Progress 8


  • Schools are no longer ranked according to the number of students achieving 5 A* to C GCSEs. Since 2016, Progress 8 has been used as the headline measure by which to rank schools.
  • Attainment 8 data will record the grade achieved by year 11 students across eight subjects. These eight subjects will come from three ‘buckets’. The first bucket contains English and Maths. The second bucket is made up of a student’s three highest scoring Ebacc subjects which aren’t English or maths. The third bucket is any three further GCSEs or technical awards which are on a DfE approved list and haven’t been used in any previous bucket. 1
  • After double weighting English and maths, each student’s average grade across the eight subjects will then be compared to the average grade achieved by those who had similar KS2 English and maths results to that student. This comparison leads to a Progress 8 score which describes whether that student has made more, less or similar progress to those they are compared with.
  • By 2019 all GCSEs will have changed to the 9-1 grading system and so the points for each grade in Attainment 8 will be equivalent to the grade achieved.
  • For 2017 and 2018 there will be a mixture of GCSEs, some on the new 9-1 grading scale and some on the old letter-based scale (A*-G). For the unreformed GCSEs, points will be allocated to each letter grade. Details of this and more information on the procedure of calculating Attainment 8 and Progress 8 can be found here.
  • A school’s Progress 8 score will be the average score for its student cohort.
  • Progress 8 is now the headline indicator of school performance determining both the floor standard and the ‘coasting’ level.
  • Some may feel that Progress 8 is worthwhile due to its nature as a ‘value-added’ measure. This is in contrast to its predecessor, the attainment based measure of the percentage of students achieving 5 A*-C grades including English and maths. However, teachers and the wider education community have identified concerns.
  • Not completing EBacc subjects, will make it much harder to record a positive Progress 8 score. Where an Attainment 8 slot is not filled with a subject deemed appropriate, a student receives an Attainment 8 score of zero, thus dragging their average grade down. This narrows a student’s choices and forces them to take subjects which may not be most suitable for them.
  • Progress 8 is unlikely to encourage schools to diversify their vocational provision either. To count in performance tables, vocational courses have had to take on many of the characteristics of academic qualifications and a student completing a non-recognised vocational course will score zero.2
  • Analysis by Education Datalab shows that schools with higher ability intakes are more likely to have higher Progress 8 scores. 3 This diminishes the idea that this focus on progress is a way of levelling the playing field between ‘advantaged’ and ‘disadvantaged’ schools. Therefore, as the title of the analysis suggests, “we cannot compare the effectiveness of schools with different types of intakes”.
  • This blog post, along with further analysis4 by Education Datalab, demonstrates how Progress 8 alone can never be a measure of a school’s effectiveness: there are too many other influences which affect a student’s progress. The positive or negative measures of progress are unfairly being wholly attributed to the school at which that pupil studies, disregarding various other influential factors in a student’s life.
  • Progress 8 is built on the assumption that current KS2 assessment tests in English and maths are a consistent baseline from which to predict targets at KS4 across all subjects. This premise is not universally accepted.5
  • Progress 8 is likely to lead to a further increase in the role that data plays in driving the curriculum. For example, data managers may insist that students are entered (even if not properly prepared) for English Literature, as the doubling of their best English score can only occur if they are entered for both.
  • Due to the fact that it is a mean measure, Progress 8 is flawed by outliers.6 If six students were to achieve on average half a grade better than expected per subject, these multiple successes would be entirely neutralised by one student with a Progress 8 score of -3. A score like this could occur for reasons perhaps beyond the control of the school. Such reasons could include that student not taking enough EBacc subjects and therefore scoring zero in an Attainment 8 slot (or slots), or perhaps the student in question not turning up to sit one or more exams.
  • From March 2017, Ofsted inspectors were encouraged to take outliers into account when considering the Progress 8 score of a school.7 However, this cannot be done in a quantitative way and the introduction of subjectivity to the measure could allow for inconsistency in its application. In July 2017, DfE reported that they intend to make an as yet undefined change to Progress 8 methodology, in an attempt to account for this flaw. 8

1 UK Government, (2017), [online]. Available here p.10
2 The numbers of vocational qualifications that qualify for accountability measures have been severely reduced and no longer count as ‘multiple’ GCSEs. See here
3 Rebecca Allen, Education Datalab, (2015), [online]. Available here
4 Dave Thomson, Education Datalab, (2015), [online]. Available here
5 Tom Sherrington, (2017), [online]. Available here
6 Rebecca Allen, Education Datalab, (2017), [online]. Available here
7 Ofsted, (2017), [online]. Available here
8 DfE, (2017), [online]. Available here p. 14