Want to get your teeth into more than mince pies this Christmas? DfE number crunchers want comments about measuring attainment gap. But can it be totally wiped out?

Janet Downs's picture
The gap between the achievement of disadvantaged and advantaged pupils is now a key measure of school performance. Schools are supposed to close the gap.

I’ve argued before that there are circumstances which can prevent pupils learning. These can affect advantaged and disadvantaged pupils. And they can be worsened by poverty. It’s unrealistic to expect schools to eradicate totally the effect of socio-economic background. Even countries which produce a very large proportion of ‘resilient’ pupils, disadvantaged children who overcome their background and perform well in PISA tests, don’t succeed in wiping out the negative effects of disadvantage in all their students*.

That’s not to say schools can do nothing – but they need the help of families. NFER research found being eligible for free school meals (FSM) was ‘negatively associated with achievement, even when a wide range of student-level variables are taken into account’. However, NFER found disadvantaged pupils were more likely to be resilient if there were books in the home, for example. The OECD found resilient pupils were more likely to be persistent, motivated, punctual and attending school. These qualities are related to family support – schools can’t do it alone.

Judging schools on eradicating the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils is judging them on circumstances beyond their control. And such a measure, of course, favours schools with a low number of disadvantaged pupils. The OECD found ‘teachers instructing socio-economically disadvantaged children are likely to face greater challenges than teachers with students from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds’. But these challenges appear to be brushed to one side in School Performance Tables. Teachers may be reluctant to take on these challenges if they feel they will be rebuked if the gap isn’t narrowed as fast as the Government deems acceptable.

But it appears the ‘Closing the Gap’ measure is here to stay and Department for Education (DfE) statisticians have proposed changes to the way the measure is calculated. The number crunchers want views on how the ‘Disadvantaged Pupils Attainment Gap Index’ could be calculated, how to get over the challenges in ‘communicating a unitless index to users’ (gulp) and whether there are alternative approaches.

Short of ditching the measure, my suggestion would be to take into account the proportion of disadvantaged pupils in a school as this affects performance. Both disadvantaged and advantaged children do worse in schools with a large number of disadvantaged pupils, the Education Endowment Foundation discovered. The OECD found this was the case globally, not just in the UK.

If you have any ideas and are willing to read through a dense document over, or perhaps after, a glass (or two) of wine, then you can email your suggestions. I’ve no ideas when the deadline is – there’s no indication in the document. It’s only been published today. Perhaps DfE statisticians think they’re unlikely to get much response over Christmas when teachers are exhausted, schools closed and other analysts are crunching Christmas food not numbers.

ADDENDUM 20 December 2014

I have heard from Kylie Hill, Senior Statistical Officer, DfE. She said there's no set time limit to the consultation as the statisticians were unlikely to make a firm decision until summer 2015. The mailbox would be monitored regularly for any feedback.

Ms Hill also pointed out the ‘Disadvantaged Pupils Attainment Gap Index’ is not a school-level accountability measure and is not designed to appear in performance tables (that was my misunderstanding). It’s a ‘supplementary measure’ which will track how the gap is closed (or not) over time. It’s hoped the proposed methodology will be able to overcome problems caused by educational reforms which affect comparability.

Thanks to Kylie Hill for her prompt feedback.

*This presumes that OECD PISA cohorts in all countries capture the full range of ability or socio-economic background. OECD has admitted 25% of the cohort was missing from the 2012 PISA test sample in Shanghai, for example. It is likely that the 15 year-olds who didn’t take part were those who left school at 15 to work. These, in turn, are more likely to be pupils whose economic situation made them seek paid employment. The missing 25% would inevitably affect results.
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Andy V's picture
Fri, 19/12/2014 - 17:11

To say this is a complex and vexed issue is an understatement of some proportions. I will not offer anything on the strand relating to what and how to measure but will be direct about the need for there to be a focus on ensuring that disadvantaged pupils are not swept under the carpet and ignored.

