The EBacc and Progress 8

 

There will be a new headline performance measure for secondary schools from September 2016.  Schools will no longer be ranked according to the number of students passing achieving 5 A* to C GCSEs. Instead, Attainment 8   data will record the average score for their year 11 students across 8 subjects.  More significantly they will have to publish data for Progress 8   – a new value added measurement.  The Department for Education has invited schools to ‘opt in’ and provide Progress 8   data for 2015 – over 300 have done so[1].  As well as Attainment 8 and Progress 8 data, 2016 performance tables will also include the percentage of students achieving grade C in English and mathematics as well as the English Baccalaureate. 

For 2016, a   student’s   Attainment 8   is calculated on the following basis. 1 is equivalent to a grade G at GCSE with 8 equivalent to an A*[2].  Mathematics is double weighted, as is English, provided   the student has also been entered for English Literature.  The student is then scored on three EBacc subjects and then three other GCSE or recognised vocational qualifications.  Individual subject scores are totalled and then divided by 10 (because of the double weighting).  A student scoring 4.5 in 2016  for example would be performing between a  D and a C in their individual GCSEs

A   student’s   Progress 8   score will take on more significance. Performance levels at the end of KS4   will be compared with those at the end of KS2.  A student producing  a positive value- added return will be performing above the level expected by students with an equivalent  KS2 performance  and this will be expressed as a positive number [3]  A school’s Progress 8 score will be the average score for its student cohort.  For all mainstream students it will be expected to be at least zero.  If a school is 0.5% below its ‘floor standard’ the school may come under scrutiny by Ofsted

 What are the implications of Progress 8?

The government argues that because the new system is based on eight subjects it is broader than the EBacc and could mean the creative arts subjects are no longer squeezed out of curriculum. Also, because a student can include three vocational subjects in their score, it could represent a move away from a ‘one size fits all’ academic education in the way that Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wishaw appears to want[4]  In response to this however, a number of concerns can be identified.

Firstly, not completing the EBacc, will make it very difficult to record a positive progress 8 score.  Schools will recognise this and concentrate resources accordingly. Secondly it’s unrealistic for Year 11 subject targets to be based on English and maths tests completed in Year 6.  Progress 8 does not necessarily increase the chances of artistic and creative non-EBacc subjects returning to the curriculum. Schools will be reluctant to reintroduce these as it is likely results will be included in students’ scores immediately without there being the space for new courses to become properly established. Progress 8 is unlikely to encourage schools diversify their vocational provision. Instead they will continue to concentrate on the subject areas where they have expertise.  To count in performance tables, vocational courses have had to take on many of the characteristics of academic qualifications. A student completing a non-recognised vocational course will score nothing[5].

Progress 8 will lead, almost inevitably to a further increase in the role of data and of those responsible for collecting it, in driving the curriculum.  For example, data managers may insist that every student is entered (even if not properly prepared) for English Literature, to enable the doubling of their English score. Finally, Progress 8   can only increase in workload stress and cause a performance management nightmare with individual student attainment targets replacing group averages. In most schools, all of a student’s GCSE results will be included.

There are lots of unresolved issues surrounding Progress 8 on which teachers will need to remain vigilant. 

 

[1] For a list of schools that have, see http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/group.pl?qtype=NAT&superview=sec&view=progress8

[2] The numerical calculations will change when the new 1-9 GCSE grading system is introduced from 2017.

[3] See the DfE  Guide (page 16/17) for details of this calculation https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/497937/Progress-8-school-performance-measure.pdf

[4] Michael Wilshaw speech to Centreforum 18/01/16                                               https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/ambitions-for-education-sir-michael-wilshaw

[5] The numbers of vocational qualifications that qualify for performance tables have been severely reduced and no longer count as ‘multiple’ GCSEs. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/381074/2015_KS4_list.pdf

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