Secondary school accountability measures

30 October 2013

You may remember the many, many consultations on education reform that the government ran over the summer. The responses and resulting policy are now slowly being published; last month we had the new National Curriculum, this month it is the new secondary school performance measures.

You can read David Laws’ speech on the subject here and you can see the full government response to the consultation here.

We now know there will be four main headline performance indicators for schools:

  • Attainment 8 – Schools will be asked to publish league tables of children’s attainment in their 8 Best GCSE subjects. These 8 GCSEs will need to include English, Maths and at least three other English Baccalaureate subjects (English and Maths will be double weighted - which is good news for English Literature - read this post from English and Media Centre to find out why).

  • Progress 8 – Schools will be judged on the progress that young people make in these 8 Best GCSE subjects. Children’s scores in Maths and English SATs at the end of Key stage 2 will be used as the baseline to assess how much progress has been made. The results will be calculated using the actual results of pupils with the same prior attainment.

It’s important to note that this indicator replaces the previous ‘floor standard’ for schools of ‘5 A-C Grades at GCSE including English and Maths’. A school will now fall below the floor standard if pupils make an average of half a grade less progress than expected across their 8 subjects. Schools in which pupils make an average of one grade more progress than expected across their 8 subjects will be exempt from being inspected by Ofsted during the next academic year (unless there are exceptional circumstances, for example where there are safeguarding concerns). However if a school is seeking an improved Ofsted grade, they can elect to opt-in for inclusion in the normal Ofsted inspection cycle.

  • Percentage of pupils achieving a C grade or better in English and Maths.

  • The English Baccalaureate – the number of children getting five A to C grades in English, Maths, Science, Geography or History and a Modern Foreign Language.

The new measures will come in to force in 2016, but are likely to influence school decisions on which GCSE options to offer from now on.

It’s important to note that the EBacc hasn't been removed as a measure since its introduction in 2010.

The government is still considering whether or not to add a fifth indicator to the list: measuring pupil’s destinations into education, employment or training.

What is good about this?

The two new ‘8 Best’ performance measures have the potential to reflect children’s progress and attainment in arts subjects as well as EBacc subjects and English and Maths. This might prove to incentivise schools to continue to offer and invest in the arts in their curriculum and beyond.

What needs to be addressed?

This new system is extremely complex and seems to require a great deal of explanation from the DfE and others. It is hard to see how schools, parents and the public will be able to easily navigate it.

It is important to note that although the DfE press release refers to ‘English, Maths, 3 English Baccalaureate subjects and 3 others’, in reality, English, Maths and Science in themselves often take up 6 of the ‘slots’ that ‘8 Best’ offers - leaving very little room for other choices once the other mandatory EBacc subjects have been taken into account.

We continue to be very concerned about the emphasis on the EBacc subjects from government. Figures show a drop in Arts GCSEs of 14% already. As detailed in our report last month (you can read it here), we can now say with absolute certainty that some children take no arts GCSEs.

What do you think? Do you have examples of how these new measures are affecting GCSE option blocks? As always get in touch and let us know how this is affecting you and what your take is on it all.