Q&A: UTC Sheffield City Centre Campus Progress 8 Scores
Introduction: new performance measures
The way that the performance of schools and pupils is measured has changed. The government introduced a new score called Progress 8 in 2016. This replaced the GCSE leagues tables based on the number of pupils gaining A* to C grades.
Under the new system UTC Sheffield City Centre campus – which is Ofsted graded ‘good’ – has ranked as ‘well below average’ in national performance tables data released by the Department for Education this week.
No Progress 8 scores are available on UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park yet as the first cohort of students to join the new facility, which opened in September 2016, have not sat their exams yet.
UTC Sheffield Executive Principal, Nick Crew, has previously discussed the implications of Progress 8 for UTCs. In an article for FE Week, published last year, he explained why the new scoring system is not an effective measure of a specialist technical school. Please click here for more information.
The following Q&A also explains why the Progress 8 rankings do not reflect on the wider achievements of our students.
What is Progress 8?
Schools are now judged on Attainment 8 and Progress 8 scores in English and maths, as well as the number of pupils entering and achieving passes in the English Baccalaureate subjects which are English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language.
Progress 8 measures pupils’ progress across eight subjects from the ages of 11 to 16. Attainment 8 measures average attainment across those subjects. There are eight sections of subjects that qualify for performance scores.
The first five sections are the English Baccalaureate subjects: English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language. The additional three sections relate to other additional approved qualifications covering technical and vocational subjects.
How does Progress 8 impact on the UTC compared to other schools?
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are very different to traditional schools with a remit to deliver a curriculum that trains young people, aged 14 to 19, in the skills their regional economy needs with the support of local universities and employers.
The new government performance measures suit traditional schools because the scores reward attainment and progress in a small number of core academic subjects linked to the English Baccalaureate.
Although these are offered at the UTC, the majority of our students do not choose to study all of the English Baccalaureate subjects. Students’ focus is instead on those academic subjects that complement our advanced engineering and creative and digital technical specialisms, such as English, maths and science rather than languages, history and geography.
Our students do very well in those subjects. However, our employer-focussed curriculum has limited the score that the UTC can achieve in the government performance tables – because some of our technical subjects do not qualify for inclusion and so students receive a zero score for a subject being missing.
Are there other reasons why the UTC score is not higher?
There are several other factors that explain the provisional ranking result. One of main ones is that the UTC has far less time to influence students’ progress scores, which are measured over five years starting at the end of primary school. Young people can only join a UTC at the age of 14 not at 11. This will change slightly from September 2018 when we are able to recruit young people from the age of 13.
Yet their educational experience for the three years prior to joining us counts on their final score, even though they have attended a different school from the UTC for three fifths of the time they are measured. Yet we know from our own data that students’ progress accelerates once they join us.
Also, in the cohort affected, 15% have legacy GCSEs in English and Maths (A*- G grades). Whilst they have achieved credible grades, the Department for Education has decided that only the new style GCSEs from grades 1-9 in those subjects count in the performance tables. For example, one of our students, who achieved GCSE grade As in English Literature and English Language, scored zero under Progress 8.
The Department for Education has acknowledged that Progress 8 data from UTCs is not directly comparable with other schools, in new guidance contained within the league tables. It states:
Schools and colleges not covering full Progress 8 period:
Some schools and colleges, including university technical colleges, studio schools and further education colleges which cover key stage 4, start educating pupils from the beginning of key stage 4, partway through the 5-year period covered by Progress 8. This should be taken into account when comparing their results with those for schools which start educating their pupils from the beginning of key stage 3.
For more information on that, please click here and then on the question mark symbol above the Progress 8 column. Please then scroll down the DfE pop up.
What has the UTC been doing to address the issue?
We have adjusted the curriculum since Progress 8 was introduced so that it is more compatible with the new measures whilst retaining the high quality technical learning. As a result there is strong progress for our current Year 11 students at the UTC against this measure.
Students can now choose the full English Baccalaureate package that includes geography and French. They also have to take two or three science GCSEs along with an extra option of English Baccalaureate qualifications (French, geography or computer science). We know from our data that young people’s progress accelerates once they join us. They achieve excellent technical results and benefit from fantastic career and university prospects – including Cambridge University last year.
As one of most successful UTCs in the country, we are proud of our students, their achievements and our track record of getting them into apprenticeships, employment and university. Our primary purpose will continue to be ensuring our students get the skills that employers need, boosting their career prospects and regional economic growth.
Of the students who finished their studies at the UTC in summer 2017, 35% have gone on to university, including Russell Group institutions, when the national average for schools is 38.1% and 55% have gone on to apprenticeships when the national average for schools is 8.4%.
In addition, 100% of UTC leavers in 2017 (Year 11 and Year 13) have gone on to a positive destination including university, an apprenticeship, employment or further training. None are classed as NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training).