On Monday 14th October the Department for Education published its response to the secondary school accountability consultation, detailing the planned changes to the performance tables and accountability measures.
As already suggested in the initial consultation document earlier this year, a number of significant changes will be made in terms of performance measures and floor standards, most notably the removal of the 5 A*-C measure in favour of the ‘Progress 8’ measure.
In February of this year it was announced that the league tables in their current form would be scrapped, as it was argued that teachers are currently focusing too much on the C/D “borderline” pupils at the expense of pushing students with lower or higher ability to their full potential.
In order to combat this issue, schools will be required to publish four different performance measures which will ultimately be included in the league tables.
This will consist of the average grade across eight subjects, which is claimed to ‘reward schools offering a broader curriculum’. These eight subjects consist of English and maths, three other ‘core’ Ebacc subjects, and three other ‘high quality’ subjects which can either be academic or vocational.
English and maths will be double weighted to reflect their importance.
As well as the average grade, a progress measure will be introduced across the above eight subject. This will show how much pupils have progressed in these subjects between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 and will be compared to the actual achievement of other pupils with the same prior attainment.
This existing measure will show the proportion of students achieving ‘good grades’ in the EBacc subjects seen above (English, maths, a language, a science, and a humanities subject).
English and Maths
As English and maths are considered to be the most important subjects, the existing measure of the proportion of students achieving at least a C in these subjects will remain.
The current floor standard schools are expected to reach revolves around the 5 A*-C GCSE measure. This will be scrapped in favour of a progress measure based on the above eight subjects, with current methods described by David Laws to be ‘paradoxically unfair’ and to permit “schools, particularly in affluent areas, to coast”.
The plan is to set floor standard at “half a grade lower than reasonable expectations” for progress. There are currently just below 200 schools not meeting the existing floor standards and the Department for Education estimates around double would be below the new floor standard.
In order to recognise the achievement of schools on the opposite end of the scale, those with students a full grade above expectations will not be inspected by Ofsted the following year.
As schools have already planned their current GCSE years around the existing accountability measures, the new system will begin in 2016, although schools will be allowed to opt in from 2015.
Reaction so far
Overall reaction from the unions has been fairly positive, with the NAHT (National Association of Headteachers) stating that “this overhaul represents a significant step in the right direction” adding that it was “pleasing that these reforms are being implemented on a manageable timescale and following a meaningful consultation”.
Christine Blower from the NUT (National Union of Teachers) agreed that the decision to broaden the attainment measures was “a step in the right direction” but criticised the fact that the new “accountability measures will put many more schools below the new floor targets”.
Brian Lightman, leader of ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) also welcomed the move towards progress measures, but criticised the “other ad hoc changes to the examination system”, and the undermining of teacher confidence through “emotive accusations that headteachers have been ‘gaming’ or cheating”.