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Theme definition

Education should enable everyone to maximise their potential and have control over their own life course and help them develop the knowledge and skills needed for stable employment.


The strategy outlined in MK Futures by MK Council is to ‘accelerate social mobility – 'making it easier for those in deprived communities to gain further skills.'

In this 2022 Vital Signs report we look at the extent to which all children are being supported in realising their potential.

Nursery Provision

In Milton Keynes, 90% of early years education is provided by, nurseries, pre-school, and registered childminders.

Extended hours entitlement of 30 hours is provided to parents or guardians on lower income during school term time, this equates to 22 hours across the whole year.

Of children aged 3-4 years old who accessed the universal entitlement to pre-school education, 46% qualified for the extended access.

MK City Council predicts that there will be sufficient education overall with 11 out of 17 areas projected to have sufficient places to meet the demands of their area.

These areas also have an excess of places that covers the shortfall in the remaining 6 areas.

Attainment at GCSE level

Between 2013 and 2019 there was a decline of 1.3% in the percentage of children in MK gaining 5 GCSEs at grade 4 and above / Grades A-C.

Nationally, there was a 5.2% improvement.*

(*Given the way GCSE results were awarded in the summers of 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, comparisons cannot be made accurately with the results in 2020 and 2021.)

There is a persistent gap in performance between those from advantaged and disadvantaged homes and between girls and boys both in MK and nationally.

In MK 55.6% of girls from advantaged homes gained GCSEs at Grade 5 and above in Maths and English, compared with 29.3% of boys from disadvantaged homes in 2021-22.

(Pupils are defined as disadvantaged if they have been eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years if they are recorded as having been looked after for at least one day or if they are recorded as having been adopted from care.)

Participation in education age 16-17

There has been little improvement in the participation rate in education, training, or work in MK from 2016 - 2021, among 16–17-year-olds, and the rate is lower than Bedford or Luton. [1]

Attainment at A level

The 2022 academic year saw the return of the summer examinations after they had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, where alternative processes were set up to award grades.

In Milton Keynes 77% of those from disadvantaged homes gained two or more academic A levels, compared with 87% of those who are not disadvantaged in 2021-22.

Those from disadvantaged homes achieved lower average A level grades.

Milton Keynes College

Milton Keynes College plays a role in facilitating social mobility in its provision of vocationally orientated qualifications and its recruitment of those from disadvantaged communities.

50% of the 16–18 year-olds who live in the nine most deprived areas of MK attend Milton Keynes College.

This is likely to benefit their social mobility as those who gain a qualification at Level 3 (i.e. equivalent to A levels or BTEC National Certificate) earn on average an additional £425,000 over the course of their career. (Milton Keynes College)

Milton Keynes College is leading a project together with a consortium of partners, to run the South-Central Institute of Technology (SCIoT) at Bletchley.  

This opened its doors in 2021 and offers higher level technical qualifications, apprenticeships, and short courses in digital subjects to meet local skill needs.

“Our goal is to enable people to have meaningful lives and careers within the community and help them develop resilience to deal with challenges. We act as a bridge to support students to succeed beyond their expectations. Form tutors takes responsibility for the welfare of a student and are accountable for there being appropriate intervention strategies.”

David Meadowcroft, Chair of Governors, Milton Keynes College.

Supplementary Schools

Milton Keynes City Council supports a network of some 90 Supplementary Schools, run by the community that students may attend at low cost in addition to their mainstream school. 

Pupils participate in activities that help preserve their community language and culture.

The schools support cohesion and are valued by parents and students. 

Children with moderate Learning difficulties

The incidence (rate per 1,000) of children with moderate learning difficulties i.e., Special Educational Needs (SEN) in MK is higher than the average for England and among comparator places.

The rate has fallen to 36.6 per 1,000 children in 2020 from 46.5 in 2015. [2]

Experts believe that recent rises in numbers nationally may represent a ‘catch-up’ following policy changes.

It may reflect greater awareness of SEN amongst educators, or changes in assessment and diagnostic tools.[3]

Prevalence of Special Educational Needs nationally is greater among boys than girls and among those eligible for free school meals. [4]

Progression to university

MK is underperforming in the percentage of the cohort who go onto high tariff universities and the percentage who are on free school meals going to any university.

For the year 2020-2021, 8% of the total Milton Keynes cohort progressed to a high tariff university, compared to 11% for England.  

In MK 27% of those on free school meals progressed to any university compared with 45.8% of the total cohort. [5]

Those from more disadvantaged background are more likely to not go to university for financial reasons. The lack of role models among family and friends may contribute to this trend. [6]

University provision in Milton Keynes

Despite the size and growth of MK, it has been a challenge to establish a face-to-face undergraduate university in the city.

Plans for the original building design of an undergraduate university campus, MK:U, which was due to launch in 2023 have been delayed due to lack of government funding. They have been able to open an Innovation Hub. 

The University is being spearheaded by the postgraduate Cranfield University, and planned to have a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 

MK:U has begun taking students on degree apprenticeships, but the qualifications come from Cranfield.

University of Bedfordshire has a small campus in MK offering six undergraduate degrees.

Vital Thinking

How can we support the achievement of young people from more deprived backgrounds?

Vital Action - Milton Keynes Christian Foundation

The Milton Keynes Christian Foundation is a charity that was set up around 35 years ago when the, now city, was still in its infancy.
For the last 15 years, the charity has been working on various social enterprise projects helping young people in the community who have struggled with mainstream education for a variety of different reasons. 

These young people, aged between 15-24, can come and work with the charity within one of their eight social enterprises.

They work three days a week for anywhere between six months and two years depending on their needs.

Three of the social enterprises run from Urb Farm in the very heart of Wolverton. 

‘Growing People’ explores sustainable alternatives to growing food for the local community.

‘Urban Beelievers’ is a bee-keeping enterprise who look after eight hives at Urb Farm and two hives in Central Milton Keynes.

The last enterprise is ‘the Learning Tree’ which is a forest school offering young people and adults a way to experience the outdoors in Urb Farm’s own woodland areas using holistic and therapeutic learning activities.

Photograph of an Urb Farm young persons hands that are shaped like a heart which are holding different types of tomatoes, showing the power of collective giving.

MK Community Foundation have provided funding for equipment for growing and harvesting the fruit and vegetables, as well as an additional seasonal beekeeper to work with the young people.

Sarah Mist the Project Manager for Urban Beelievers project said:

“It has had a huge personal impact for several trainees. One young girl aged 17 came to us after not leaving her own house for over two years.  She actually progressed so much she is now at Moulton College and not only that, she has also moved out of home and is now in independent accommodation. She’s now able to positively look towards the future, something that just wasn’t even thinkable a few years ago. 

Without the funding from MK Community Foundation being made available and allowing us to employ Steve, I just couldn’t have dedicated the time needed to help this young girl make these life changing decisions, support her throughout her journey and now help her as she progresses in the world of education.”

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