In this regard I am with SMW and his emphasis on progress for all. For too long there were schools that effectively were undemanding of their disadvantaged pupils to the point of near zero aspiration and closing the gap strategy has proven to be highly successful in redressing that. Additionally, there is the potential for a pupils cognitive abilities to be masked / submerged by the label disadvantaged and worse still ultimately lost through underachievement because, and for the want of another description, they were written off.

The reference to OECD PISA and Shanghai (and I've no doubt also the other Chinese uber city states) reinforces the fact that China deliberately skews the results and thereby undermines the overall PISA data. I do not see that this relates to the closing the gap in England. Why, because the differences between our and the Chinese cultural, social and employment situations are so, so radically different. This is made keener when considering the population movement from the unindustrialised rural provinces to the uber city states and the conflict of the linguistic diversity within China. This is not a matter of accent but rather different languages: in 2013 Bejing reported that around 400 million (30+%) of the population could speak Mandarin (aka standard Chinese), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-23975037 . This militates against those pupils being entered for PISA test taken in Mandarin.

Put bluntly there should be no regression away from closing the gap. Pupils should not be hidden away beneath the label of a range of disadvantages. Schools must have aspirant expectations for all their pupils.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 20/12/2014 - 09:42

Andy - I agree schools must not assume disadvantaged pupils will automatically underperform. All pupils should be taught well regardless of background. However, there are circumstances which are beyond schools' ability to control and which have a negative effect on children's learning.

And there remains the vexed finding that ALL pupils, advantaged or not, tend to underperform when in a school with a majority of disadvantaged pupils. Pointing this out is not brushing it 'under the carpet'.

Re China - I referred to Shanghai because English schools are constantly compared unfavourably with Shanghai's performance. Shanghai is often inflated to mean 'China' as a whole. But comparisons with Shanghai/China are unfair if Shanghai's results are dodgy. If we are told that Shanghai has monumental success with disadvantaged pupils, then it matters if disadvantaged pupils appear to be missing from Shanghai's PISA tests.

I've written about the unreliability of comparing pupils from 'China' with English pupils before.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 20/12/2014 - 10:47

Janet - I agree that there are influences and impacts external to schools that often generate obstacles that conspire to make some pupils hard to reach but I do not consider that schools have been held to account over this. Rather they have been held to account for the performance/progress/achievement of all categories of learners i.e. from the weakest through SEN to the most able (including the physically able and disabled).

In terms of disadvantaged pupils and delayed cognitive development this is where Sure Start was supposed to be a catalyst and driver of change. However, breaking either or both inherited family cycles and the pressures of poverty linked to multiple parental employments that form a near implacable barrier to parents spending time with, nurturing, reading to, being developmentally supportive of their children, is exceedingly difficult. It is during the earliest years through to teens that a child's cognitive abilities require input to develop and sustain growth of them, and if the time and family functionality does not meet this then the baton effectively gets passed to schools and brings with a burden on trying to compensate for, and in some cases replace, the absence of the parental input. Cognitive ability is plastic not static and as such schools continue to have a crucial role to play in this area.

With regard to the situation relating to schools where the majority of pupils are disadvantaged, my personal speculation is this is a classic example of the tipping point whereby so much time is spent focused on facilitating the disadvantaged pupils (and by implication weaker learner) that this effectively stalls (or holds back)progress for the rest.

On the China front I am and have been like minded from the outset, and like you have highlighted the game playing. The latter extends to Singapore too where the school structure in not exactly comprehensive in its in take.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 20/12/2014 - 12:35

Andy - you're right that all children should make progress and schools should be held to account if children don't make progress. Perhaps the new progress measure will go some way to reduce the reliance on raw test results as a measure of school competence.

However, schools are being judged on whether the gap is closed between advantaged and disadvantaged children. And some heads loudly proclaim how they've adopted a 'no excuses' policy whereby children are supposed to leave all their problems at the school door (see Times magazine 26/7/14 behind paywall - I discussed the article here). But expecting anyone (pupils or staff) to ignore problems is as unrealistic as it is inhumane.

