This week, Schools Week also have an article sharing the news that Russell Hobby of the NAHT has made a similar point to RSCs, but probably far more professionally. You can read the article here:
Last month I wrote about how I feared that Local Authorities were preventing schools from moving confidently away from levels.
Today, I have Regional Schools Commissioners in my sights. I’ve been concerned about this for a while because increasingly I see people who are doing their best to cope in a world without levels suddenly faced with demands for data from external agencies.
And in the case of Regional Schools Commissioners: they ought to know better. Yet clearly they don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing queries like these:
“We’re asked to predict progress for current Y6 (by RSC). How would you suggest we go about it?”
One of the most significant changes in the world after levels is the way in which progress is to be calculated across primary schools. It has deliberately moved away from a threshold model, so that schools can focus on improving the attainment of all pupils, instead of focussing disproportionately on those who are close to a threshold. It’s a shift that I happen to think is an excellent idea.
But it’s also a shift that means that it’s very difficult to predict outcomes, and impossible to predict progress measures. Attainment is hard to predict because we don’t know where the thresholds will lay. You can estimate what you think children need to be able to do, and guess where the threshold might be set, and then try to estimate which children are on track… but that’s a lot of approximation.
For progress, there is simply nothing you can do. Your school’s progress score will depend not on how many cross that magic 100 threshold, but on exactly how many marks each child gets on each test. And then on how every other child in the country scores. Even after the tests are completed, it will take the DfE months to calculate the first sets of progress scores; what hope has anyone got of predicting a measure based on so many complex factors?
The problem, of course, is that these people are still stuck on “old thinking”. Of course you can attempt to replicate the old systems. You can look at the number of children working at Level 2 in KS1 who you hope will reach the expected standard. But that brings us back to the guesses about attainment. You can look at the number of children who were working at Level 3, who you hope will reach some greater measure… except no such threshold exists. And even if we did know the thresholds, they’re virtually insignificant. The difference between a child getting 99 or 100 is far less important than the difference between another child getting 91 or 97 – even if they don’t meet the “expected standard”.
The aim of the new system is to stop schools from focussing on borderline pupils. To do that, you have to remove as many borderlines as you can. For RSCs not to understand that is concerning, and for them to put additional pressures and demands on schools for imaginary data that won’t help school improvement at all is unacceptable. Indeed, far from helping, they may end up driving exactly the sort of flawed behaviour that went on before that we’re trying to get rid of!
Or as Jamie Pembroke put it far more succinctly than have I: