The P45 Fortnight – a reprise

I wrote most of this for a local newspaper column a year ago.  This is an update…


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Many of you will be aware that A level results were released last Thursday and that GCSE results will be announced this Thursday. Of course this is an a hugely stressful time for students and their parents. So much rides on these results. A place at a top university, being able to study the A’levels you wanted or a place on an apprenticeship. Each set of results will have its own story from unbridled success to the feeling of abject failure. For each student the results will be the result of a successful or unsuccessful partnership between the student, their parents and their teachers. It is effected by not only those relationships, but everything that is happening in that student’s life.

Many of you won’t be aware that in the age of high accountability that many Headteachers and teachers this is a very stressful time. This is where a aggregation of the student’s results can result in professionals losing their jobs.

Last week we had looked closely at the Average Point Score (APS) for level 3 qualifications (A’ levels and their equivalents). This is the total score achieved by each student averaged across the institution. Have a high attaining cohort that will tend to take 4 or 5 A levels your score should be well above 800. Have a comprehensive intake, that in the main take 3, you are looking for scores above 700. So the league table is skewed by schools that have high ability intakes and who’s students take more than the required 3 A’ levels. That isn’t to say that a Grammar school Headteacher has any less pressure. They have to ensure that their results are at the top of the league table to ensure healthy numbers the year after from academic children.  This is also one of the key league table battle grounds as selected state maintained grammars do battle with selective private schools.  You can obviously make clunky references to the the Olympics where elites do battle with elites.  But, for these schools the pressure is high to ensure that the decision made by parents when their children were 11 or 13 were correct (see the man suing his son’s private school because he gained 1 GCSE).  This is different for the non selective, we see huge triumphs from students that were able to enter vocational courses and go onto university, most of whom tend to be the first going to a university from their family.  However, at comprehensives we also have the higher attaining who gain straight A*s and are off to Oxford.  I feel it is great to see the full range!

But the league table, as I have explained before, is not a comparison of like for like.  An APS of 600 in a non-selective in a tough area can be more significant that all the schools that post 800+.

Tomorrow is the GCSE results.  These are now will be reported in a very different way, Progress8 or P8, when the league tables are produced sometime in the Autumn.  Now your floor target is your cohort and how they did under you care.   The heartache for staff will still be the student that gets one grade below what is expected.  The problem is that what is expected will only be known once all the results come out.  I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in.  Yes you heard it correctly.  The target that you have been aiming at will only be fully known once the exams have been marked and reported.

What does this mean?  Well for me it is seriously not really knowing what the outcomes for our students will be for the first time in 10 years (albeit 2012 was tough with the change in grade boundaries).  This is the first year that I am actually unsure.  We had an incredibly hardworking Year 11, but our success or failure will be their performance measured against all the other schools nationally.  If they have done well it will be a positive score, perhaps an exciting 0.75.  Done ok and it will be around 0.  Done badly enough to give you sleepiness nights it will be below -0.5.

So, both results days, require all students to perform consistently across that exam season, for GCSE that involves over 20 exams. When you look at the headline figures you don’t know about the child who has spent the last 6 months in hospital. Or the student that has collapsed under the pressure. Or the one who’s parent has died recently. Each of those children who make up the overall headline figure for the league table are individuals with different backgrounds, ability, home lives, relative poverty or wealth, interested or not interested parents. Yet schools are held responsible for the performance of the students no matter what is going on in the other 18 hours of their day.

So if you know a student, a parent, a teacher or a headteacher, have a thought for them over the next fortnight. Lives are changed irreversibly at this time.


New Accountability – thoughts and questions

UPDATE – based on the Update on Progress 8 measure and Stuart Locks’s blog (

Since the @headsroundtable meeting with @timleunig  I had been asking questions of what the new progress measure means to my school.  A few things I hadn’t been able to get right in my head and I couldn’t work out why.

Over time a couple of comments and assumptions started to get me thinking about the curriculum we are about to offer students in year:

  1. The measure appears to be based on APS with the total based on the basket divided by 8 (see my assumptions below.  So if only 7 subjects count it is still divided by 8. – because of the double count the actual final will be divided by 10 (if a student completes Maths & English and 6 others that count)
  2. The calculations threw an oddity with the double count of English & maths. It appears that a student that gets 8 Cs but will count as a B (and so on in all grades) for accountability, as long as there are no Ebacc gaps – see above
  3. It does appear that @headteachers’ blog ( and @RosMcM’s ( blog points about lower ability students stand, as long as the student sits English Literature and passes English and maths.
  4. For student capable of gaining Cs it appears that it is better to get a student worse grades but have no gaps in the ebacc part of the basket in their best 8, than a kids better grades but a gap (ie one gets mixture of Cs and Ds but 3 grades in ebacc does better than a student with better grades but missing an ebacc).
  5. One further question.  With the matrix for progress being set by the exam results last year, will there be analysis on how much the current best eight measure is skewed by BTECs? –  the benchmark will be based on the 2016 exams so the possibility of BTECs taken last year skewing the average is removed

What have i learnt?

