New education data promised on pupils’ progress

Writing in today’s Telegraph David Cameron announced plans to release new education data detailing rates of pupils’ academic progression.

In an effort to tackle what he labels “coasting schools” – comprehensives in middle class areas which are failing to push high-ability pupils –  Cameron pledged:     

“From January, we are going to sort out league tables so that everyone involved in schools can see for the first time whether they are doing as well as they should

From June, we will release data about the performance of all pupils from the National Pupil Database. Of course, it will be anonymous, but you will be able to see what happened to individual pupils: where they started, the progress they made and where they ended up.”

 What do we know about “coasting schools”?

The definition is a bit vague, however according to The Telegraph:

“Schools are classed by the Government as “coasting” if they display one or more of a list of indicators. These include pupils starting school with good SATs results but going on to get poor GCSEs, “unimpressive” pupil progress, static exam results, disappointing Ofsted ratings, “complacent” leadership and lack of pupil tracking and early intervention.”

Exactly what is deemed “unimpressive” pupil progress or “complacent” leadership is ambiguous.  It is also unclear why Cameron is waiting seven months to release this data. Surely the information has already been collected by Ofsted – how else would Cameron be aware of the problem of “coasting schools”?

How many “coasting schools” are there?

Investigating the numbers of such schools, The Sunday Telegraph asked education authorities if they had entered any of their schools into a new Government scheme, called Gaining Ground, which was set up to tackle to combat this complacency.

This is what they discovered:

“Of the 83 councils which responded, 34 said they have entered more than 76 schools between them. Some, such as Calderdale, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Herefordshire and Norfolk, have entered at least five coasting schools each.”

You can see a list of schools here.

What other data is available?

Until the full breakdown is released, you can look up the rates of pupil progress at any school through performance tables. These will show you a Progress Measure (ie. the percentage of pupils making the expected levels of progress) and a Contextual Value Added Measure (this takes into account external factors such as gender, mobility and levels of deprivation as well as prior attainment).

What will the new data sets enable us to do?

The exact details of what the Department for Education plan to release are vague. Hopefully, however, a more detailed breakdown will enable us to examine possible variations in progression between a wider range of subjects (currently this data is only available for maths and English) and across a range of different ability groups.

While data on pupil progress should be handled with caution – progression is highly individual rather than linear, especially at early stages – it should give some insight into how children are learning across the board.

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