The revised Key Stage 4 performance tables for 2019 have sparked a number of different headlines in terms of what the results claim to show.
The most important takeaway for schools in the region is that the tables continue to use Progress 8 as a measure, contributing to the ongoing and pervasive false narrative around under-performing schools in the region. There continues to be a lack of nuance in the conversations around school performance, and the use of reporting measures which do not look at the context schools are working in.
FFT Datalab has highlighted how the data continues to show a North-South divide, as it uses Progress 8 rather than Contextualised Progress 8 scores, which take into account the percentage of pupils with a first language other than English, the percentage of pupils eligible for Pupil Premium, and the average Key Stage 2 point score of the cohort.
Using Progress 8 alone as a measure fails to take into account pupil characteristics such as the level of deprivation students in the North East face. When looking at Progress 8 without this context, the North continues to underperform in comparison to other regions.
However, FFT Datalab shows when deprivation is taken into account using Contextualised Progress 8 scores, the North East performs at least as well the rest of the country, if not better.
Furthermore, using the DfEs ‘attainment gap index’, the data shows that the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has increased for the second year. Though this is marginal, it does show a stall over the last few years in what had previously been a steady rate of decline.
Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East said ‘the latest figures continue to contribute to a pervasive myth that schools and students in the north, and the North East in particular, are underperforming and this is simply not true. School Performance tables should be based on contextualised data in order to better see how students and schools are performing in line with their context.’
Once again, girls outperform boys, a trend that has now continued for 30 years. This year saw 64% of girls passing GCSE English and Maths while only 56% of boys do so.
In other headlines, figures have suggested that MATs achieve on average lower Progress 8 scores than other school types. However, due to the eligibility of inclusion in the data, this only takes into account 24% of secondary academies and 36% of primary academies. The national Progress 8 score for those eligible was -0.02, compared to 0.01 for maintained schools. The tendency for academies to take on struggling schools may go towards explaining this small difference.