Measuring primary attainment and progress



This is an exploratory discussion document. I wrote it to try to understand more clearly the current situation. I am open to persuasion and will take on board evidence-based amendments.


The transition from old to new

The original policy design for levels-based assessment was simple and elegant. This helped ensure its longevity throughout a period of constant policy churn. (I was present when it was first described at a meeting of TGAT over 28 years ago)

But it was eventually overloaded by a bolt-on superstructure of short-term progress targets. These, combined with the pressures of high-stakes accountability, brought about the problems delineated by the Commission on assessment without levels.

But the downside to the removal of levels, entirely ignored by the Commission, is too readily swept aside.

There were substantial advantages, not least for parents, in having a single national system applied consistently throughout their children’s education…

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New Transition Matrices Reveal Worrying Excellence Gaps



Having spent several years bewailing the limited availability of national data on excellence gaps, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that RAISEOnline has just published transition matrices showing the progress made by disadvantaged learners from KS2 to KS4.

It is regrettable that this data has been released only at the point when an entirely new assessment regime is about to be introduced, but better late than never.

It might provide a baseline of sorts against which to judge the future size of excellence gaps – and how effectively they are identified and reported – once the new assessment measures are in place.

You probably need reminding of my working definition of excellence gaps in an English context:

‘The difference between the percentage of disadvantaged learners who reach a specified age- or stage-related threshold of high achievement – or who secure the requisite progress between two such thresholds – and…

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FSM admissions to Oxbridge STILL showing no improvement



Today (20 October 2015) saw the publication of the latest DfE destinations data.

It was contained in SFR40/2015: Provisional destinations of key stage 4 and key stage 5 students in state-funded institutions, 2013/14.

I will not repeat again the detailed description of this data or the provisos attached. The essential information is set out at the beginning of this earlier post. A more exhaustive treatment is provided in the Technical Note published alongside today’s SFR.

Unusually, the main text of the SFR draws attention to some bad news about the proportion of FSM-eligible students progressing to selective higher education:

‘The gap between the percentage of free school meals eligible students going to the top third higher education institutions and all other students has widened from 7 to 9 percentage points between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

For Russell Group institutions the gap has widened from 6 to 7 percentage…

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If not grammar schools, what?



This week’s media debate about the value of grammar schools as instruments of social mobility has been profoundly depressing.

For the record, all the research evidence shows that the historical impact of selective education on social mobility has been negligible.

The proportion of disadvantaged learners currently admitted to grammar schools remains desperately low.

As of January 2013:

  • 41% of grammar schools had FSM admission rates of 2% or lower; only three had rates above 10%.
  • 20% of grammar schools had 10 or fewer FSM-eligible students in their GCSE cohorts from 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined; only 10% had 40 or more FSM students taking GCSEs in these three years.

Recent efforts to improve the ratio of disadvantaged to advantaged admissions have been confined to a minority of grammar schools.

Admissions reform is strictly limited, for fear of upsetting the sharp-elbowed middle classes. Surreptitious support offered by the Coalition…

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More About Mastery, Depth and High Attainers


I am increasingly concerned about NCETM’s notion that ‘stretch and challenge’ should always involve studying the same material in greater depth.

This is becoming increasingly pervasive and resulting in widespread confusion, amongst teachers as well as parents. For example see this Mumsnet thread and this sample of recent Tweets


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Can we expect a rocket boost for fair access?



This post considers whether the forthcoming Higher Education Green Paper will propose radical reform to bring about fair access to universities.


The runes first written

The Conservative Government aspires to widen participation and improve fair access.

4179063482_e8184e27a1_z Courtesy of David Blackwell

There was no explicit commitment in the Conservative election manifesto but, one week before the May 2015 General Election, a Tory press release announced that:

‘Underlining a future Conservative government’s commitment to young people, the Prime Minister will set out a goal that by 2020, disadvantaged young people will be twice as likely to enter higher education than under Labour.’

On 1 July 2015, Jo Johnson, the newly-appointed Minister of State for Universities and Science both reaffirmed and clarified this statement:

‘The Prime Minister has set an ambitious goal to double the proportion of those from disadvantaged backgrounds progressing into higher education by 2020 (compared with 2009).’

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