Two schools maintained by local authorities were ranked in the top ten English schools based on their Progress 8 (P8) scores, the New Schools Network (NSN) confirms (although the top ten actually equals nine according to NSN).
Two free schools were also in the top nine/ten. Toby Young, NSN’s director, claimed this showed ‘Some of the best results in the country are coming from free schools’ and was a ‘ringing endorsement’ of the free school policy.
If ending up in the top nine/ten is a ringing endorsement of a particular school type, then having LA maintained schools in this group is a ringing endorsement of LA maintained schools. This would extend to converter and sponsored academies which also appear.
Three of the schools topping the P8 league tables are faith schools, six aren’t. It’s a ringing endorsement for faith schools and non-faith schools, then.
This shows how ridiculous it is to claim appearing at the top of a league table shows one type of school is superior to another.
The schools at the top of the P8 league should be congratulated for the progress their pupils made. This applies to all schools where Progress 8 was judged well above, above or average. Even the latter group, which includes Toby Young’s West London Free School, show they have maintained the achievement level of their pupils since the end of primary school.
But it’s a bit of a stretch to say that being in the top nine/ten is a ringing endorsement of any type of school since the group contains converter academies, sponsored academies, LA schools, free schools, faith schools and non-faith schools. The statement beginning ‘Some of the best results in the country are coming from…’ could be applied to all these types of school.
It should be remembered, however, that P8 is only one way of judging schools. It’s fairer than the old method of judging them on GCSE results alone but it’s still a flawed measure. It penalises schools where the curriculum doesn’t match the subjects which contribute to P8 scores. And TES pointed out that the new GCSE points scheme ‘is unfairly weighted towards those gaining top grades – as the bottom grades of the A* to G scale are not worth as many points as they were last year.’
Stephen Tierney, chair of the Headteachers' Roundtable, told TES:
‘Schools with lower-attaining pupils will have seen their Progress 8 go backwards even though they might have been just as effective, or even more effective, just because of the way it is measured. So that is a concern.’
Using P8 to make sweeping claims about particular school types is misleading. Unfortunately, we are likely to read more of this hype from both NSN and the Department for Education. The only true statement that can be made is that all types of schools appear at the top, middle and bottom of P8 league tables.
This is a companion piece to 20% of free schools are below Progress 8 floor standard.