GCSEs: Progress matters under new exams system

It's been a year of upheaval in the education world and perhaps the biggest change will come when youngsters picked up their GCSE results tomorrow (August 25).


Until this year, GCSE results days has been easy – take the latest batch of A*s and compare them to last year’s. Simple.

Now, though, the government has introduced something called Progress 8 and, no matter how many A*s our teenagers achieve at GCSE, it’s the Progress 8 score that matters to their school.

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A spokesman for the Department for Education put it simply: “It’s entirely up to the schools what they publish but the only thing that counts from this year is Progress 8.”

So what is Progress 8?

To put it simply, it’s a way of measuring the progress made by pupils from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.

Each child’s progress is measured across a selected set of eight subjects and then compared to children all over the country who started with the same attainment level.

So, if ‘Anna’ started secondary school with high Key Stage 2 SATs results, her progress at the end of Year 11 would be judged against children who started from an equally high point. If she entered secondary school with low SATs results, her progress would be measured against others who had an equally low starting point.

The Key Stage 2 scores are used to predict children’s ‘expected’ results in eight subject areas.

At the end of Year 11, a score of zero means the student made the expected progress.

Anything above zero means they made better than expected progress – good news for the school – while anything below zero means their progress was not as high as expected.

The school’s Progress 8 score is calculated using the mean average of all its pupils’ scores.

The expected standard for schools to achieve is a Progress 8 score of -0.5.

If a school fails to reach this standard, an Ofsted inspection will be triggered.

As for the eight subjects which give Progress 8 its name, there is a heavy focus on core areas.

Each children must take maths and English plus three English Baccalaureate subjects such as science, computer science, history, geography and languages.

The maths is worth double points as is the English if the students takes both English language and English literature.

They can then include three subjects of choice – which must come from an approved list of qualifications if they are to count towards their score.

Jules White, headteacher of Tanbridge House School, said the new system was “much fairer”.

He added: “It ensures that a broader basket of subjects are counted but maths and English are still weighted - quite rightly - more heavily than other subjects.

“The old thresholds made a ‘C’ too important and now every grade counts. There still remains a problem that progress is measured from Key Stage 2 results which are far too variable at the moment.”

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