Bill Watkin, Operational Director SSAT, writes…
When the last government announced the proposed new accountability measures for secondary schools, many felt that the move from 5+A*-CEM to Progress 8 was a good thing.
Less focus on the C/D borderline; more emphasis on progress rather than raw attainment; greater attention paid to eight subjects, not just five. This all made sense.
Yes, the EBacc measure would still be reported in the performance tables but would not be a determining factor in the floor standards.
Schools were encouraged to enter more students for EBacc subjects; to do otherwise, we were told, would be to do them a disservice because their chances of getting into the best universities and of securing the best jobs would suffer if they did not qualify in the more rigorous and aspirational disciplines.
However, the EBacc was not compulsory. There was a broad understanding that it was not suitable for all students.
Years of personalisation and flexible curriculum pathways had shown us that a critical tool in engaging learners was an accessible, appropriate and individualised (as far as possible) curriculum.
And it seemed that the government agreed:
‘We expect some schools to offer EBacc subjects to many more pupils as a result of these accountability reforms‘
Update on Progress 8 measure and reforms to secondary school accountability framework, DfE, January 2014
Many more pupils, but not all.
Even earlier this year, there seemed to be an understanding that curriculum and qualifications were not best served by a one size fits all approach.
Years of personalisation and flexible curriculum pathways had shown us that a critical tool in engaging learners was an accessible, appropriate and individualised (as far as possible) curriculum
Not everyone can or should go to a Russell Group university. Not everyone can or should pursue academic studies.
If that were to happen, the lack of variety in workplace skills and opportunities, everyone knew, would result in social and economic meltdown in no time.
And if all pupils were to be pushed along a single (EBacc) curriculum pathway, the inevitable consequence would be heightened disaffection and disengagement among less academic learners.
But we were ok. Schools were told that they only had to enter students for EBacc subjects, ‘where appropriate’:
‘Schools should continue to focus on which qualifications are most suitable for individual pupils, as the grades pupils achieve will help them reach their goals for the next stage of their education or training’
Progress 8 measure in 2016 and 2017, Guide for maintained secondary schools, academies and free schools, DfE , March 2015
And if all pupils were to be pushed along a single (EBacc) curriculum pathway, the inevitable consequence would be heightened disaffection and disengagement among less academic learners
Anyway, Progress 8, we were told, did not demand all EBacc subjects. The Ebacc category could be filled with three sciences and no humanities or languages at all.
Essentially, at least one, if not two of the EBacc disciplines were optional, as far as the school’s performance measures were concerned.
What is more, the government told us that it might even be advantageous to more vulnerable, less able, learners, to follow fewer subjects:
‘It can be of more benefit to less-able students to strive for good grades (and hence score more points) in fewer subjects, with the emphasis on doing well in English and mathematics, than to take more subjects but achieve lower grades overall’
Factsheet: Progress 8 measure 2014 and 2015, DfE, Feb 2014
If you impose the study of French on a statemented EAL student, he may conscientiously spend so much time trying to master the necessary skills and content for his French GCSE that his other studies suffer.
However, things appear to have changed. In the Conservative election manifesto, the government adopted an apparently different line of thought:
‘We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects’
Conservative Manifesto, 2015
Furthermore, the government has since confirmed its intentions to deliver on this commitment.
But some questions need to be addressed:
- ‘We will require secondary school pupils’ . . . All of them? Just some of them? Which ones, if not all?
- Does this really mean compulsory for all? Can we cross our fingers and hope that it means available to all?
- ‘Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings’… Ratings plural? So ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’? So, if the EBacc is not compulsory for all, is the school doomed to RI? And the consequences of the RI judgement form, of course, a different part of the government’s strategy… Should the school become an academy? And if it is already an academy, should it have a new sponsor?
- If the EBacc is compulsory for all, have you got the necessary skill set on your staff? Have you got enough history and French teachers? And if not, have you got time and a suitable pool of applicants for recruitment? And can you afford to take on new staff with the necessary skills, without losing others whose skills are less necessary?
- What will be the impact on the school’s Progress 8 measure in the coming year? This announcement, confirmed in May 2015, came some months after the rising year 10 cohort had made its option choices – probably in February 2015. In the majority of schools, not all students will have taken up all the Ebacc subjects, so are doomed to failure on this particular measure. And the school will be reporting a lower Progress 8 figure in two years’ time.
- Where did personalisation and appropriate and suitable go?
In the majority of schools, not all students will have taken up all the Ebacc subjects, so are doomed to failure on this particular measure. And the school will be reporting a lower Progress 8 figure in two years’ time
Just in case you have missed any of the recent and occasional announcements and clarifications about the Ebacc and Progress 8, I have drawn up a list of some information that may be useful:
Qualifications included in Progress 8
- Maths: a double weighted element that will contain the point score of the pupil’s EBacc maths qualification.
