If you find yourself asking ‘Why don’t our headline figures match the DfE’s?’ don’t panic – here are 4 key areas to check:
1) Cohort total and Key Stage 2 data
Always check the number of pupils on roll in the DfE June Tables Checking Exercise (a letter is sent to the headteacher in May). You should also check which pupils classed as SEN. Ensuring eligible pupils and their characteristics are correct can make significant differences to the performance tables, as this data effectively determines the calculations.
Finally, check the KS2 data you have matches that supplied by the DfE. It has been known for the DfE to have KS2 data for some students which you have never been able to track down. Ensure the data matches exactly to 5 decimal places – the odd student with a slight difference can affect your Attainment 8 and Progress 8 figures.
Remember, exams results are based on the cohort at the time of the January Census – you can ask that certain pupils are removed if they meet specific criteria e.g. ‘admitted from abroad with English not first language’, or ‘Permanently left England’. Guidance can be found in the documentation on the Tables Checking website: https://tableschecking.education.gov.uk
2) Non-curricular subjects
It’s good practice to always check with your exams officer whether any students are sitting exams for non-curricular subjects. At the school in which I worked, we often entered pupils for examinations in their home language. These can make a significant difference to your school’s headline figures. Below we can see the Attainment 8, Progress 8 and EBacc data for our school, compared against targets:
The above data excludes the 6 home language grades which were all B grades.
The above data includes the 6 home language grades which were all B grades.
I also found that the odd student took Grade 6, 7, or 8 music qualifications. Whilst these exams were sat externally, they are still included in the performance tables. A Grade 6 Pass is worth 7 points in the open basket! This has the benefit of increasing the Average Attainment 8 figure and grade for both the student and school. It might be slight but every little helps! For some students, it may even fill an empty slot in the open basket.
A GCSE Music grade could also count in the open basket. I’d recommend you always check the discount codes here though: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/key-stage-4-qualifications-discount-codes-and-point-scores
I used to ask form tutors to enquire whether their tutees had external music awards and tried to obtain a copy of any certificates.
Beware of reformed and unreformed qualifications particularly with home languages – if a student takes an unreformed exam prior to Year 11 and it is reformed in Year 11, it will count for student performance, however it will NOT count for school performance! This is often an issue for home languages and they will not be fully reformed until Summer 2020. Unreformed qualifications can still be analysed within Analytics, but should always have ‘Unapproved’ as the method so they do not affect the headline figures.
A timeline of reformed qualifications can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/get-the-facts-gcse-and-a-level-reform/get-the-facts-gcse-reform
You may wish to consider AS-levels for some students who have already taken an unreformed GCSE. These will count in the appropriate Progress 8 ‘basket’ for their subject. If a GCSE in the same subject has been taken, the AS will always discount the GCSE – grades A and B will score higher points than an A* at GCSE!
Finally, in the October Tables Checking Exercise you will be able to access a csv file which contains details of the grades awarded. There’s also a handy Progress 8 column – an easy way of checking your data is to compare individual students’ P8 scores to the Progress 8 figure in your own internal software, whether it’s SISRA Analytics, Excel, or otherwise.
3) The grades data
Have any students been previously examined in any qualifications? The DfE’s early entry/first entry rules came into effect on 29th September 2013 and from this ‘only a student’s first entry to a GCSE examination will count in their school’s performance tables’. Any subsequent entries after this point (in the same or any related qualifications) are ineligible to count towards school performance measures, although they will still count for the student. Guidance can be found here:
During the autumn term, you may have some grades which need to be updated due to remarks.
4) Incorrectly set up qualifications
Finally, always check that qualifications are set up correctly. Start by checking the measure is correct – this affects how it counts towards your KS4 measure and headlines. Are GCSEs correctly set up as either 9-1 or A*-G, BTECs and Cambridge Nationals as Non GCSEs?
As mentioned above, AS qualifications discount GCSEs so ensure discount codes are used (you do not need to use the official ones in Analytics e.g. for Polish GCSE you could use POL, and for Polish AS *POL – the asterisk ensures the AS takes priority). Also check the discount codes for qualifications which are similar to one another.
Are your grade methods using the correct points? These can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/progress-8-school-performance-measure or in SISRA Analytics > HELP > VIDEOS AND GUIDES > Useful Links.
Now it’s time to check which subjects count towards the EBacc (this is known as the ‘special’ column in Analytics). It is really important to ensure qualifications are correctly set up as it can make a significant difference to your figures if not. For example, home languages such as Polish, Urdu etc. should be set to ‘language’ in the ‘special’ column. Computer Science is another subject which is often omitted from the EBacc too (it should be set to ‘Comp Sci’). Conversely Religious Studies is often incorrectly included as a subject which counts towards the EBacc as a ‘Humanity’. It doesn’t count towards the EBacc, but can count in the open basket. A list of the qualifications which count towards the EBacc can be found here:
Last but not least, are you using the most recent DfE Rules, Attainment 8 and VA estimates when publishing?
At this point your headlines should be matching 😊
This post was originally published on 19th June 2017 and was last updated on 31st May 2018.