I'm not sure that your tipping point argument stands up to scrutiny. It could well be true that teachers could spend a disproportionate time on, say, lower ability or disruptive pupils. But low ability and disruption aren't exclusively confined to disadvantaged pupils. The OECD suggested the lower performance of disadvantaged pupils could be a combination of:

1 Teachers 'instructing socio-economically disadvantaged children are likely to face greater challenges than teachers with students from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds'.
2 Peer group influence - pupils in schools with a high-proportion of disadvantaged pupils are more exposed to influences which depress learning.
3 Early selection worsens the effect of socio-economic background.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 20/12/2014 - 16:39

Janet - May I suggest that a cautious approach is taken when discussing 'disadvantaged' pupils and the operation of so called 'zero tolerance' or 'no excuses' strategies within state funded schools. My point is that there is a significant difference between a taking a hardline on behaviour and the application of high aspiration cultures. The former is focused on any and all inappropriate behaviours while the latter rightly strives to ensure that all pupils of all ability types make good or better progress achieve or exceed their expected targets. It is also prudent to ensure that the context of disadvantaged be upheld. That is to say, the Ofsted and thereby Data Dashboard definition is:

"disadvantaged pupils, including:
looked after children *
pupils known to be eligible for free school meals – a school is unlikely to be
judged outstanding if these pupils are not making at least good progress

* In April 2014, eligibility for pupil premium funding was extended to looked after children who have been looked after for one day or more and children who were adopted from care or left care under a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order."

See Ofsted Inspection handbook para 129 page 34.

I must also say that I do not see the use of hardline behaviour policies as "inhumane" and am unaware of any school operating such a policy that does not take the circumstances of each behavioural breaches into account; with the latter factored in when determining the sanction. The fact of the matter is that young people need to know what is expected of them and that they will always be held responsible and accountable for their choices. This I would suggest might be portrayed as exercising tough love. In a similar vein challenging all pupils of all abilities to produce work that their respective subject teachers gauge to be of high quality demonstrating progress and achievement is not "inhumane" either.

The context of our dialogue and the thread is that of 'disadvantaged' pupils and my comment re what I described as a tipping point was in relation to the scenario that in schools where the "majority" of pupils are "disadvantaged" the other pupils have their learning progress negatively impacted. It follows then that my comments were about the amount of focus required for the disadvantaged could/would impair the quality of focus given to / required by the non-disadvantaged. The issue of attention required by meeting the needs of SEN or generally disruptive pupils are additional factors within the tipping point. Indeed, when you cite disruptive pupils you are implicitly inferring support for hardline behaviour policies, which are necessary to support and facilitate the best use of the teachers expertise for the rest of the class.

You go on to cite 3 points from the OECD report in a way that infers that each is factually and evidentially proven whereas they are only 'suggestions' or postulations or theories:

"1 Teachers ‘instructing socio-economically disadvantaged children are likely to face greater challenges than teachers with students from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds’.
2 Peer group influence – pupils in schools with a high-proportion of disadvantaged pupils are more exposed to influences which depress learning."

Are these not rational reasons to employ a combination of high expectations of behaviour and aspirational levels of expectation? Surely not to implement such expectation and aspiration is to allow such pupils to tread water and or wallow in underachievement. Anecdotal I know, but it carries perhaps as much if not more evidential weight that the OECD propositions, I have worked in fee paying sector as well as state comprehensives and must say that points 1 and 2 above can be applied equally to distinctly advantaged pupils who are very challenging in terms of their T&L diet and just a clique / influence ridden as other pupils.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 21/12/2014 - 08:51

Andy - comments of necessity have to be short. This means certain assumptions are made about what is meant by 'disadvantaged' etc.

