Spielman: Schools should put less faith in predicted grades


Ofsted’s chief inspector has told schools to put “less faith” in predicted grades – warning they can do “more harm than good”.

Amanda Spielman said it is time for schools to move away from focusing on how targets will be achieved and should instead focus on the “substance of education”.

Speaking at the National Governance Association summer conference in London this morning, Spielman asked if it was “even helpful” to ask schools to predict grades.

She said: “An overblown interest in predictions can drive schools away from the substance of education. I can understand the superficial attraction, but it’s sometimes allowing the wrong things to happen.

“Predictions are at least as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. So please let’s put a little less faith in them. We’re not saying you can never use them, but do remember they can do more harm than good.

“It is possible to do them well, but what purpose do they serve and where else could that time and effort be used?”

Many sector voices have expressed concern about the accuracy of and reliance on predicted grades.

Writing in Schools Week last year, Walden Education co-founder Ben White warned that grade predictions even relatively late in a course have “limited reliability” and said ending the focus on the “speculative numbers and letters” could help reduce workload.

Ofqual’s chief regulator Sally Collier has previously rejected introducing any red alerts to flag up potentially erroneous GCSE and A-level results before they are released to students on the basis that it would not be “efficient or effective” for boards to rely on predicted grades to spot marking errors.

Spielman told the conference that predicting grades and comparing them against actual outcomes can have a “very, very powerful effect on making all the school conversation about how the target numbers are going to be achieved rather than about making sure children have the best possible education”.

“Setting targets and pushing to achieve those numbers rather than to achieve the education that ought to lie underneath it has very much become commonplace. What we’re trying to do is shift the conversation to being about education and not the numbers.”

She said she had “similar misgivings” about flight paths, and warned that pupil progress is “not necessarily linear”.

“Progress should be measured by how much a child has learned of the curriculum, rather than when or whether they are hitting a particular target.”

Spielman also used her speech to warn schools against collecting internal data in a way that “puts undue pressure on teachers’ time” and said that if a school’s data collection system is “disproportionate or inefficient or unsustainable for staff” then Ofsted will reflect this in their inspection report “and could well grade the school less than good”.

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  1. Gary Watson

    Spielman is right but it is the high-stakes, data driven and one-dimensional accountability measures that are the culprit not schools. The true meaning of education has been lost but don’t blame schools and teachers for that. Instead, look at how schools are still being judged. Ofsted and DfE can still use their targets can they?