Nick Crew, Sheffield UTC Executive Principal

Q&A: UTC Sheffield and Progress 8

Banner image: Nick Crew

This Q&A explains the government’s annual secondary school performance tables including Progress 8, published on January 24th, 2019.

UTC Sheffield’s primary purpose is to deliver a curriculum that trains young people, aged 13 to 19, in the skills highly valued by employers, and which enhances their career and university prospects and contributes to the economy.

We are pleased that our UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park campus is above the floor target of -0.5, which is a great achievement reflecting strong performance in English, maths and science.

Whilst we strive to do well in the academic subjects that we offer at both of our UTCs, which also includes our UTC Sheffield City Centre campus that is Ofsted graded ‘good’, we are not directly comparable to traditional schools across the board.

The measure of our performance and success is technical excellence, as well as academic results, and student destinations.

Our students benefit from studying a technical qualification as well as GCSEs and A Levels. They enjoy developing problem solving and team working skills, and learning how to apply theory to practice.

We welcome the Department for Education’s clear statement published with this year’s data stating that Progress 8 is not the most appropriate performance measure for UTCs.

Executive Principal Nick Crew has previously discussed these issues in an article for FE Week that discusses why the scoring system is not an effective measure of a specialist technical school across the board. Please click here.

What is Progress 8?

Progress 8 measures students’ 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.

The government introduced Progress 8 in 2016 to replace the GCSE leagues tables based on the number of pupils gaining A* to C grades.

Why does Progress 8 suit traditional schools?

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are very different to traditional schools with a remit to deliver a curriculum that trains young people, aged 13 to 19, in the skills their regional economy needs with the support of local universities and employers.

The government performance measures suit traditional schools because the scores reward attainment and progress in a small number of 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. Instead, our students focus on the core academic subjects that complement the UTC’s five technical specialisms such as English, maths and science rather than languages, history and geography.

Some of the strongest aspects of our educational approach – the high quality employer focussed technical curriculum – are not included in Progress 8. This limits the score that the UTC can achieve – some of our technical subjects do not qualify for inclusion and so students receive a zero score for a subject being missing.

Are there any other factors that affect the UTC scores?

We have less time to influence progress. UTCs start educating students part-way through the five-year period covered by Progress 8. This is because young people join a UTC at the age of 13 or 14 not at 11. This year’s government statistics are based on our students who joined at the age of 14.

Their educational experience for the three years prior to joining us counts on their final score, even though they attended a different school from the UTC for three fifths of the time they are measured. Yet we know that students’ progress accelerates once they join us.

Why has the Department for Education made a statement about UTCs?

We welcome the DfE statement that recognises that Progress 8 is not the most appropriate measure for UTCs due to their ‘integrated academic and professional education’ and that other measures, for example, student destinations are more important.

Last year, 100% of our students went onto further training, employment, apprenticeships and university, including top institutions and employers such as Arup, Boeing, BP, Northern Engineering, the Royal Air Force, Toyota, Radio 5 Live and PlusNet.

Others went onto study subjects such as biomedical science, child nursing, cyber security, medical physiology, psychology and paramedic science at universities including the Royal Veterinary College, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Lincoln, University of Hull, DeMontfort University, Leeds Beckett University and Nottingham Trent University. We are proud of our students’ success.

The UTC is a great choice for young people who want to secure destinations in sectors where there is an urgent demand for highly skilled professionals at Level 4 or above.  Students who stay on with us beyond 16 are virtually guaranteed to go onto high quality apprenticeships, employment and top universities.

Our A Level students achieved a 100% pass rate in all our five specialisms. Our creative and digital media results were the best in the country. And 40% of our students progressed onto a high quality apprenticeships with high quality employers for example, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Boeing, compared to 11% at traditional schools.

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.

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