Will Someone Please Call The Surgeon
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For many schools the progress that children make during their school career is more important than their attainment at the end of a key stage. This is especially true for schools in challenging areas such as inner cities where many pupils arrive in school with low level skills. They might not all leave school with a top grade, but they will have progressed a long way from their on-entry ‘baseline’. That’s a successful outcome, even if it doesn’t put the school high in the league tables. But how do we convince OFSTED (who remain very focused on the ‘data’ i.e. attainment at key stage)?

Working with a wide range of primary and secondary schools, I find that schools define ‘progress’ in at least 5 different ways. Each method has its pros and cons and most schools use at least two measures. Briefly the methods I’ve seen are:

  1. Progress Towards Termly Target (alias ‘Flightpath’ or ‘Milestones’)
  2. Progress Towards End of Year (or KS) Target
  3. Progress Since the End of Last Year
  4. Progress Since the Last Keystage
  5. Progress Since Last Term

For each of the five methods listed here, assessment manager can provide a mechanism to highlight progress and analyse vulnerable groups. I’ll describe how to go about creating marksheets that use these progress measures in a later article. Meanwhile, here are the methods in more detail:

1) Progress Towards Termly Target

In this scenario, a school will set a target for each term leading up to a keystage. The targets are typically calculated using the attainment at the last keystage. Each term is then allocated a target that represents the expected level for that term if they are to achieve their overall keystage target. For example, if a pupil who attained a 2b at Keystage 1 is to attain a 4b at Keystage 2, then at the summer term of year 4 they might be set a target of a 3b. That pupil will be ‘on the flightpath’ or ‘milestone’ if he or she matches the 3b target at the end of Y4.

Pros: Clear identification of pupils who are not ‘on track’ to attain final target.
Cons: The targets increase at a regular pace but pupil attainment doesn’t!

2) Progress Towards End of Year Target

Here, pupils are measured against their summer term target. For example, in the autumn term, pupils are compared with their summer term target.

Pros: Simple to understand
Cons: Autumn term results are inevitably below target, even for pupils making good progress. Therefore difficult to identify the pupils who need intervention.

3) Progress Since the End of Last Year

Using the attainment at the summer term of the previous year, pupil progress is measured in sublevels (or points)  to the current term. Most schools expect between 2 and 4 points of progress per year for their pupils.

Pros: Very useful during performance management meetings with staff
Cons: Poor performance in previous years isn’t highlighted – hence pupils can make excellent progress in a year but still remain ‘off track’ to reach their keystage target.

4) Progress Since the Last Keystage

Taking a longer term view of pupil progress allows schools to set expectations for pupil progress. For example, most schools expect pupils to have made at least 6 points of progress (one whole level) between KS1 and the end of Y4 and maybe 10 points of progress by the end of Y5. These expectations can be set for each year or each term and pupil progress measured against these ‘school expectations’. Schools also feel that as OFSTED and SIPs often focus on progress between keystages that this view gives the clearest picture of pupil progress

Pros: Fits in with OFSTED and SIP ‘view’ of school data
Cons: Pupils don’t improve in a straight line!

5) Progress Since Last Term

In this scenario, schools require pupils to make progress each term, every term. If the progress required is one sublevel of progress per term then pupils are expected to make 16 points of progress between Y2 and Y6 or 12 points of progess between Y7 and Y9 (assuming the school has 3 terms per year).

Pros: A high level of challenge for KS2.
Cons: Poor performance in earlier years isn’t highlighted in subsequent years.