June 2017

The know zone

  • Click, connect… take care
    Social media is meant to be fun and informative as well as a useful networking tool, but we should also be wise to its pitfalls. Here, Sally Jack provides top tips on managing your online reputation. More
  • Back to basic principles
    Revisiting some traditional leadership techniques could help ease the burden on business leaders when their time is under ever-increasing pressure, says Val Andrew. More
  • Where there’s a will…
    Making a will is something we all intend to do but we put off. Solicitor Frances McCarthy explains the importance of making a will before it’s too late. More
  • A path for primary
    Government proposals on primary assessment offer some potential solutions to flaws in the system, although challenges remain, says Julie McCulloch. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Action plans
    Curriculum and assessment reform, together with a new grading system, have put enormous pressure on leaders to ensure that their school or college communities understand the changes. Here ASCL members share their views on what steps they have taken to ensure that everyone is on board. More
  • A radical approach
    Extreme Dialogue is an education project that works to build resilience to radicalisation among young people through a series of free educational resources and highly engaging short films. More
  • Give us a clue!
    The new Progress 8 measures were meant to improve accountability but, according to one Deputy Head, schools have found them something of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. More
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The new Progress 8 measures were meant to improve accountability but, according to one Deputy Head, schools have found them something of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Give us a clue!

I always found the Rubik’s Cube challenging enough but a quick Google search of complicated puzzles reveals a Tuttminx with 32 faces and 150 movable parts and a Sudoku cube with 81 numbers on each side. There is even a mathematical formula for working out the total number of combinations possible for these puzzles taken from the not-so tempting website, www.speedcubing.com.

Fortunately, I can choose to avoid such traumatic brainteasers but, as Deputy Head responsible for curriculum and outcomes, I can’t choose to ignore the similarly complicated issue of how we interpret our GCSE results this summer.

Headline figure

Although the new Progress 8 measures should, on paper, benefit schools like ours – ones where pupils come in well below the national average in Year 7 – and we welcome a move away from the 5 A*–C with English and maths measure, at least the old system was easy to understand.

We knew what the latest national average was and how close we were to it. We knew how we compared with local schools and that we were all speaking the same language. The day the results were released was vitally important, as we soon calculated the headline figure and, essentially, whether we should be celebrating or commiserating.

This year, the best we can hope for is a series of measures that will mean almost nothing. There will be a Progress 8 figure that we can only work out based on last year’s attainment data and each school’s data systems will do this slightly differently (not what we were originally promised in then-education secretary Michael Gove’s reforms), while the 9–5 measure in both English and maths will have no previous comparison.

Add to this the change in the point scores for 2017 (we have never needed those top grades more) and we are all utterly clueless.

And that is a walk in the park compared to analysing the current predicted grades. Post-mocks, we can normally give staff a very clear picture of what the year group is on track to achieve and where we can strategically channel our efforts. At present, the new specifications in English and maths make the art of prediction a challenge of epic proportions.

So we battle on, analysing the data we have, focusing on those pupils with the most negative Progress 8 scores and intervening where we need to – European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), anyone? Ultimately, improving our pupils’ life chances comes first and that remains the direction of our moral compass.

But as for what it all means in terms of how the year group and school are doing, we haven’t the foggiest. Whether or not the senior team goes to the pub on results day remains to be seen, but if we are to venture out, we won’t know whether to crack open the champagne or drown our sorrows.

Spin results

The biggest dilemma will be how we choose to spin the results on the website and, believe me, we will spin it, whatever it means. And if no one understands – and that includes the DfE, Ofsted and Ofqual – then maybe the best we can hope for is that we all live in ignorant bliss.

What does matter is when the pupils come in and we see their hard work – and that of their teachers – paying off and the doors to their futures being opened.

We won’t necessarily know about our futures until the Attainment 8 figures and other key measures are released.

By then, the cohort will be long gone and we will be focusing on the new Year 11 and, hopefully, we will have got away with it . . . whatever ‘it’ is.

The author is a Deputy Head in the South East.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.