Re - behaviour. Of course behaviour needs to be managed. But there are appropriate measures and inappropriate measures (eg hitting children is no longer allowed). The head in the Times article (link above) explicitly said she expected pupils to leave problems at the school entrance. This shows complete lack of sympathy to anyone (staff included) who is going through a stressful period (eg bereavement, family breakdown, illness, etc).

As you've probably gathered, I'm not a 'hardline' person. At the same time, like all teachers, I've had to deal with bad behaviour. Sometimes I managed it; sometimes I didn't. But the times when I didn't were also times when support from senior management was virtually non-existent. And sometimes serious stuff got sidelined because staff were being expected to deal with minor breaches of uniform. For example, (anecdote): we were asked to focus on a particular uniform breach but I was faced with three crises in my tutor group. Should I have ignored these distressed children and told them to leave their problems at home so I could concentrate on whether ties were knotted correctly?

Yes, bad behaviour needs dealing with. But if schools have sufficient pastoral staff, allocated time and procedures then such things can be dealt with without teaching having to suffer. Trouble is, some senior managers think such support is 'wishy-washy'. One of the first things the Times head did was to sack the school's counsellor. This was what she termed as 'tough love'.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 21/12/2014 - 12:12

Janet - I made no assumptions about "disadvantaged" pupils. Rather I stuck to the issue in hand "closing the gap" and referred to the definition used by Ofsted / DFE and quoted directly from the Inspection Handbook. It that way I hoped to avoid equivocation and misunderstandings.

"Trouble is, some senior managers think such support is ‘wishy-washy’. One of the first things the Times head did was to sack the school’s counsellor. This was what she termed as ‘tough love’ ", Only senior managers? Are they being singled out for a reason? Do you know why the "counsellor" was "sacked"? I don't. I would also suggest that it would be wrong to judge all schools operating hardline behaviour policies on the basis of one school that made the papers.

It is perhaps too easy to read things into what the Head Teacher is reported to have said. That is to say, we don't have a detailed discourse as to what she actually meant by 'problems' that should be left at the school gates. I would not define bereavement or a family breakdown as a problem, which you appear to. Whereas some form of teenage fallout or hormonal upheavals do lead to 'problems' being brought into school, and in my book it is not unreasonable to expect those pupils to exercise self control and restraint. Indeed, the latter is an important feature of the wider teaching / role modelling role that schools fulfil.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 08:51

Andy - it's difficult to make all points in a comment which by necessity has to be short.

Re my comment re senior managers: it wasn't just based on one head's comment in the Times whose 'zero tolerance' policy was credited with turning the school round after years of 'pandering' to children. But the school's history was distorted as I pointed out here.

It was also based on high-profile supporters of zero-tolerance (eg Gove, Sir Michael Wilshaw who, when head of Mossbourne, also introduced zero-hours for teachers) and widespread publicity dating back to 2011 for a particular head who appears to be parachuted in, to cause controversy with draconian methods and then leaves (see here, here and here for a flavour). And then there's the much praised (particularly by Gove) of the zero-tolerance approach of KIPP schools in the USA (a policy which has been found to have negative impacts on pupils from minority groups).

Alan Bowles's picture
Sun, 21/12/2014 - 19:37

I am associated as a Governor with a school with high proportions of disadvantaged children. It is not the fact that they are disadvantaged by the definition of needing FSM. Some of those already disadvantaged by a form of poverty, are further disadvantaged by a lack of care , discipline and apathy from their parents to an extent that progress at school is extremely difficult. It is then not a problem if there are one or two in this category of extreme disadvantage but when a class may contain 5 children of extreme disadvantage the whole class is so disrupted that all children in that class suffer. This is what Janet is describing as a tipping point. it requires no little skill to remain optimistic in such circumstances and finding more measures to point this out does not solve the problem which needs more human and financial resources to resolve. High marks for progress and achievement are impossible in such a situation as there is a top barrier of approx. 80% for either measure however good the teacher and school is

Andy V's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 09:30

Alan - I think you'll find that Janet disagrees with my proposition regarding what I called the 'tipping point'," [She's] not sure that [my] tipping point argument stands up to scrutiny."

