Gaps limiting your Progress 8
As you start to analyse your 2018 KS4 results it seemed a good moment to reflect on what the 2017 Performance Tables can tell us about the perils and pitfalls of Progress 8 (P8). To do the analysis I have only used data from the 2 692 schools or colleges that had a P8 score based on at least 100 pupils at the end of KS4 in 2017.
The obvious gaps, which will not be news to anyone, are based around gender and disadvantage. In 2017 the average P8 score for girls in maintained schools in England was +0.18. The score for boys was -0.24. The gap between how boys and girls perform at KS4 in England is a serious national concern and for some schools the performance of boys anchored their P8 score in 2017. However, none of the top 50 P8 schools with boys in their cohort scored less than +0.50 for boys and 9 of them scored over +1.00.
The disadvantage gap reveals a similar story. In 2017 the average P8 score for disadvantaged pupils in maintained schools in England was -0.4. However, none of the top 20 P8 schools with disadvantaged pupils in their cohort scored less than +0.50 for that cohort and 8 of them scored over +1.00.
Perhaps a key message is that maximising P8 depends on ensuring that boys and disadvantaged pupils keep up and make as much progress in school as their peers. In the DfE Research Report ‘School cultures and practices: supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils’ (May 2018) the culture in schools was isolated as of critical importance. High-performing schools work hard to ensure a positive culture reaches every corner of their school: ‘in the high-performing schools we visited all teachers shared the school’s positive values and these even shaped parents’ expectations regarding children’s behaviour outside school’.
Although the statistics do not leap out of the Performance Tables, I will conclude this section by stating that many schools will yet again in 2018 see the progress made by White British students, especially boys, as a significant issue. Where that is the case, it is imperative that your values as a school do have a positive impact on the whole school community.
The EBacc Gap
During 2017-18 I became increasingly convinced that pursuing the EBacc could also be a limiting factor on a school’s P8 score.
Obviously, all schools do need to ensure each student can study 3 EBacc subjects successfully to meet the P8 EBacc Bucket requirements, but how about the full EBacc?
From 2018 the EBacc requires students to study English Language and English Literature, maths, a language, 2 or 3 sciences and history or geography at GCSE.
In 2017, 38.2% of pupils in maintained schools in England were entered for the EBacc. For 2017*, the 5+ EBacc measure showed how many pupils achieved both:
- a grade 5 or above in English and maths GCSE
- a grade C or above in science, a language, and geography or history
Of the 38.2% of pupils who took the full EBacc qualifications in 2017, 23.7% achieved the EBacc at grade 4+ and 21.3% did so at grade 5+.
By 2022, 75% of pupils will be expected to study this combination of subjects and the Department for Education has an ambition that 90% of pupils will take the EBacc by 2025.
However, as only slightly more than half the pupils entered for the full EBacc in England in 2017 achieved it at 5+, the obvious question is might some of these pupils have gained higher results if they had not met the EBacc entry requirements by, for example, studying a creative GCSE rather than a language?
In 2017 54 schools had a gap between full EBacc entry and its achievement at 5+ greater than 50%. Of these, 33 had a negative P8 Open Bucket score – in many cases very significantly so.
Obviously, the EBacc gap does not always mean that there will not be 3 subjects in pupils’ Open Bucket that represent strong progress, especially if a pupil has two strong English grades and only underachieved in one EBacc subject, but it is my contention that for some pupils and their schools implementing an EBacc curriculum for 75% of pupils by 2022 is liable to damage the school’s P8 score and, more importantly, place a limit on some pupil’s achievements at KS4. In the worst-case scenario some pupils may not achieve the outcomes at KS4 that qualify them for Level 3 study post-16 because they were not able to study all the subjects they were most likely to excel at.
GCSE Performing and expressive arts entries have fallen by 265 over the past five years, while media, film and TV studies entries have dropped by 22% and drama entries are down 14%.
On 12 August the Sunday Times carried a leaked story suggesting that the 2019 Ofsted Framework will require Inspectors to identify and mark down ‘exam factory’ schools that narrowly ‘teach to the test’ and do not offer a rich education including art, music, sport and drama.
According to the Sunday Times, the chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, believes children are being ‘betrayed’ in such schools.
Yet the pursuit of more and more pupils taking EBacc qualifications is very likely to further limit the study of creative subjects to the early years of secondary school for most pupils.
In 2017 all the schools where at least 95% of the cohort studied the full EBacc had cohorts with average KS2 points greater than 30. Conversely, over 100 schools had fewer than 10% of students entered for the full EBacc in 2017 and 18 schools had 0%.
Wherever you are on the EBacc spectrum in 2018, my advice would be that you ought to put your pupils first and do the best you can to ensure each is studying the curriculum that will enable them to do the best they can in KS4 in order that they can move on to positive pathways aged 16 and beyond.
* The EBacc measure is changing to a school’s EBacc average point score for the results of exams taken in 2018 onwards.