Schools defend performance in recent draft scores: ‘We’re all making progress’

Education news.
Education news.
  • Head teachers upbeat and say latest draft scores which show four Boston schools ‘well below average’ are wide of the mark
  • Parents are warned not to read too much into new marking methods for schools performance
  • Forty per cent of schools in England achieved an ‘average’ grade, while 12 per cent achieved ‘well below average’

Head teachers have warned parents not to read too much into draft scores published by the Department for Education last week which saw pupils at four Boston area schools rated as making ‘well below average’ progress.

The draft Secondary School Performance Tables in England: 2016 to 2017 showed that under the new Progress 8 score William Lovell Church of England School, The Giles Academy, Haven High Academy and Thomas Middlecott all score well below average - joining about 12 per cent of schools in England.

Boston High School, Boston Grammar School and the Thomas Cowley School, in Donington, join about 40 per cent of schools in England as ‘average’.

The Progress 8 measure, shows how much progress pupils at the school made between the end of key stage 2 and the end of key stage 4, across eight qualifications and compared to pupils across England.

Schools can achieve five grades of well below average, below average, average, above average and well above average.

Under the measure, most of the schools decreased their score, with only Boston High School and Thomas Cowley rising.

Giles Academy, saw a drop in its Progress 8 score compared to 2016, but head teacher Ian Widdows said it was ‘impossible to make firm conclusions’ especially considering a ‘wide range of changes’ for GCSE pupils in 2017.

He said: “These include brand new GCSEs in English and mathematics on a new 9-1 scale, introduction of new points scores for higher qualifications and changes to many other qualifications offered by the Giles Academy.

“It is therefore impossible to make any firm conclusions from the Progress 8 scores for schools or local authorities and it would be wise to exercise extreme caution in using Progress 8 to deduce anything about the quality of the provision in schools.

“There is an indication from the provisional scores that Secondary Moderns (non-selective schools) have been far more heavily affected by the changes implemented this year than other types of school.

“For example, we are currently actively researching the impact of the 11+ and academic selection on the Progress 8 scores for secondary schools, both Grammars and Secondary Moderns.”

Mr Widdows pointed to previous statements by the Department of Education and Ofsted acknowledging scores as being problematic.

He said the DfE had plans in place for changes to the methodology for the calculation of Progress 8 in the future and Amanda Speilman, the new Head of Ofsted has warned inspectors against placing too much store on its value.”

Earlier this year Sean Harford, Ofsted National Director for Education, said the authority would ‘continue to use data as ‘a signpost, not a destination’ for inspection and said inspectors would have clear information on ‘what can and cannot be relied upon to even be written on the sign’.

Elie Hextall: “Different cohorts of children perform differently. This year all students faced new challenging GCSE examinations which have seen performance dip across the country.

“In a selective system such as that in the Boston area any systemic change adversely affects secondary modern schools. This has been reflected in the results this year.

“It is a frustration for us in particular that the very large numbers of students we take in without Key Stage 2 data will never be counted in the Progress 8 measure and yet they make great progress.”

Headteacher at Boston High School Andrew Fulbrook said the school, which had ‘average’ progress 8, was ‘very, very pleased with the outcome’ and said it was an upward trend over the 2016 score.

He said: “I am delighted with these league table positions which underline the hard work of both pupils and staff in the GCSE courses last year.”

He pointed to the fact that in the Boston, Skegness and Horncastle geographical triangle the school was the highest performing School for Progress 8 and the 11th best School in Lincolnshire.

“We are the only Boston area School with a positive Progress 8 and continue to be in the top 15% of schools nationally (965=/6480) for this measure,” said a statement from the school.

“For the Key Attainment 8 measure we continue to be in the top 3 per cent of schools nationally (221/6480) and the best performing school in the Boston area.”

Thomas Cowley High School came ‘well below average’ but saw a rise in its Progress 8.

Head teacher Ian Dawson said the school was ‘delighted’ by the increase ‘especially when the change in point scores put schools with low ability intakes at a disadvantage’.

He said: “Our increase is due to the hard work and commitment of all staff and the students themselves. Ofsted commented during their inspection in May 2017, that ‘the school knows its students well’ and that ‘the school gives students an equal chance, irrespective of their needs or circumstances’.

“Knowing every individual student is our core business and the inclusive teaching strategies, coupled with pastoral support, have ensured fantastic outcomes.”

A spokesman for William Lovell said: “The results in the summer were disappointing but we continue to seek to provide the best possible education for our students.

“A school improvement package has been implemented and through this we will be working to achieve rapid and sustained improvement to the quality of education provided.

“As a small school we value very highly the support and collaboration of our partners and as part of our improvement plan we are working very closely with three Headteachers who were part of the national talented leaders programme, to support student progress this year.”

At post 16 education level, (which is based on 2016 data and has not yet been updated to reflect 2017 results) the pupils at Boston High School were reported as making ‘above average’ progress, with the school coming in joint top of the league across Lincolnshire with Horncastle Grammar School. While Boston Grammar School scored an ‘average’ at 0.09. Giles Academy scored an average of 0.30, however, it had less than five pupils and so further scores were ‘suppressed’.

None of the schools in the Boston area come under the jurisdiction of Lincolnshire County Council, however, the authority said an average rating was expected.

Heather Sandy, Assistant Director of Children’s Services, said: “The Progress 8 measure is about pupils’ progress from starting point when they entered secondary school – an ‘average’ rating, close to 0, is what we would expect and what schools would be happy with. It shows pupils are making as much progress as other schools with those of a similar ability range.”

The results for each school at secondary level are (listed as Progress 8 score 2017, Progress 8 score 2016, the percentage achieving Grade 5 or above in English and maths and the percentage achieving EBacc at grade 5/C or above) as follows:

Boston High School: 0.18 (average), 0.17, 65 per cent, 50 per cent.

Thomas Cowley High School: -0.05 (average), -0.28, 21 per cent, 1 per cent.

Boston Grammar School: -0.22 (average), -0.15, 73 per cent, 52 per cent.

William Lovell Academy: -0.6 (well below average), -0.54, 21 per cent, 1 per cent.

Giles Academy: -0.67 (well below average), -0.24, 15 per cent, 6 per cent.

Haven High academy: -0.91 (well below average), -0.49, 15 per cent, 0 per cent.

Thomas Middlecott Academy: -0.91 (well below average), -0.81, 13 per cent, one per cent.

l The national average for state-funded schools is -0.03, the same as 2016.

l The average for the county is -0.15, in 2016 it was -0.1