Secondary schools serving affluent communities aren’t coasting

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Late last night the Department for Education published the draft Bill with details of how ‘coasting’ will be defined. Three years’ data, from 2013/14 to 2015/16, will be used. The same indicators used to define floor standards will be used but the bar will be raised. The position of the bar for 2016 is not yet known.

For secondary schools, a school will be coasting if:

  • in 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60% of pupils achieve 5 A*-C including English and mathematics and they are below the median level of expected progress in both English and mathematics; and
  • in 2016 (and thereafter) their Progress 8 score is below a yet to be defined threshold.

Over 1000 secondary schools met the criteria for 2014, 356 of which were previously defined to be below the floor standard. However, not all of these will meet the criteria over three years. Using data for 2012-2014 as an example of how this works, we think 405 (13%) of secondary schools meet the criteria using three years of data. (A further 163 escape judgement because they are new or have changed status so don’t have 3 years of performance data available.)

In the figure below we show what proportion of schools would be deemed to be coasting on this metric, grouped by the average intake ability (KS2) of their intake. Schools serving more affluent communities will escape this judgement.

secondarycoasting

Why does this happen? It arises through the use of the expected progress indicator in the definition, in our view the very worst indicator routinely published about schools. As the chart below shows, the likelihood of a pupil making expected progress depends on their prior attainment. Therefore it is not a measure of progress at all.

horribleprogress

Unfortunately this social gradient in judgements of coasting will not disappear as we switch to Progress 8

Schools in more affluent areas will, on average, achieve higher Progress 8 scores and so will be less likely to be judged as coasting. To give an idea of the magnitude of the problem, in 2014:

  • Just 42/380 schools with FSM6 below 10% had a negative Progress 8 score
  • 191/347 with FSM6 over 50% had a negative Progress 8 score
Clearly, the past is not a guide to the future and Progress 8 scores in 2016 may look very different as schools change their qualification entry policies in response to the new accountability regime. And it is worth bearing in mind that the re-scaling of points for GCSE grades in 2017 will further increase disparities in Progress 8 across schools with different ability intakes.

The distribution of the coasting judgement is less inequitable for primary schools

The Government proposes that:

  • For 2014 and 2015 a school is coasting if fewer than 85% of its pupils achieve Level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics and below the median percentage of pupils make expected progress.
  • From 2016 onwards, the 85% expected standard threshold will remain in some form and a progress indicator will be also be included. We await announcements of exactly how these will be defined.
Using data for 2012-2014 as an example of how this works, we think 774 (5%) of primary schools meet the criteria using three years of data. (A further 688 escape judgement because they are new or have changed status so don’t have 3 years of performance data available.)
The “two levels of progress between KS1 and KS2” indicator is as equally ugly as the KS2-KS4 indicator, but doesn’t display the same bias with respect to prior attainment. This means that some primary schools serving affluent communities risk being judged as coasting, though not as many as for schools with higher FSM proportions.primarycoasting

By | 2017-03-03T09:46:17+00:00 June 30th, 2015|School accountability|

About the Author:

Rebecca Allen is Director of Education Datalab and an expert in the analysis of large scale administrative and survey datasets, including the National Pupil Database and School Workforce Census. Her research explores the impact of government reforms on school behaviour, with a particular focus on accountability and teacher labour markets. She is currently on leave from her academic post as Reader in Economics of Education at UCL Institute of Education.

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