- English: based on the higher point score in a pupil’s EBacc English language or English literature; double weighted provided a pupil has taken both. In 2016 English (combined) can be included and double weighted.
- Ebacc: the three highest point scores from any of the science subjects, computer science, history, geography, and languages. The qualifications can count in any combination and there is no requirement to take qualifications in each of the ‘pillars’ of the EBacc.
- Open: the three highest point scores in any three other subjects, including English lang or lit (if not counted in the English slot), other GCSEs (inc EBacc subjects) or any other non-GCSE qualifications on the DfE approved list.
Maths in Progress 8
- Only maths qualifications which also count towards the EBacc can count in the maths slot.
- From 2017 only the new reformed GCSEs in maths or AS in maths or further maths will count towards the EBacc and in the maths slot of Progress 8.
- If a pupil takes the maths linked pair GCSEs (Methods in Mathematics and Applications of Mathematics) the two results will be added together for the maths slot in Progress 8. These qualifications will count in the performance tables for the last time in 2016.
- Where a pupil has taken more than one EBacc mathematics qualification (except for the mathematics linked pair GCSEs), qualifications which are not used in the maths slot will not count elsewhere in Progress 8.
- Approved mathematical type qualifications that do not count towards the EBacc, e.g GCSE statistics, will be counted in the ‘open’ slot of Progress 8 regardless of whether or not a pupil has also taken an EBacc mathematics qualification.
- Level 3 FSMQ will only count in an ‘open’ slot, and will only count if a pupil has not taken an EBacc mathematics qualification.
- Either the regular Maths GCSE or the Further Maths can count in the double-weighted group – if a student has taken both, it will be the better grade.
- However the second result will not count anywhere in Progress 8.
English in Progress 8
- If a student sits both language and literature, the higher grade is double-weighted. The lower grade can still count in the ‘open group’ of subjects (not in the EBacc slots). The combined English GCSE will be available for the last time in 2016 and will be double-weighted in the Progress 8 measure.
- If only GCSE English literature or English language is taken then this qualification will count in the English slot, but will not be double-weighted.
- From 2017 only the new reformed GCSEs in English language and English literature, AS English language, AS English literature and AS English language and literature will count towards the EBacc and in the English slot of Progress 8.
Early entries in English
In the transition from A*-G to 9-1 GCSEs, specific rules apply:
- No GCSE A*-G English results can be carried forward; from summer 2017 the only GCSE results which will be eligible will be from the reformed 9-1 qualifications.
- Students who take English GCSEs in successive years – eg English literature in year 10 and another English (inc iGCSE) in Y11 would take the current (A*-G) GCSE in 2016 and the reformed (9-1) GCSE in 2017.
- In this case, and for this year only, the English literature result from Y10 would not be eligible for performance tables.
Science in Progress 8
- All students have to study some science up to the age of 16. The key stage 4 science curriculum is compulsory in maintained schools, and academies are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, including English, mathematics and science, up to the age of 16.
- In 2016 and 2017, core and additional science GCSE will take up one slot each in the Progress 8 measure.
- Core science GCSE alone will take up one slot. Separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry, physics and computer science each take up one slot.
- The ‘double science’ level 1/level 2 certificates will take up two slots, provided they are recognised for inclusion in performance tables. All these qualifications can count in the EBacc slots in the measure.
- New science GCSEs will be available for teaching from September 2016, with the first examinations in summer 2018. There will be single science GCSEs (biology, chemistry, physics and computer science) and a combined science (double award) GCSE.
- There will be no awarding of a combined science (single award) GCSE from 2018 onwards.
Level 3 qualifications in Progress 8
- AS will count in the appropriate slot of the Progress 8 measure for their subject (eg maths AS will count in the maths slot, French AS in the ‘EBacc group’, and an Art AS in the ‘open group’).
- If a GCSE in the same subject has been taken the AS will always count in Progress 8 and the GCSE will not count, even if the AS has a lower point score than the GCSE. AS at grades A and B will score higher points in Progress 8 than an A* at GCSE.
- Level 3 qualifications not included in the EBacc list can only count in an ‘open’ slot. This includes FSMQ and Asset Languages Ladder qualifications.
- Asset Language Ladder qualifications will only count in an ‘open’ slot if the pupil has not taken a GCSE in the same language.
- One graded music qualification can count in the ‘open’ slots of Progress 8, and can count alongside GCSE music.
In 2015 and 2016 performance tables, Level 1/2 Certificates in English Literature, English Language and Level 2 Certificate in Further Mathematics will count in the Ebacc measure, the English and Mathematics measure and additionally they will count in the respective English and Mathematics slots in the Progress/Attainment 8 measure where they double count, subject to the same entry requirements as for GCSEs. Read more here.
Follow Bill on Twitter: @billwatkin
Follow SSAT on Twitter: @SSAT