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Lesley Welsh

Preparing for Progress 8

Lesley Welsh discusses how schools are getting ready for the DfE's new accountability system

Posted by Stephanie Broad | February 29, 2016 | Teaching

From this year, the Department for Education’s (DfE) new accountability system will be implemented in all schools across the country. Schools now have to show they are supporting the growth of all their pupils, with one of the measures, ‘Progress 8’, providing a consistent way of measuring pupils’ progress from KS2 to KS4 against other pupils nationally. It will be calculated for individual pupils in order to determine a school’s overall score. But what does it really mean for schools, and how can they prepare?

The introduction of Progress 8 means that all schools are now on a level playing field, regardless of intake, and are measured in the same way. For teachers of all subjects we need a focus on Every Pupil Positive, which is our mantra at the school. The idea behind it is that if every pupil makes positive progress they will get a positive Progress 8 score hence the school will get an overall positive Progress 8 score. It makes it easier for all stakeholders to have a common focus throughout the curriculum.

While undoubtedly many schools will experience a period of adjustment, particularly in the early part of this year, with the right support, I’m sure that by this time next year, any kinks or uncertainties will be well and truly ironed out.

Since 2010, our school’s renewed focus has been for pupils to achieve expected or higher than expected levels in maths and English; this was then rolled out to all subjects using average KS2 as a starting point. Therefore, the change in mindset for pupils and teachers here was already developing. This is why we envisage the new Progress 8 measure as simply a development of this. Caution has to be taken however, with more able pupils (those with a level 5b or above on entry) as to be considered positive, or to achieve a positive Progress 8 score, they will need to make five levels of progress does mean making five levels of progress in all subjects and we must consider pupils’ wellbeing.

Pupils at Manor Community Academy

As additional preparation for Progress 8, we have been closely monitoring and analysing pupils’ estimated grades in all subjects, to ensure that we are aware of the whole picture, rather than a narrow focus on progress in maths and English solely. Our highly skilled middle leaders have developed a rigorous way of analysing which pupils to focus on; using a three step process we identify, intervene, and then monitor the impact of key marginal pupils. Our data analysis systems are extremely detailed and teachers’ data collections are scrutinised and based on thorough evidence.

Nevertheless, we are aware that we too will face challenges in our preparation. For example, our most vulnerable pupils who will not achieve eight qualifications risk having an adversely negative score which will impact on the school’s overall Progress 8 score. Therefore, we need to focus more than ever on moving key marginal pupils up by one grade in each subject.

Will it really bridge the attainment gap?

If achievement improves, then it suggests that attainment will follow. Everyone’s starting points are different; therefore if we focus on all pupils making more than expected progress, this will help bridge the attainment gap. Progress for pupils who arrive at school with a low to middle starting point will find their efforts are more rewarded due to the introduction of Progress 8.

There are also a number of resources that can further help to bridge the attainment gap.  

For example, we’ve been using SAM Learning’s Switch On, a support programme which is actually proven to close the gap between disadvantaged students and other students in the school, while raising attainment levels overall. It gives us the opportunity to hone in on the different skills of our more disadvantaged students and groups, then allows us to use our three step process as outlined above, with the best possible outcomes for our students.  

It’s certainly a time of change for the education sector. It will be interesting to see what schools’, and possibly more importantly, what teachers’ views are on Progress 8 this time next year. I, for one, am really looking forward to the positive results we’re sure to see.

Lesley Welsh is vice principal, EBACC and teaching and learning, Manor Community Academy, Hartlepool.

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