Andy V's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 10:05

Janet - I do not see the relevance of or need for the introduction of tales from the USA regarding their version of zero tolerance, which in any case is clearly rather different to what appears to be operated here in England. This is particularly pertinent to events away from school during non-school time.

I also note that the focus of your discontent is focused on behavioural issues rooted in wilful breaches of school rules/policies e.g. uniform, jewellery and being equipped for learning. These are not the same as pupils having a bad day (or period of time) arising from a family bereavement or parental (family) breakdown.

Equally, I have met and/or heard of extremely few colleagues at any and every level in the profession who do not acknowledge and accept the mitigation of those pupils who come to school with the burden of very real difficulties that are not (well very rarely) of their own making (e.g. the drunken/drugged up violence within the home setting, death of a close member of the family or friend). Thus your characterisation of senior managers attitudes to pastoral issues as "wishy washy" does not resonate with me. Like many other colleagues I have worked in and still choose to work in challenging schools where the latter represents the safest and most consistent experience in their young lives. The vast majority of these youngsters do not abuse that and do their very best to follow school rules / policies. For these pupils their issues are known within the schools concerned and this knowledge is used when applying behaviour policies.

When discussing the closing the gap measure and disadvantaged pupils one must acknowledge and stay within the definitions by which DFE and Ofsted hold schools to account, and that the school received additionally funding in the form of pupil premium to assist in improving the life-chances of these pupils. It is in my opinion quite wrong to deliberately blur the issue by bringing in other perceptions of disadvantage and thereby widening the debate beyond that put forward at the top of the thread.

I would suggest that the combination of SMWs drive on achievement for all, closing the gap, and pupil premium has enabled very many pupils to realise their potential in a way that they would not otherwise have been able to.

It was interesting at the time it happened to read that Dr Fox's missive to the two major unions was leaked - can't think of a likely source for the leak - but no major follow-up references were made to the alleged appalling and what would amount to wholly unprofessional attitudes and practices of some colleagues.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 14:17

Andy - 'alleged, appalling...wholly unprofessional attitudes and practices'. Funny how Ofsted, which actually praised the head didn't mention these. In fact, the monitoring report (March 2014) before the full inspection said middle leaders shared his ambition and 'Teachers dress smartly, are professional and act as positive role models for students.'

The full inspection (Oct 2014) didn't mention them either. Inspectors judged teaching to still require improvement but made positive comments such as 'Attitudes to learning are at their very best when teachers have carefully built up good relationships' and 'Inadequate teaching has been virtually eradicated and the proportion of good teaching has increased'.

And now the head is leaving after just a few terms and some court cases pending.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 16:31

Janet -

“There was particular fury at his claim that ‘50 per cent of the teaching at Ryde [on his arrival] was not good enough’, and that senior teachers on top levels of pay had turned up late for classes, or not at all, had bullied junior staff, refused to set homework and were petty, rude and aggressive.
‘Some bad habits had become established — teachers taking cups of coffee into lessons and spilling them on the children’s work. Appalling! Unthinkable!’ he tells me.
‘We had some teachers with pins in their noses telling the children to take the pins out of theirs. Teachers are supposed to be role models.’
One senior teacher had, apparently, refused to set homework because his working day finished at 2.40pm and he wouldn’t be able to mark it — as he was going sailing. ‘Yes, he was on the higher pay scale. And no, he is no longer with us,’ says Dr Fox.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2858282/The-toughest-inspiring-h... (3 Dec 14)

I’m not sure about you but it has been my experience that when Ofsted calls virtually all staff are on their toes to avoid being found wanting. The exceptions to that rule of thumb are those who for whatever reason choose to use the inspection to make hay; though rarely at their own expense (e.g. putting themselves and/or their employment on the line). I am not surprised therefore that many of the issues in his letter didn't jump out at the inspection team. Arguably, very few Heads/Principals would invite Ofsted's attention to it. However, having been graded 4 I suspect that Dr Fox took an entirely different and more transparent approach.

