Tom Sherrington’s reflection on his school’s Progress 8 scores is a fascinating read, Dissecting Progress. The Good, the bad and the ugly. Last year Simon Eccles (@Head_stmarys), the headteacher at St. Mary’s, introduced me to the school’s new tracking board, based on students’ Progress 8 score.
The board had students split into groups according to their prior attainment – high, medium and low down the side – and a range from -3.0 to +3.0 across the top. A red dot on a photograph signified a student who was from a disadvantaged background (Pupil Premium) and a blue dot those with special needs.
A students’ Attainment 8 was calculated following mocks in November and March. We collect current grade data twice a year and then intervene where necessary. Increasingly we are seeking to move the intervention into the classroom based on an analysis of what students do/don’t know or can/can’t do. We’ve still some way to go but please read Data and Feedback Informed Teaching and Learning if you want to know more about our approach.
Using the previous summer’s Progress 8 formula – an inaccuracy in the system that is worth living with; the Progress 8 formula will change for each of the next few years – the Attainment 8 total is converted into a progress score. This process happened at each of the two mocks and students overwhelmingly moved from left to right.
The Progress 8 Board becomes a very visual representation of some of the real strengths of this progress measure. It also helps you understand the measure in real student terms. A student can be a high achiever irrespective of their prior attainment. Students who are coasting, irrespective of whether they had high middle or lower prior attainment can be identified and supported; every young person and every grade matters. The quiet idlers are suddenly screaming out at you from the board. Those with complex lives and multiple needs stay stubbornly on the far left unless intensive support is put in and makes a difference.
Simon wheeled the board out and chatted to staff and directors. The students’ pictures made the board very real. I like data but it doesn’t always mean a lot to every teacher; it can just be a dense impenetrable load of numbers. However, one of the smiling cherubs from their class staring out at you from the left hand side of the board, under a red negative number, is a universal alarm bell. A call to action.
The Flip Side
On the flip side of the Progress 8 Board was the standard 5+A*-CEM. Whilst Progress 8 is a decent means of assessing a school’s effectiveness, particularly if it was contextualised, it matters little to individual students. If they want to be happier, be healthier, earn more and live a little longer they need a passport to advanced levels studies and beyond. Often 5+A*-CEM is the passport so it’s still critical to track this especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Too many fall out of education at this point, we need to keep them in and progressing to Level 3 studies if we are to increase social mobility. No young person gets onto Level 3 courses based on good progress alone, particularly if you are one of the many students from disadvantaged backgrounds with statistically lower attainment at the end of Key Stage 2.
I need to pay tribute to the senior leaders at St. Mary’s who spent hours putting the board together and updating it. Also credit to all the teachers and support staff who spent many, many hours supporting young people and ensuring they made as much progress as possible.
Always enjoy these posts. Always something to think about.
Is it am exercise with sufficient value for you to repeat? Would you recommend it in light of the inspection framework refocus?
I wouldn’t worry about the inspection framework (though it is now increasingly progress focused); focus on every student’s progress because it is the right thing to do. We will definitely continue this type of work. The challenge over the coming years is determining current grade for the new GCSEs as they are introduced e.g. Maths & English this year.