Secondary school league tables: How are they ranked and what is Progress 8?

Secondary school league tables: How are they ranked and what is Progress 8?
Progress 8 was introduced in 2016 and compares GCSE results to Key Stage 2 test results (Photo: Shutterstock)

It isn’t just pupils who are reviewed on their performance at school – the institutions themselves are also subject to ranking, with schools across the country graded on their progress.

One of the measures used by OFSTED to rank schools is Progress 8, which looks at performance and progress across eight GCSE subjects.

What is Progress 8?

Progress 8 was introduced in 2016 and compares GCSE results to Key Stage 2 test results, which the government argues takes prior attainment into account when judging progress.

The measure is designed to encourage good quality teaching across a broad curriculum.

The score shows how much progress pupils at a given school made between the end of Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4, in comparison to pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.

This is based on results in up to eight qualifications, which include English, maths, three Baccalaureate qualifications – including sciences, computer science, history, geography and languages – and three other additional approved qualifications.

English and maths are given double weighting to reflect their importance.

How is Progress 8 scored?

A score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.

A score below zero means pupils made less progress, on average, than pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.

A negative progress score does not mean pupils made no progress, or the school has failed, rather it means pupils in the school made less progress than other pupils across England with similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.

A score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2 (Photo: Shutterstock)
A score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2 (Photo: Shutterstock)

A school’s Progress 8 score is usually between -1 and +1, and the average Progress 8 score of all secondary schools nationally is 0.

Schools with a Progress 8 score of below -0.5 are not achieving the minimum standard expected by the Government, and those with +0.5 or above shows that pupils in that school are making well above the expected level of progress.

Is the ranking system fair?

Critics have argued that the measure is too simplistic and punished schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged pupils.

According to new data from the University of Bristol, school league tables fail to take pupil background into account.

It reveals that once factors such as pupil ethnicity, deprivation and special educational needs are taken into account, a fifth of schools saw their national league table position change by over 500 places.

Findings indicate that 40 per cent of schools currently judged to be under-performing would no longer fall into this category.

It comes after a detailed analysis by Dr George Leckie and Professor Harvey Goldstein, of the 2016 Progress 8 data from all 3,098 state-maintained secondary schools in England.

Dr Leckie said, “By factoring in vital information about a pupil’s background, we have seen a dramatic change in the league tables.

“This leads to very different interpretations and conclusions about education in England.

“It seems clear from our results that the higher the proportion of disadvantaged pupils in a school, the more it will effectively be punished for the national under-performance of these pupil groups.

“On the flip side, other schools are rewarded merely for teaching educationally advantaged intakes.”

Effective schools in disadvantaged areas could be losing out

Under the current Progress 8 measure, researchers say there is a risk that effective schools in disadvantaged areas are going undetected.

The researchers are calling for the Government to publish and explain a pupil background-adjusted Progress 8 measure side-by-side with the current measure to present a more informative picture of schools’ performances.

OFSTED is now planning to change the way schools are graded to take more account of things like pupil ethnicity, deprivation and special educational needs.