//Provisional GCSE and equivalent results 2018: The impact of changes to Progress 8

Provisional GCSE and equivalent results 2018: The impact of changes to Progress 8

By |2018-10-16T12:30:50+00:0016th October 2018|Exams and assessment, School accountability|

Two things jump out of the provisional 2018 Progress 8 scores published by the Department for Education today.

The first is that schools which entered all (or the vast majority) of their pupils in ECDL have tended to see their scores fall.

The second is that the method of capping “extremely negative” pupil-level Progress 8 scores makes very little practical difference to the vast majority of schools.

The impact of ECDL

The European Computer Driving Licence, or ECDL, was removed from the list of qualifications eligible for performance tables in 2018. We’ve written previously about its impact on Progress 8 scores.

Sure enough, those schools that entered all (or almost all) of their pupils in ECDL in 2017 have tended to see their Progress 8 score fall in 2018, although some have improved.

As the table below shows, on average, the P8 score of schools which entered over 90% of their pupils for the ECDL in 2017 fell from +0.20 to -0.04, a difference of a quarter of a reformed GCSE grade.

By contrast, schools which entered less than 5% of pupils in ECDL saw their P8 scores increase on average from +0.04 in 2017 to +0.14 in 2018.

The effect of capping

This year, for the first time, the Department for Education has taken steps to minimise the disproportionate effect some pupils with “extremely negative” Progress 8 scores can have on a school’s published score. These tend to be pupils whose Key Stage 4 attainment has been affected by reasons beyond a school’s control such as long-term illness.

In short, there is now a methodology in place to “cap” such scores. In other words, make extremely negative scores slightly less negative. The full methodology can be seen here [PDF].

The results are fairly underwhelming. Fewer than 5,000 pupils in more than 2,000 schools had their scores capped. Just nine schools saw their provisional published P8 measure change by more than 0.1. These were all small schools (fewer than 100 Year 11 pupils included in the measure) and all bar one remained below the floor standard of -0.5. Three were university technical colleges and three were studio schools.

Another 50 schools saw their score change by 0.05 or more.

So capping makes little difference. Schools with pupils whose Key Stage 4 attainment has been affected for reasons beyond their control may well feel doubly aggrieved given the DfE is apparently tightening rules on removing pupils from performance tables measures, according to Schools Week reporting.

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About the Author:

Dave Thomson is chief statistician at FFT with over fifteen years’ experience working with educational attainment data to raise attainment in local government, higher education and the commercial sector. His current research interests include linking education and workplace datasets to improve estimates of adult attainment and study the impact of education on employment and benefits outcomes.


  1. Zoe Goldblum 16 October, 2018 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Do you have any view about why selective schools provisionally to have done very well in terms of Progress 8? How is it statistically possible given the fact that their students presumably have high KS2 results? And how can these selective schools all be performing consistently at such a level?

  2. steve heys 16 October, 2018 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    further to Zoe’s question;

    It would be interesting to look at the relative P8 scores and entry patterns between selective and other schools at each KS2 decimal as student P8 scores are initially calculated vs their peers with the same KS2 decimal score.
    As the original grade distribution basis was to effectively align/limit to the 2015 national GCSE scores is it possible that the selective schools just “gobble up” more of the higher grades available and therefore when compared to non-selective school students, effectively push those students slightly negative?

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