The chronology of his 12 page leaked letter is there late Oct/Nov 14 and includes his assertions based on what he found from Jan 14 onwards.

The Apr 13 report has many references to underperformance of practitioners and page 8 under L&M makes explicit reference to senior teachers on the upper pay spine and need for more robust performance management. The latest S5 report, 18 months later, makes reference to many of the Apr 13 inspection findings and highlights both were action has or is bearing fruit and also what needs to be done to progress from R/I to Good.

Oct 14 report makes references to the changes implemented by the new Principal and senior leaders (see summary of key findings at front of report). Likewise at page 3 and the L&M section (p. 4)

You appear to be conflating senior teachers (on UPS) with middle leaders, which is a little speculative. That said, with regard to the Mar 14 monitoring visit, I believe that to get a fuller and more accurate picture of the changes wrought since Jan 14 it is necessary to read the L&M section in full and not atomise it. This avoids the potential of drifting into what might otherwise be interpreted as selective cherry-picking. It is, however, most noticeable that the Jul and Oct 13 monitoring visit reports do not mention the wider leadership team; by which I mean senior, middle and UPS teaching staff. I accept that neither of us can know how many senior teachers (whether middle leaders or not) were referred to by Dr Fox it does seem apparent that tackling them has unlocked potential obstacles to the development of an effective middle leadership tier.

Put another way I cannot agree the position in your last contribution.

Btw, you seem to have overlooked that Dr Fox is the Interim not permanent Principal and as such to serve 5 terms (an academic year and 2 terms) is (a) unusually long and (b) appears to be in line the sponsor’s strategy of turning things around and getting a permanent successor in. Other than the duration then this is not unusual for an interim Head / Principal.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 17:24

Andy - the staff might well have been on their best behaviour when Ofsted appeared but surely the head would have mentioned his profound concerns about the allegedly unprofessional staff if they were as bad as he claimed in the letter to the unions. The NUT has said it does not recognise the picture Dr Fox painted.

It will be interesting to read the outcomes of the court cases.

The sponsor is AET, the much-criticised academy chain currently paused from taking on more academies. The EFA has also told it to sort out its finances. AET previously bounced Dr Fox into a Great Yarmouth academy in April 2013 to support the head. He said he would get the school out of special measures in a year. But he bounced off to the Isle of Wight and the Great Yarmouth academy is still in special measures.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 22/12/2014 - 17:32

Janet - This is where the chronology is important. That is to say, Dr F arrived Jan 14 and the Mar 14 monitoring visit that is more explicit than the previous reports. Albeit speculative I perceive that Dr F was more open with Ofsted about the issues facing the school, which is want the post S5 visits/inspections are all about.

It must also be said, that working on the basis that Dr F is AETs full time interim Principal then he can expect to be bounced around. He is at their beck and call not AET at his.

I will make a note to keep an eye out for the court cases.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 23/12/2014 - 15:44

Chronology important yes. Dr Fox arrived before Jan 2014. Monitoring visit to Ryde Academy 16 October 2013 said inspectors met with a 'representative from the academy’s sponsor, who is also the Executive Principal.'

The next monitoring report (March 2014) said the Executive Principal had become the Interim Principal (named as Dr Fox). This was the inspection that said:

'Teachers dress smartly, are professional and act as positive role models for

The full Ofsted is addressed to the Principal, Dr Fox, not the Interim Principal. Inspectors said they met the Principal, not the Interim Principal. There were at least six references in the full inspection to the Principal - none referring to an Interim Principal.

It appears, then, Dr Fox was sent to the Great Yarmouth academy in April 2013 with a pledge to get the school out of special measures within a year. However, by October 2013 he has left GY and become Executive Principal at Ryde. According to Ofsted, he's now the Principal (not Interim Principal). And he's now leaving after causing a great deal of controversy and criticising his staff in a letter to unions which contradicts what Ofsted said. The letter was leaked and publicised nationally.

