CentreForum report backs judging pupils' progress

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Regular readers of this blog will know that we have long argued that the fairest and most effective way to judge schools is by the progress their pupils make.

We’re delighted, then, to have launched a new report, together with the CentreForum think tank, on this issue: Progress matters in Primary too: Holding schools to account consistently.

Following on from an earlier report on secondary school accountability, the report argues that pupil progress, rather than attainment, should be the principal floor target for primary schools, for the following reasons:

  • A progress measure encourages schools to focus on all pupils, because the performance of all pupils counts equally towards school performance by that measure. An attainment-based measure has the potential to encourage schools to focus more narrowly on pupils near the threshold, because it is here that schools stand to make the most gains in their measured performance. Consequently, pupils far below the expected standard risk being left behind, while those far above may not be adequately stretched.
  • A progress measure considers pupil performance in light of their individual starting points. In this way it is able to better identify the impact of the school from circumstances outside of its control, i.e. the prior attainment of its intake. An attainment measure puts schools with lower prior-attainment intakes at an inherent and unfair disadvantage, because such intakes are less predisposed to meeting the attainment standards.

The report also addresses the thorny issue of baseline assessment, arguing that an effective baseline assessment, administered to pupils in their first half-term of Reception, is fundamental to creating a progress measure. It acknowledges that there are valid concerns around the introduction of a baseline assessment, but believes that these can be overcome.

The report ends with two recommendations:

  1. Pupil progress is the fairest and most effective accountability measure, and should therefore be adopted by government as its principal headline accountability measure for primary schools.
  1. To support pupil progress becoming the principal headline accountability measure for primary schools, the government should provide clear, defensible evidence that the baseline assessment which underpins it is valid, fair and reliable.

We hope that this report will prove useful in this highly-charged debate. Do let us know what you think.