As of this week, schools can opt-in to be judged under the new Progress 8 league table measure in 2015 – a year early.
New headline performance measures are being introduced in 2016 when schools will be judged according to the progress their students make across eight eligible subjects, known as Progress 8.
New-look league tables will also include pupils’ average exam scores across the eight subjects, as well as the proportion of pupils who attain at least a C in English and maths and details of how many get five English Baccalaureate GCSEs.
Opting in now will mean schools agree to being judged against a floor standard based on Progress 8 and to data in the 2015 performance tables (published in early 2016) being based on the new measures.
It will also mean that Ofsted will take Progress 8 into account during school inspections. Information provided by the Department for Education (DfE) states: “Inspectors will be fully briefed on the opt-in process. When considering the 2015 results, inspectors will be aware of the school’s opt-in status. In all inspections, they will continue to make professional judgements based on a broad range of data and all other evidence gathered.”
However, the DfE has also confirmed that all schools will have their results published in traditional league tables in 2016 regardless of whether they opt-in or not in order to allow parents to “make comparisons between all schools”.
Last week, the DfE sent schools information about opting in to the new system and the window to opt-in opened on Monday (June 23) and will close at the end of June 2015.
The new Progress 8 approach will measure pupils’ progress as compared to the progress of students nationally who had the same key stage 2 results.
Benchmark data will be taken from the cohort three years previous in a bid to ensure that schools know what progress is expected for each pupil to meet national standards.
However, a transition period means that for schools opting in for 2015 and in the system’s first official year in 2016, pupil progress will be compared to that of similar pupils from within the same national cohort.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, the results from 2016 will be used to set national benchmarks. The three-year gap will then begin to roll forward – with 2017’s results providing the benchmarks for 2020 and so on.
A statement from the DfE said: “On June 20, we sent headteachers and principals information about the terms and conditions for opting in and the procedure for doing so. Schools must obtain the agreement of their governing bodies before signing up.
“In early 2015 schools will receive data indicating how the school would have performed against the new measures for its 2014 results. This information, which will not be published in the performance tables, will help each school plan for the new performance measures and decide whether to opt-in early.”
Teachers have criticised the new measure for offering less flexibility to schools. This is because out of the eight options, five subjects must be made up of English, maths and three other EBacc options. It effectively forces schools to ensure all pupils take five EBacc subjects.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “The real tragedy here is that the government is trying to convince people that it is giving pupils the flexibility to choose subjects and qualifications that suit their interests and talents when, against widespread public opposition, it continues to enforce its ideological belief in the narrow range of subjects that comprise the English Baccalaureate. While that is in place we cannot truly claim we have education for all.
“The amount of change schools face under this government already makes the important job of meaningful accountability and comparison difficult. Allowing schools to use different sets of measures further undermines this process.”
The National Association of Head Teachers has welcomed the chance to “test and pilot” the new measure, warning that it has “potentially significant implications for the ranking of schools and for school staffing decisions”.
General secretary Russell Hobby said: “The development of the Progress 8 measure has its problems but does represent a step forward in the measurement of school performance. It eliminates the cliff edge of the C/D borderline which created massive distortion. For the first time in many years, schools can be rewarded for the progress of every child.
“But no numerical performance measure is perfect. They contain assumptions and risks. They can never capture everything of value in an education. What does Progress 8 have to say about the values and ethos of a school, to take a topical example?”
Schools with any queries about opting in can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/progress-8-school-performance-measure