DfE planning changes to Progress 8 in 2018

The Department for Education will change the methodology for its Progress 8 accountability measure in 2018, after a consultation revealed school leaders are angry over the “disproportionate” impact of outliers on their overall scores.

The changes will be made in response to “feedback from schools about the impact that a small number of pupils with extremely negative progress scores can have on a school’s overall Progress 8 score”, according to the DfE’s ‘School and college performance tables statement of intent’ for July 2017.

The DfE said it would work with the sector to find the best approach this autumn.

It has also promised to inform those working with school data, including Ofsted, regional schools commissioners and local authorities, of the potential impact on a school’s Progress 8 score of pupils with “extremely negative progress scores”.

The impact of these pupils’ scores on Progress 8 will also be “taken into account where a school is below the floor standard or coasting in 2017”.

The Progress 8 initiative was introduced in 2016 to try and capture all pupils’ average progress from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school, information that is then translated into a rating for the school, but concerns have began to surface.

Former head Tom Sherrington, for example, described the measure as an “embarrassment” that the government should “ditch“, in an article for Schools Week earlier this month.

The DfE also published research yesterday on schools’ views of the measure’s implementation, which found interviewees torn between the interests of individual children and their school’s overall result.

The ‘understanding schools’ responses to the Progress 8 accountability measure report found that every one of the 21 schools and 38 leaders interviewed are concerned by the “impact of outliers”, on their Progress 8 scores.

By this they mean the pupils who do not achieve as expected at GCSE due to “illness, bereavement, or referral to alternative provision” who have a “disproportionately negative” effect on a school’s overall score.

These effects are especially felt in smaller schools or those that already have negative Progress 8 scores, participants said.

School leaders also identified a “lack of contextualisation”, claiming that current Progress 8 calculations do not allow for variation due to special education needs, English as an additional language, or areas of deprivation.

The report found interviewees from schools with negative Progress 8 scores felt that pupils’ best – rather than their first – assessment entry should be counted, to reflect those who achieve higher grades in resits, for example.

Overall, 34 of the 38 interviewees claimed their understanding of the Progress 8 measure was ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, but further discussions revealed “inaccuracies or misconceptions” when discussing technical details.

The report concluded that “further guidance and support is required”, and recommended providing more support for schools on the calculation, as well as information on which combinations of qualifications have been approved.

CooperGibson Research carried out the study, conducting telephone interviews with 38 individuals across 21 schools. Twenty-five participants were senior school leaders (headteachers, deputy headteachers/vice principals), and 13 were middle leaders (heads of department, data managers).

They represented a range of academies and local authority maintained schools, with 17 mixed, three girls’ schools, and one boys’ school across the country.

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  1. Anthony

    School leaders seem to be running from their senses with the decades long political pressure to measure students in one way or another. To refer to more challenging students who don’t make us look good as “outliers” in the same week that the government resurrects that 90% of students should study the exact same suite of subjects (EBACC) is alarming indeed.

    Where is the understanding that humans come in all sorts of flavours.

    Now that “outliers” will be erased from one set of measures and Arts and Design subjects are eventually squeezed out by another – what will we do when we have no chefs, engineers, dancers, film makers. musicians, artists…. etc. We can’t invite them from elsewhere with the uncertainties of Brexit either – no one wants to come here when we are sending a message that their not welcome!

    Ironically, on the plus side, the current funding and recruitment crisis means that the number of language teachers needed for 90% of students to study the EBACC will take ages to materialise unless something really radical happens – like joined up thinking for once.

    In the meantime, lets defend the balance in our curriculum and celebrate that we are all different and therefore contribute in different ways – I’ve lost count of how many “outliers” I’ve taught over the years who drove me up the wall at the time but have kept in touch long enough to make a point of telling me how hard they are working to feed their families and provide much needed tradesmen for this country.

  2. Shardik

    Is Progress 8 the ideal method of assessing the progress of students in our schools? No.

    Was the old method of 5 A*-C better? No.

    Why was a change forced upon us?

    Whilst we can never know for sure, there is certainly an argument that the “games” played by some schools such as using continual resits, sitting exams from more than one board or entering students for meaningless low value qualifications that did not “build the individual” or “contribute to the welfare of society by providing well rounded educated people to enter the workplace” have contributed to someone upon high saying “Enough” !

    The old system allowed for a school where 70% of students gained 5 A*-C including English and maths to branded “Requires Improvement” whilst a school with 30% 5 A*-C can be branded “Outstanding”. If you work in the first school, the old system seemed less than ideal.

    It is arguable that Progress 8 provides better context because it is comparative at a micro level. This puts the spotlight on schools that have deceived the public, the Government and themselves into believing they are doing a good job when in fact they were not.

    Progress 8 definitely changes the balance in which schools will be seen as Good or Outstanding and has refocused the minds of Educationalists. In this sense at least, it has been a success.

    There will need to be tweaks but actually Progress 8 is a workable solution which is actually fairer for many schools and the revised system of measuring Ebacc via an APS system means that we need not be designing a curriculum in which every student has to take a Foreign Language and means that teaching Art or Construction can be seen as better options for some students.

    In conclusion, bring it on. Some will never like it or agree with it. Others will see the challenge of raising the standards in their school to meet the new challenge and embrace it.

  3. This is not management, but oppression. Transferring responsibility for lesson observations from trained inspectors, regulated by HMI and working to their standards, to untrained and over-assertive managers, who don’t know the difference between one subject and another, was an ignorant, arrogant decision by the politicians and chief inspector in 2005-6, and has still to be corrected. “You are not competent” – to a Teach First consultant -“I am a national leader in in education” – as if that meant anything – was perhaps a more extreme example of this arrogance, from someone who employed 6 TF linguists, and then would not let them teach any languages. It is not untypical. There is nothing to be done about it that I can see. It was Labour’s idea, and the Consevatives have not corrected it. Ofsted can’t – it does not have the resources. Ignorance rules.