Progress 8 and Attainment 8 have become the chief measures of schools' performance, replacing the old 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths measure. They are based on students' attainment in their best eight subjects at GCSE and the progress made from the end of Year 6, when the Key Stage 2 SATs in Reading and Maths are taken.
They were designed by Michael Gove, when he was Secretary of State for Education, to encourage schools to focus on improving the performance of all pupils - the Gs who might get an F, the Bs who might get an A - rather than just those on the C/D borderline.
Attainment 8 Score
This is calculated by adding together a student's highest scores across eight government approved qualifications. These are divided into three categories, which are being called “buckets”:
- Bucket 1 - English and Maths, which are worth double marks, but English will only count for double marks if both English Literature and English (ie English Language) are taken; the higher grade of the two is used;
- Bucket 2 – the top three scores from the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects taken, ie Sciences, Computer Science, History, Geography and languages;
- Bucket 3 – the top three scores from remaining EBacc subjects or other government approved qualifications (eg other GCSEs or Level 2 Certificates in some technical subjects).
The highest Attainment 8 score in 2016 was achieved by Henrietta Barnett (an all girls' grammar school in Barnet, London): 78.5. The average for all schools nationally was 48.2.
Progress 8 Score
This is based on two calculations using Attainment 8 scores. Students from the whole country who had similar Reading and Maths results at Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6) are grouped and the group's estimated average Attainment 8 score is arrived at through a massive number crunch at the Department for Education.
The student Progress 8 score is the actual Attainment 8 score less the estimated Attainment 8 score, which is then divided by ten (8 subjects; Maths and English count twice).
A school’s Progress 8 score is the average score from pupils across a whole year group::
- A score of zero means pupils in this school on average do about as well at Key Stage 4 as other pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.
- A score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.
- A score below zero means pupils made less progress, on average, than pupils across England who got similar results at the end of Key Stage 2.
Progress 8 and Attainment 8: Should parents care?
On results day, what still matters for students is the actual grades they receive, as these will determine where they go next (sixth form courses, apprenticeships, jobs etc). Individual students’ Progress 8 or Attainment 8 scores are not made public as these are only calculated in order to work out the whole school’s progress and attainment. It's the headteachers who have sleepless nights until the autumn, when they are due to receive their school's scores – especially with regard to Progress 8 – as very weak ones can result in a school coming under pressure to convert to an academy (which could mean a change of head). The school performance tables for 2017 will probably be published in January 2018.
However, the Progress 8 and Attainment 8 scores are useful for those parents who are researching secondary schools for their children. When weighing up one’s options, it is helpful to know whether one school is more able than others to help its pupils obtain higher GCSE grades than the expected norm for those of their ability, in addition to having comparative information about the attainment of pupils across eight rather than just five subjects.