Very odd.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 23/12/2014 - 16:08

Janet - The address block for the 5 Mar 14 monitoring visit report is clearly addressed to Dr F as "Interim Headteacher".

The Oct 13 monitoring visit report does not refer to the Executive Head by name and any allusion to this having been Dr Fox is speculation. This unnamed person was present as a representative of the sponsor.

The Oct 14 S5 Report is a pre-formatted template and thus the post title is Principal. If you track back through the Ofsted S5 reports you will find that the term Acting (Head or Prin) doesn't appear either. I suggest you read nothing into the absence of 'Interim' unless of course one wishes to be perceived at clutching at straws.

What does come across as odd to me is your singleminded determination to hang Dr F out to dry on flimsy evidence. With regard to the letter, as I said earlier I will wait and watch for any outcome of the alleged court cases. You infer that the letter is undermined by the Mar 14 monitoring report and S5 report Oct 14. My position is that the Ofsted correspondence can be used by both us and we end with an impasse. Indeed, I go further and suggest that from Jan - Mar 14 and then onwards to Oct 14 Dr F and his new SLT could very well have identified and dealt with key personnel issues. The latter leading to (a) alleged court cases pending and (b) a significant and positive impact amongst colleagues and therefore the future of the academy.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 23/12/2014 - 15:47

New school ranking system, based on progress made by FSM pupils, will discriminate against pupils in poorest areas of Wales, The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru warns. It will give schools in areas of high deprivation “more hoops to jump through”.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 23/12/2014 - 16:11

Janet - And there was thinking that the Welsh Assembly had responsibility and accountability for education in Wales. This being the case I am confused as to how this fits into your top story which seems to be about DFE and England (and Ofsted, who have nowt to with school inspection in Wales).

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 24/12/2014 - 08:55

Andy - very simply - it's because the thread is about judging schools based on the progress of FSM pupils. That was made clear in the first paragraph.

This way of judging schools is causing controversy outside England. The fact that it's deemed unfair elsewhere is relevant, wherever in the world the comment is made.

Hope this clears the confusion.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 24/12/2014 - 09:03

"Want to get your teeth into more than mince pies this Christmas? DfE number crunchers want comments about measuring attainment gap. But can it be totally wiped out?", the title of the thread renders your explanation somewhat hollow.

rodger123's picture
Fri, 26/12/2014 - 08:52

I hear that some academies in Croydon have successfully closed the gap between PP and non-pp students and received letters of congratulations from the DFE . Is this due to the improved quality of teaching, gaming the exam system, off-rolling non-pp students who are not likely to meet their progress targets or having a behaviour code that only the most resilient and able reach year 11?

I would suggest someone email Croydon council to find out!!!

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 11/01/2015 - 12:16

I have posted many times and at length on this subject on LSN.

My arguments have some common ground with both Andy and Janet, but in my view they have a degree of internal consistency not to my knowledge to be found elsewhere. Of course this could be because they are wrong and no-one agrees with me.

You can find my reply to the DfE statisticians on this subject in my blog on my new website.


Please read and decide.

Jack Marwood's picture
Fri, 06/02/2015 - 13:20


Worryingly, the new Index is being used by the DfE before the consultation on its use has concluded. See https://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2015/02/04/pupil-premium-39-has-failed-to-... for details:

"Demos’ claims were disputed by the Department for Education. “It is nonsense to say that the attainment gap is widening,” a spokesman said. “The 2014 results – when analysed with our more informative and accurate measure – show the gap has narrowed by almost 4 per cent since 2012, the year after the pupil premium was introduced."

This appears to be a calculation based on the DPAG Index change from 3.89 in 2012 to 3.74 in 2014 (a drop of 0.15 points, or 0.15/3.74 = 0.04011). The DPAG is smoke and mirrors of the best kind, and it is worrying that it appears to be being used already.


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