Keeping a check on pupil progress and achievements

31 Dec

A key responsibility of governors is to oversee the strides pupils make in their learning.  However, this is not possible without their knowing precisely what the assessment system is being used and understanding how pupils’ progress and achievement are measured.   This is much more easily done at the end of the key stages but daunting, in the in-between years.

In the halcyon day, the key data source for governing boards was the infamous (or famous) RAISEonline – issued by the Office for Standard in Education (Ofsted). The Department for Education (DfE) launched a new replacement service called Analyse School Performance (ASP) from 1 September 2017, used mainly at Key Stages 1 and 2.   So how are pupils assessed at the different Key Stages?

I        Early Years Foundation Stage

There are seven areas of learning and development that shape educational programmes in early years settings. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected. Three are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. These are

  1. Communication and Language;
  2. Physical Development; and

iii.      Personal, Social and Emotional Development.

In addition, the educators of very young children are required to promote four other specific areas:

  1. Literacy;
  2. Mathematics;
  3. Understanding the World; and
  • Expressive Arts and Design.

The benchmark and gold standard for the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is the number of pupils to attain a good level of development (GLD) in each of these seven areas.

II       Key Stages 1 and 2

Assessments at Key Stages 1 and 2 were exemplified in the former RAISEonline.   Following the launch of an initial version of the platform which ran alongside RAISEonline during the 2016/17 summer term, an updated and improved version of Assessing School Performance (ASP) went live on 19th July 2017.  The DfE said the service would give both, schools and “other existing user groups, detailed performance analysis to support local school improvement”.

How to access the Replacement Service and Help

The Department for Education (DfE) released a video with information on ASP. The new service will be a “sister service” to the DfE performance tables. However, unlike the performance tables, ASP can only be accessed through ‘Secure Access’, the DfE’s single sign-on for a variety of services.  Each school, academy, local authority, multi-academy trust and diocese will have someone already designated as the Secure Access Approver. More information on this can be found in the Secure access approver role guide.

Those governors who are not sure who their Secure Access Approver should ask the person who sends data returns, such as the School Census, to the DfE – e.g. your Business Manager – for the information. Any access provided should be anonymised. The anonymised data will also be available to Ofsted, local authorities, multi-academy trusts and dioceses.

If you still need help accessing the service then you can contact the Secure Access Helpdesk.

As usual, governors and trustees will be entitled to view information which is not pupil specific. The service also offers Question Level Analysis (QLA) data and named pupil data.

It allows governors and trustees to “view and analyse details on key headline measures” and compare performance at “school/academy and pupil group level against national averages”. The system provides, both, overview and in-depth reports (i.e. breakdown by pupil groups), on headline measures. It permits users to access scatter graphs to identify trends over time. This useful feature will help governors to see if “their school development plan and priorities” are being translated into better results in the different areas of learning.

The DfE have asked all schools to log into ASP  as soon as possible to make it quicker and easier to gain access to 2017 data as it continues to become available. Help with logging into ASP is available here.

The DfE also announced in the Autumn Term 2017 provisional data on GCSE results and pupil destinations for 2015/16 which is available in ASP – the official DfE replacement for RAISEonline. A KS4 tab for disadvantaged pupils will also be added to the service in early 2018, along with the Ofsted Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR) for KS4; EYFS; Absence and Exclusions data.

The DfE continues to make improvements to the service on the basis of user feedback including improvements to the content section in the School Performance Summary report, a new KS4 pupil list and front-end improvements to the KS1 and Phonics pupil list. The department reported that it is dealing with high volumes of helpdesk queries.  Responding to complex queries may take up to 20 working days.

III     Key Stage 4 – GCSEs

At Key Stage 4 there was a dramatic fall in national GCSE results in 2017 – the largest since the exam replaced O-levels. The proportion of pupils who gained a C grade or above dropped by 2.1%.  This included a sharp decline in the numbers gaining a C or above in English.

The falls were due in large part to new government policies that force 17-year-olds who got a D or lower in English or maths the previous year to resit those exams, meaning more students overall were sitting the tests.

However, even among pupils sitting their exams in year 11, the conventional GCSE year, the proportion gaining A*- C grades was down by 1.3%.  Only around one in four of those retaking the two core subjects gained a C or above, which experts said called into question the wisdom of the policy.

There were slight falls in the numbers gaining the highest A* qualification, for the fifth year in a row, while the proportion of 16-year-olds gaining A* or A fell by 0.6%.

The overall proportion of pupils getting A*- C in English plummeted 5.2% to 60.2%, and maths suffered a drop of 2.3% for grades A*-C.

The fall in the number taking GCSE English – about 200,000 lower than the number taking maths – appears to have been the result of more schools entering pupils for the IGCSE English exam, an alternative qualification not included in these figures.  Figures published by exam regulator, Ofqual, combining the results in both GCSEs and IGCSEs, revealed that the net effect was grades only slightly lower than previous years.

There was a small increase in the proportion of A* grades in English, up 0.2% to 3.3%, but again A*-A was down by 0.9% to 13%. Maths at A* was also down 0.4%, and 0.6% for grades A*-A.

There were significant drops in the A*-C proportion for several subjects, including computing (down 4.7%), science (-3.8%), history (-3%), geography (-2.8%) and maths (-.3%).

The gender gap in exam results increased slightly by 0.5%, with 71.3% of girls’ entries awarded at least a C grade compared with 62.4% of boys’.  Girls also outperformed boys in achieving the very top grades, with 7.9% getting an A* compared with 5% for boys, although both saw a slight decline.

In England the A*-C pass rate dropped from 68.8% in 2015 to 66.6%.  Northern Ireland – where education is dominated by grammar schools – bucked the national trend with a rise in A*s and As, as well as a rise in the headline pass rate to 79.1%.  Wales managed to hold steady with a pass rate of 66.6% – which will come as some relief after 2017’s disastrous A-level results.

For the first time schools will now be rated according to a new performance measure, known as Progress 8, which charts how well pupils performed compared to their peers nationally based on their Key Stage 2 exams. It replaces the government’s previous measure, the proportion of pupils achieving C or higher in five GCSE subjects including English and maths.

School-level results under the new Progress 8 measure will not be available until the Department for Education releases its official calculations later this year. It will be published alongside another metric, Attainment 8.

The 2016-17 GSCE results for maths and English were graded on a 9-1 scale, with more rigorous content. Other subjects graded A* to G grades in 2017 will be replaced in the same way over the next two years.

(I am grateful to Sam Hanson of the National Governors’ Association for the very useful information he published on the NGA website about assessments at Key Stages 1 and 2 on which some of this article is based.)

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