Schools that entered pupils early for GCSEs in the past two years face a drop in their Progress 8 scores this year after the government confirmed those results will not count in league tables.
One school number-cruncher predicted an average drop of 0.2 points in Progress 8 scores for those affected. There were about 100,000 early entries in 2020 and 2021.
The government had already said that results from teacher assessed grades in 2020 and 2021 will not count in secondary league tables, which will be published this year for the first time in three years.
However, the Department for Education confirmed this will also apply to qualifications sat by current year 11 students when they were in years 9 and 10.
Progress 8 is calculated based on pupil achievements across eight subject “buckets”, with missing qualifications each giving a score of zero.
Peter Atherton, a school data manager and blogger, predicted the average school with early entries would see a drop of 0.2 points in their Progress 8 score.
Schools without early entries “could see their Progress 8 score be boosted by an equivalent amount”.
To prevent these issues, the Department for Education should “either reduce the measures that are valid for inclusion in the performance tables or allow schools with early entries to opt out of publication of affected measures”, he added.
English results won’t count, but 2022 exams double-weighted
After religious studies, the most common subject entered early is GCSE English literature, which had 20,930 entries from year 10s in 2021.
English is double-weighted in Progress 8 calculations, meaning pupils’ results from their English language GCSE can be used for this year’s league tables.
But the government normally allows the other English qualification to be used for one of three “open” buckets, which will not be possible this year.
Atherton said one solution would be to allow the single English grade examined this year to count in “both the English and open” buckets.
But English isn’t the only EBacc subject affected. There were 4,260 early modern language entries and 2,135 in maths last year, while there were 1,000 entries in science subjects, French, Spanish, history, geography and computing.
Rachel Johnson, the chief executive of school network partnership Pixl, said the change would be “a worry” for schools with early entries who were “hovering around a negative Progress 8 score”.
But she pointed out pupils themselves had already received their grades and would not be disadvantaged “and I think that, to be honest, is the big thing that schools will be relieved about”.
Reconsider scrapping league tables, DfE told
The changes have also led to renewed calls for league tables to be shelved again this year.
Jonny Uttley, the chief executive of the Education Alliance Trust, said league tables were “flawed in a normal year”, but “indefensible” in 2022.
“Trying to compare one school with another will be a foolish exercise in comparing apples with pears.”
Tom Middlehurst, from the ASCL school leadership union, said the government’s decision meant league tables “will not accurately reflect the performance of schools”.
The results will “clearly disadvantage those schools that have entered students early, as their position in the tables will be artificially lower than they should be”.
The DfE said changes to its methodology “minimise, but cannot eliminate completely, the impact of gaps in data”.
Its approach is the “best option available”.
Alongside school-level league tables, the DfE has said it will also produce and publish multi-academy trust performance measures for 2021-22.
These will include Attainment 8 and attainment in English and maths at grade 5 or above for the first time.
The DfE will also need to change the way it uses key stage 2 results as a baseline for Progress 8 scores, although it has not set out its final plans yet.