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Deprived schools more likely to see progress 8 scores fall

Schools with the poorest intakes are more likely to have seen their progress 8 scores drop over the past eight years, new analysis suggests.

FFT Education Datalab analysed progress 8 scores by school type, region and demographics between 2016 and 2023.

It comes after the government announced that it won’t implement alternative progress measures in the next two academic years. The next two GCSE cohorts do not have key stage 2 SATs results because of the Covid pandemic.

This, coupled with Labour’s pledge to reform the measure, means “it’s possible that 2024 will be the last time we see progress 8 in its current form,” said Datalab’s Katie Beynon.

The organisation took public progress 8 data, and divided schools into five equal “quintiles” based on the proportion of year 11 pupils who had been eligible for free school meals at some point in the past six years.

Beynon said that “broadly, schools with the least disadvantaged cohorts saw the biggest increases in progress 8 scores, while those with the most disadvantaged cohorts saw the biggest falls”.

Between 2016 and 2023, the highest quintile schools – so those with the fewest poorer pupils – experienced an average increase of around 0.15, from +0.21 to +0.37. Schools in the lowest quintile saw an average fall of 0.08, from -0.17 to -0.25.

Schools in the lowest two quintiles had “similar average scores” in 2016, but “quite different” scores last year.

“We think this is the impact of schools in London becoming less disadvantaged over time. A greater proportion of ‘Q5’ schools in 2016 were in London than ‘Q5’ schools in 2023,” said Beynon.

“And London schools tend to do better on progress 8 than schools elsewhere (largely due to other demographic factors, like having a larger proportion of pupils with English as an additional language).”

Converter academies saw slight score drop

Datalab also analysed scores by school type, finding that schools that became sponsored academies – those forced to convert because of poor performance – “tended to improve their scores a little, albeit from a relatively low base”.

Schools that were already sponsored academies in 2016 saw their average scores drop from -0.14 to -0.20.

Schools that became converter academies – those that opt to convert – “tended to see their scores drop a little, apart from those which changed from voluntary aided”.

Beynon said some schools “have seen big changes in their progress 8 scores between the first and most recent sets, with around one in five seeing swings of at least 0.5 in either direction”.

“This seems, in part, to be related to school disadvantage – the most disadvantaged schools tended to see their scores fall, and the least disadvantaged tended to see them rise. Of course, there will be many other factors at play for these schools too.”

“However, a large proportion of schools – around 40% – achieved similar scores in both years. The (admittedly unanswerable) question is: would this number would have been higher or lower without the turbulence schools experienced in the intervening time?”

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