  1. This is undoubtedly a better measure than 5A*toC including (or as @timleunig put it “the 5 Cs measure”)
  2. As a school it is now vital that you get as many students as possible to have their basket of courses right.  For us we will be checking post options that every student capable has three ebacc subjects to avoid any gaps.  But, apparently the straight jacket of the old ebacc has gone, as triple scientists have their three (although question marks remain on how much double science will count…or a normal curriculum choice in schools will require only one more ebacc to ensure this part of the basket has no gaps.
  3. I have concerns about the 30% of our current Year 9s that don’t have KS2 data
  4. It will be risky to only offer 8 subjects, but the new examination system may force this as the amount of end of Year 11 exams is starting to look daunting for students
  5. I am still very nervous about the dead hand of politicians getting to this
  6. The move to pariety of English Literature and Language is very welcome – especially as the better score will count for the double as English (so a student does better in Literature that becomes the english grade that counts as part of the accountability and the language grade will count in the ‘other three’.

EDIT – @timleunig contacted me to express that the grade scores listed below had not been decided.  But, they are looking at possible replacements for the 58 for an A* and so on.  I would suggest mirroring the 1-9 that has been put forward by OFQUAL. (Update – so it was 1 -9 then!)

EDIT – I removed the calculations as they are clearly wrong!
Continue reading “New Accountability – thoughts and questions”

in reaction to ‘Ha! Academies’ smoke-and-mirrors sleight of hand with GCSE results exposed for the sham it is!’

I know let’s all keep believing that we all play on a level playing field, that all students are the same and that academic History is the most important subject that you can learn…well when i say learn i me rote learning obviously.  The fact is that most people don’t need a University degree to have a successful life and in fact many degrees are a hindrance to many of the skills that are desperately needed in our economy.

The fact that ‘vocational’ education is looked down upon because all hard working students can be successful in it is the real smoke and mirrors here.  It is so easy to damn the schools for putting students through education that suits them rather than whatever the Universities or the Daily Mail rate as valid.  Take away the Architects, Doctors, Pharmacists  dentists, Vets and Lawyers and you are left with a huge field of work that requires people that can learn on the job using vocational skills – computer engineers, physiotherapists, nurses, nutritionists, plumbers (skilled), etc etc.  These careers used to be championed by the Polytechnic until the Academic snobbery made them desperate to become Universities.

All of this comes with a axe over the heads of Senior Leadership Teams in difficult schools.  Get 30% or get fired.  Many of these schools delivering a traditional academic curriculum could outperform FFT-D and still not hit the baseline target.  What do these schools do?  Didn’t Einstein say that doing the same thing year after year and expecing the outcome to be different is the definition of insanity.  So we moved students onto vocational subjects to allow them more opportunity for success.  Whatever you believe about these subjects it has opened up post-16 education to a whole group of people that were excluded under traditional curricula.  People don’t bemoan L3 BTEC, so why this argument should be levelled at L2?

So want the smoke and mirrors to stop:

1. Get rid of league tables

2. Get rid of arbitrary figures for pass rates

3. Allow a level field for achievement across all sectors and career paths – Dr of Sociology = Master Craftsman

4. Stop trying to force students down one route in education that is fixated on universities

5. Recognise that the Russell Group isn’t meant for all

6. Actually see what happens in schools that we are only teaching to the test now (what the hell is AfL if it isn’t towards an outcome).

7. Celebrate all achievement by revisiting the Tomlison reforms

Vocational education is supposed to be different.  It is our lack of imagination that has to equate them with an ‘academic’ qualification.  A BTEC passed at the Diploma level, should just be seen in its own right as a significant achievement, not equalled to 4 GCSEs.

I do know that maintained schools feel hard done by when the Government keep announcing how well Academies are doing in comparison, and while the current desire to make all schools into Academies makes a mockery of the original intention which was to put a stop to the LA ‘sink’ schools.  In the main I believe that the original Academies have done that.  Taking difficult schools in difficult areas and changed the outcomes for those children.