About Dave Thomson

Dave Thomson is Chief Statistician at FFT with over fifteen years’ experience working with educational attainment data to raise attainment in local government, higher education and the commercial sector. His current research interests include linking education and workplace datasets to improve estimates of adult attainment and study the impact of education on employment and benefits outcomes.

Getting older quicker

At Datalab we write about half a dozen blogposts in a typical month. Some we slave over and others we knock out in a matter of minutes, usually with one eye on the football or Paw Patrol. Being unashamed data wonks, we then pore over Google Analytics to see which of our posts have left [...]

By | March 3rd, 2017|Pupil demographics, School accountability|

Putting Progress 8 in context

We thought we’d run out of things to say about Progress 8 but a couple of blogposts from Tom Sherrington and Jim Gordon last week made us realise that we hadn’t. Both examine, among other things, how Progress 8 scores vary by pupil and school characteristics. (Progress 8 is the headline value added measure by which [...]

By | March 2nd, 2017|Exams and assessment, School accountability|

The equivalence of A-Levels and BTECs

Last week, the Higher Education Policy Institute published a report on BTECs and university admissions [PDF]. It recognised that much of the increase in the proportion of young people achieving Level 3 – A-Levels or equivalents – by age 19 (see Table 3 here, XLSX) has been driven by increased participation in BTECs and other [...]

By | February 28th, 2017|Exams and assessment, Post-16 provision|

Forget about grammars, we need places for pupils with special educational needs

Two blogposts from the Headteachers’ Roundtable concerning funding and pupils with statements of special educational needs (SEN) or education, health and care plans (EHCP)[1] caught our eye recently. The first, by Jarlath O’Brien, highlighted the projected 15% increase in the number of pupils requiring a place in a special school over the next ten years [...]

By | February 3rd, 2017|Pupil demographics, Structures|

Another attempt at a qualification-neutral Progress 8 measure

Progress 8 is the value added measure by which secondary schools are being judged, starting from the last academic year. At Datalab we’re broadly supportive of it as a measure. But no measure of school performance is perfect, and P8 is no exception. It doesn’t account for pupil background, and so favours schools with high percentages [...]

By | January 24th, 2017|School accountability|

KS4 performance tables 2016: When coasting feels like paddling hard to keep your head above water

This week, 319 secondary schools have been told that they are coasting and so will become eligible for intervention. This includes a staggeringly high 22.6% of schools in the east Midlands. For those deemed to have insufficient capacity to bring about improvement this could be the start of a long road to forced academisation. And [...]

By | January 19th, 2017|Exams and assessment, School accountability, School improvement|

KS2 performance tables 2016: Do we need value added at Key Stage 2?

Value added data, calculated by a number of different methods over the years, has been a feature of school performance tables since 2003. In principle, the idea is sound. Comparisons of schools’ raw attainment measures often say more about schools’ intakes than they do about the quality of teaching and learning. So if the state [...]

By | December 15th, 2016|Exams and assessment, Pupil demographics, School accountability|

Qualification neutral Progress 8

One criticism of the current Progress 8 measure is that the points awarded to some qualifications are more (or less) favourable than to others. There is a risk that any inequality in the way different qualifications are valued incentivises schools to pursue those treated more favourably at the expense of working to improve grades awarded [...]

By | December 7th, 2016|Exams and assessment, School accountability|