (schools could opt to be allocated to a different category than the one to which they were automatically assigned by the Act: it appears that a small number of ex-GM schools also became community schools). The Funding Agency for Schools was dissolved with effect from 1 November 1999.
It is unclear when data about GM schools began to be systematically recorded, though this must have occurred at an early stage, as the date fields in the dataset transferred to NDAD contain a number of dates from 1988. It is thought that originally there were two databases: one holding details of conferences and open days for schools on 'going GM', the other recording details of GM and prospective GM schools, parental ballots, the publication of schools' proposals on becoming GM, etc. Little information is available about these early systems, and it is not known when they were amalgamated into a single database. What is clear is that this dataset originated from a version of the GM Schools Database (known as 'version 101A') which was released on 1 September 1996.
The final modification to the system occurred in September 1999, when the new category field was added to the School table to record the classifications to which ex-GM schools were assigned following implementation of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Data was added to this field in September-October 1999, after which there appear to have been few additions to the database (the latest date recorded in the dataset is a date of December 1999 in the change date field in the History table). By late 2000 only two staff within the DfEE's School Admissions Organisation and Governance Division continued to have access to the system, which was rarely used. IT support for the database was intended to cease at the end of 2000.
Within the Department for Education and Employment and its predecessor departments, responsibility for GM issues and the GM Schools Database passed through a number of divisions, beginning with Schools 4 Branch of the Department of Education and Science. This Branch is believed to have created the two databases which were the precursors of the GM Schools Database. 'Version 101a' of the database was developed by the DfEE's Information Systems Division on behalf of School Places, Buildings and Governance Group, which dealt with GM issues. Responsibility for supporting the system and for modifications to it was subsequently outsourced from Information Systems Division to F.I. Group plc (in April 1997, F.I. Group took over responsibility for delivering application management services within the DfEE).
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