Preparing your school for the major changes in Key Stage 4 assessment

By John Christian

Uncertainty about the way that secondary school students will be assessed at Key Stage 4 this year is still a major concern in schools. This will be the first year that the new English and mathematics GCSEs will be included in end of Key Stage 4 results and schools have no previous experience of how this will affect statutory reporting.

With this in mind, I wanted to clarify what we do know and how the functionality in SIMS can help you to better understand the figures both before and on exam results day in August 2017.

Firstly, we know that the headline figures at Key Stage 4 this year will be as follows:

  • Progress across 8 qualifications
  • Attainment across the same 8 qualifications
  • Percentage of pupils achieving the threshold in English and mathematics (grade 5 when new GCSEs in English and mathematics are first reported in performance tables in 2017)
  • Percentage of pupils entering the English Baccalaureate
  • Percentage of pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate
  • Percentage of students staying in education or employment after key stage 4 (destinations).

There are elements in terms of both what we already know and what is yet to be decided, to the new grades. We can understand how the grades will be calculated - the papers will be metaphorically ‘put in a long line’ from best to worst and be divided up into grades according to a predetermined percentage of students for each grade. However, whereas in the past, teachers could look at a piece of work and know that it was ‘worth a C’, with some consistency, this year no one knows exactly what a new grade structure ‘4’ or a ‘5’ will look like.

The guidance from Ofqual below reminds us of the grading structure that will be applied to the new English and mathematics GCSEs in 2017.

This rationale means that in order for your school to do better, another school must do worse; if everyone does better there will appear to be no improvement nationally because the figures are all based on averages.

Attainment 8 and Progress 8

We are unlikely to know the Key Stage 4 fine level estimates for the Attainment 8 scores until September 2017, making it impossible to calculate your school’s Progress 8 score before then.

Schools can calculate their Attainment 8 scores and their pass rates for threshold measures of the ‘basics’ measures in English and mathematics, and the Ebacc passes, but to try to compare them with any national or school figures from previous years will be misleading as they are bound to be significantly lower.

How SIMS can help

So, what reliable analysis can schools undertake? There are things you can do within SIMS to make sense of your school’s figures for the purpose of internal assessment and on exams day.

The figures below are from a real but anonymous school which obtained a Progress 8 score of round about 0 last year, which is by definition considered an average school.

Firstly, let us look at their performance in last year’s exams. The Attainment 8 figure was just below 50, with the national figure of 48. If you use the Performance Indicator (PI) reports from SIMS to find the total numbers of each grade obtained, it is a relatively easy calculation to compare the Attainment 8 points value obtained last year with what which would be achieved this year with the same results.

Clearly this is only a rough figure since not all grades would count in the actual calculation, but it does give a feel to what the national Attainment 8 figure is likely to be and B) how much lower an estimate for this and the Progress 8 figure will be if comparing to last year’s figures.

Secondly, look at the school’s Inspection Dashboard report, and the equivalent one, the CAS KS4 RAISE Inspection Dashboard report available in SIMS.

The second image has figures based on predictions and, at first glance, the sea of red is very worrying. However, based on what we have said previously, because we are comparing this year’s figures to last, we are expecting the figures to be lower. In this school’s case, which would be typical, the Attainment 8 figure is predicted to be 7 points (or 0.7 when divided by 10 for the Progress 8 score) lower than last year’s. 

What is more interesting is that the pattern of attainment across the various groups is predicted to be the same this year as it was last year. If this pattern is spotted early, identifying and intervening with these groups is vital, and the standard reports available in SIMS allow you to do this quickly in just a few clicks. 

A more in depth analysis can be carried out with the bespoke expertise and resources available from the SIMS School Improvement Programme.  


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