Morgan targets schools with lower attaining entries

Henry Stewart's picture
Nicky Morgan's new definition of "coasting" represents two key elements:

a) a big expansion of the numbers of schools being targetted (see here for my estimate of almost 3,000 schools)
b) a focus, because of the measures used, on schools with lower ability entries.

When Morgan first started talking of coasting schools, I assumed a key target would be schools with strong entries that do not add sufficient value in terms of exam results achieved. Such schools will in fact be almost totally unaffected by Morgan's new definition.

First, any school where 60% of students achieve 5 A-Cs will not be "coasting"

There are many schools with strong intakes for whom scores in the 60s are below what could be expected. Indeed for students arriving with a Level 5, the target of getting a C is the wrong measure in any case.

And there are 18 schools which have a Best8 value added score of over 1020 (ie, in the top 15% in the country) but still meet Morgan's new definition. This is not because the school is under achieving. Given their intake, the Best8 figure makes clear that they are achieving very well indeed.

Secondly, the "Expected Progress" measure is also linked to initial ability

Expected progress sounds like a value added measure. However "expected progress" is defined as 3 levels of progress, whatever level the students starts at. So for a student leaving primary school with a Level 5 grade, 3 levels of progress only means getting a B at GCSE. For a level 4 student it means a C, and for a level 3 student it means a D.

In Maths of those arriving with a level 5a, 96% achieve 3 levels of progress. However for those arriving with a 4c, just 48% get 3 levels of progress and, for those with a 3c, just 20% achieve 3 levels. How likely a student is to achieve "expected progress" is therefore highly dependent on their starting point. For a school, the % that achieves 3 levels of progress is likely to be very dependent on the ability of the intake at age 11. (Figures taken from 2014 Raise Online)

Imagine a grammar school where every student arrives with a level 5 grade. If they got only 65% to achieve 5 A-Cs at GCSE, achieved no A grades in English or Maths and got only 75% to even a level B then it would be fairly clear that the school was not doing well. However it would not trigger the coasting definition.

While I don't think any grammar school is doing that badly, it is fairly certain that no grammar school will be described as coasting under this definition. However secondary moderns (or comprehensive schools in selective areas) will have to be doing very well indeed to escape being termed coasting.

An odd choice of measures

From 2016 the new Progress8 measure will be used to define coasting. This is a genuine value added measure (though some have pointed out its weaknesses), that should be designed to reflect the progress of all students in a school.

A perfectly good value added measure exists, in Best8, and is available to the DfE. It is very odd then that Nicky Morgan has chosen instead to use a set of measures that targets the "coasting" term much more at those schools with lower ability entries.


Note: The graph has been added since the original post, and slight corrections to figures to fit those published in Raise Online.
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Liam Collins's picture
Tue, 30/06/2015 - 06:02

i completely agree with your analysis, but urge you to amend one error about grammar schools. I work just south of Tunbridge Wells, the grammars do have some MA students (meaning they got a 4 at KS2). I thought that all students at a grammar had achieved a 5, but clearly some have passed the 11+ but got a 4 in the SATs. However your analysis is spot on!

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 30/06/2015 - 09:58

Liam - your'e right that there are pupils in grammars who didn't achieve Level 5 in Sats. Skegness Grammar School, for example, has 40% previously middle-attainers in its 2013/14 GCSE cohort. This highlights the unreliability of the 11+.

Rob Anthony's picture
Tue, 30/06/2015 - 06:16

So, given this definition, what proportion of academies are coasting?

Jane Gardner's picture
Tue, 30/06/2015 - 07:27

Everyone interested in what is happening in education should understand this better. Often press reports just launch into statements about schools which the local community and public in general don't really understand. This can have a negative effect on a good school struggling with the demands of the leagues table dilemma!

Some schools, not in 'middle class' areas, doing well by their students & with higher grades than the surrounding Academies, were judged on capped best 8 in 2014!! Guess what happened to them!

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 30/06/2015 - 10:03

Henry - there is one grammar which according to league tables isn't just 'coasting' but failing spectacularly. 0% of pupils at Bourne Grammar achieved the benchmark in 2013/14. That's because it used iGCSEs. However, according to league tables it's the worst-performing secondary school in Lincolnshire. The tables also record that only 1% made expected progress in English. This must make it one of the worst-performing secondary schools in the country for expected progress.

This shows what a farce league tables have become.

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