Problem 2: Progress 8 is a Very Blunt Figure
(Image from Geralt – Pixaby)
Yes, Progress 8 is a blunt figure, a made-up number, which doesn’t compare like with like – it is far too influenced by the size of your cohort, the make-up of the cohort and the choice of subjects they took. It is far harder for FSM students, or less able students to make progress. Middle class kids do better. Etc. The most influential blog about this is arguably this one by Tom Sherrington:
Well, yes. These are all theoretical objections to Progress 8, as a final number. Let’s assume they are valid reasons for dismissing that number (I don’t, but that’s too long a blog post).
But progress 8 is made up of dozens of measures. For example, you can download progress 8 data for every school in the country. Visit the performance tables http://bit.ly/PerformanceTables and you will find 371 columns, each measuring a different aspect of your school. Then it compares your school to every other school in the country. You can use these very forensically to find precise answers, precise comparisons with schools very like your own. Let me give you some examples.
I want to know how my disadvantaged students did compared to disadvantaged students nationally. I can rank each school by Progress 8 for just their disadvantaged students. I can select or filter for only those schools with a similar number of disadvantaged students to my own school.
I can do the same with students by entry – I can look at average APS (their scores in year 6 SATS), or I can filter simply for those entering as low (level 3), middle (level 4) or high (level 5 and 6). Again, I can find the top schools with each cohort, or I can find all the schools which have a similar makeup to mine. I can look at EAL, Local Authority, funding per pupil etc, etc.
There is even a broad shortcut which ranks your school against 54 other schools with similar intakes by APS.
You can do the same for each of the cohorts above, just looking at English, or at maths, or at the different elements of science, humanities and MFL, or the Ebac.
Why would you do this?
Because you want your students to do well. If 100 schools in the country have the same number of FSM students as you, but all have significantly higher Progress 8 for those students, wouldn’t you want to know why? Wouldn’t you want to reach out to or better still visit some in the top 10? Because they have exactly the same sorts of problems as your school, but they have overcome them for their students. You simply have to visit, don’t you?
And what if there aren’t just 100, but 200, or 300 or 1000? You’d see the need to improve then, wouldn’t you?
Or you find that there are 100 schools in the country with cohorts just like yours with significantly better more able results, English results, maths results, MFL results, less able results, SEN results, etc, etc.
If you can filter the list to find schools very similar to your own, but getting much more progress form their particular cohorts than you are, how could you not want to visit them?
So, yes, your whole school Progress 8 may be a blunt tool. But you can sharpen it much more precisely by delving into the spreadsheet and finding out exactly where you are in the big picture, compared to schools as close to yours as you can find. And because it includes every single school in the country, it would take a mind-boggling egotist to claim that they can’t find a school with enough similarities to learn from.