Schoolzone blog: How to win at Progress Eight

How to win at Progress Eight


19 Sept 2014


Gove often accused schools of "gaming" the performance data, as if it was a bad thing, but it's simply an inevitable consequence of the competitive culture which his (like many a previous) government encouraged via the league tables. He thought that the new progress eight measures would prevent this, but (if he's still interested) he'll be disappointed.

Students who have started their GCSEs this year will be the first to contribute GCSE performance data to the new P8 measure – that’s how soon the new accountability measures come into force.

When we asked teachers whether their schools would restrict GCSE options and develop other strategies, they all said that they definitely or probably would. Here are some of the ways they are thinking about.

But first: let's clarify what P8 is:

  • Students are measured according to their progress from KS2 - so if your school has a high performing intake, it's likely be more difficult to show progress
  • They're measured across eight subjects, with English and maths counting double, so their combined scores are divided by 10 to get the Attainment Eight score
  • Only certain subjects count in the Eight: English, maths, three EBacc subjects and three others, with a restriction on vocational qualifications
  • Schools have to add half a grade on average to the GCSE grades suggested by the KS2 SAT scores to avoid Ofsted.

So, if your school has a high intake but a lowish EBacc score you really need to think about "gaming" the system. Start by looking at your intake, compared to the national spread of KS2 data. How would you score on Attainment 8, based on the past few years' results (P8 is very difficult to predict without real KS2 standardised data)? Share results with local schools and see if you can work out how your relative performances will change. But remember, it's your ability to add value across the cohort that's the real challenge.

Restricting the number of GCSEs which students can take:
Some GCSE subjects are easier than others for students to achieve higher grades in. Schools could direct some students to take fewer (easier) GCSEs in order to gain more points, eg five grade 4s = 20 points, whereas eight grade 2s = 16 points.

Teachers showed a great deal of support for this idea: apart from having more time to devote to the less able, teachers like the emphasis on quality and can see the benefits of having more time for the higher performing students, too, if there are fewer lower performing ones taking their subject. However, it's likely to be difficult to achieve logistically and will only have a marginal impact on P8.

Reduction in the number of vocational subjects taken:
Vocational qualifications tend to be offered to the lowest performing students, but they have been devalued in recent years and their applicability to the new P8 measure is limited. So schools have to achieve a balance between offering courses in which students will be more likely to achieve some certification (but contribute nothing to P8) and courses which will, if students achieve a grade, contribute some (few) points to P8, but which will not be so highly valued by employers.

If they are inclined to shift towards the latter position, the number of vocational subjects offered will decline. This is a cause for concern for many teachers, including those who do not actually teach vocational subjects.

Restricting option choices:
Schools have previously directed students to certain subjects in order to boost EBacc scores, so it’s little surprise that teachers expect a similar strategy to be used in the all-important P8 measures.

PLUS: don't forget - where previously the C/D borderline was all-important (to both school and students) now, from the P8 point of view, all grade boundaries are as important as that one was. (For students, the pass grade is still essential, of course.)


Good luck





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