In October 2013, the Department for Education (DFE) announced a new accountability system would be implemented from 2016. As part of the change, schools now have to show they are supporting the growth of all their students, with one of the measures, "Progress 8", capturing the progress a student makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.
Undoubtedly, teachers will want each student to reach their full potential, but there's more to understand before they can reach Progress 8's ultimate goal. A recent survey of UK teachers, undertaken by the online homework and exam-preparation service for secondary schools SAM Learning, found that over 35% of teachers said that they had a less-than-good understanding of Progress 8.
Optional during this school year, only 10% of secondary schools, 337 in total, decided to be early birds. Progress 8 comes into force for the other 90% come September. Speaking to Gareth Mellor from SAM Learning, here are five reasons why - despite a busy exam period - it's important for teachers to get up-to-speed with Progress 8 now:
1) It's complicated and schools need to provide staff training
While there's no denying that Progress 8's data-heavy method is complicated and difficult to get your head around, it's important to remember that it's mandatory for all schools. In order for teachers to fully understand it, training, either internal or external, is essential. Worryingly, 32% of those surveyed by SAM Learning said that they have had no training about Progress 8.
2) It might negatively affect your subject area
The introduction of subject buckets is an integral part of Progress 8. There will be three buckets: Bucket 1 is for the two core subjects, with one slot for English and one slot for mathematics, and as it is so crucial, it is worth double; Bucket 2 comprises a selection of three EBacc qualification subjects; and Bucket 3 can consist of any remaining EBacc subjects as well as approved academic, arts or vocational qualifications. The idea is that students will be encouraged to take a 'broad and balanced' range of subjects.
However, there are possibly important, and not entirely positive, ramifications for a range of subjects that fall outside the first two subject buckets, most notably the arts. Teachers of subjects in this third bucket worry that their subjects will be overlooked, deemed not 'academic' enough and, as a result, side-lined. One survey respondent say she worried it would "destroy numbers taking up creative subjects like Art and Design Technology".
3) It's a measure some students may find difficult to achieve
The subject and curriculum requirements of Progress 8 will arguably force a one-size-fits-all approach to education on students. Staff at a Pupil Referral Unit expressed their discomfort about a system that is too "narrow for some students" and a measure that will be difficult for their students to achieve and, as such, "add to a feeling of disenchantment around their life chances moving forward". Ensuring that students don't fall through the gaps will become of vital importance.
4) You'll have to develop new methods of targeting intervention
There's perhaps an unfair view that, under the old accountability measures, schools would target their intervention at a very particular section of students, namely those on the C/D grade boundary. The suggestion is that it would be easier for schools to get these students to achieve the necessary "five good GCSEs" (anything C and above) than it would those students at the very bottom, while those already achieving Cs or Bs, or even As and A*s, would be able to "coast" at the top. Progress 8 is intended to address this imbalance by requiring schools to raise attainment for all students, and failure to do so will result in an instant Ofsted inspection.
Schools will therefore have to adopt new methods of targeting intervention across a cohort, meaning time, resources and attention will have to be more evenly spread across year groups.
5) Translating Progress 8 to parents might be difficult
The introduction of Progress 8 will turn the educational landscape upside down and will be difficult to grasp at first, with long established measures of accountability thrown out of the window and an entirely new system brought in. Having seen the recent SATs debacle, it's clear that parents want an increasing say over their children's education, so getting Progress 8 across to them will be an important task to get right.
This year will be a baptism of fire for teachers getting to grips with Progress 8 and its ramifications. While some may be holding out for a "Baseline" style u-turn, it's increasingly looking like it's here to stay. The enormous weight of implementing it falls on the shoulders of teachers, so it's vital that preparations should now get underway.