How to Solve a Problem like Progress 8...

Steph Reddington, 16th January 2017

How to solve a problem like Progress 8…


It seems such a small number, and yet for secondary schools, it is now one of the only numbers that matters: 

“A school will be below the floor standard if its Progress 8 score is below -0.5…If a school’s performance falls below this, then the school may come under scrutiny through inspection” (DfE Sept 2016) 

Whilst schools all over the country have been trying to get to grips with the new accountability measures, here at Pupil Asset we have been doing the same, after all, if schools are going to want to track this information, then they are going to want to do it using their tracker! 

So, how do you go about re-designing an entire system? 

Well, first you need to ‘gen up’ - that means reading every available piece of literature that the government has published as well as articles from anybody else that has tried to make sense of said documents. It means watching videos, following the right people on social media, attending conferences and asking the right questions. That’s the easy part - next comes the re-coding of the system. 

So, where did you start? 

First things first, we needed to make sure that all the existing points scores were brought in line with the new point score scales for 2016 as outlined by the DfE (Annex A if you’re wondering). That’s not so bad, just a case of ensuring we have the right lookup tables for any required conversions. 

The next step was to create Attainment 8 ‘slots’ - a Maths Slot, an English Slot, an EBac Slot and an Open Slot which the results and their points scores could be mapped to. 

Surely then, it’s as easy as the system simply looking for the best results and pulling them through to the matching slot…right? 

Sadly, it’s not that simple. For starters, there are a number of additional rules that must be adhered to, for example: 

  • If a student sits both English language and English literature, the higher grade is double weighted in the English slot.
  • If a GCSE and AS-level have been taken in the same subject, the AS-Level will always count in Progress 8 and the GCSE will not count, even if the AS has a lower point score than the GCSE. 
  • French cannot be counted in the EBacc slot unless it is Bastille Day (joking!) 

That’s not to mention the fact that the DfE has a specified list of approved subjects and those that qualify as being eligible for the EBacc slot. There was only one thing for it - upload the entire catalogue of DfE Qualifications list into Pupil Asset to allow schools to choose the actual qualifications pupils are doing. 

OK, so it sounds as though everything is set up for Attainment 8, what about Progress 8? 

That’s another story altogether. Progress 8 requires the Attainment 8 scores and a couple of ‘simple’ (or not!) calculations which use KS2 results to determine a pupil’s KS2 Fine Grade:   

Unless of course the pupils have a KS2 test level of 2 in which case teacher assessment is also taken into account and, provided their TA is higher than 2, uses a different formula: 

“Once the KS2 English and Maths marks have been converted to fine points an average of the two is taken to provide an overall point score. This is then divided by 6 and rounded to 1 decimal place to obtain the fine level.” (DfE 2016) 

See - simple! Now, we must not forget to upload all of the Estimated Attainment 8 grades into the system to complete the Progress 8 calculations. Of course not, but we only have access to the previous year’s attainment estimates as a guide to potential future Progress 8 results. But, seeing as though this is all that is available at present, its the best we (or anybody else) can do. 

Brilliant - so everything seems ready - what are you waiting for? 

We can’t just release all of this without first testing it and making sure our support and training teams understand the changes and how to support our schools. We’ll also need to write training materials and help documents which can be shared with schools who wish to help themselves. 

Ok, so now all of that has been done, is it ready to use? 

Absolutely! The Pupil Asset Attainment 8 and Progress 8 estimates are now live in the system and all of our secondary schools have been sent information on how to get it all up and running. All that’s left to do is put the kettle on. 

Written by Stephanie Reddington, Educational Consultant 

With special thanks to Jason and Ben from the Dev Team who have made all of this possible (and who will undoubtedly be wanting you to know that the actual Dev process was FAR more complex than is portrayed here!)       

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