Seal of Approval – Managing your Unapproved qualifications

November 22, 2018
By: John Seddon, Data Consultant

What do you mean it doesn’t count?’ – it’s a conversation that most of us who have worked in the school data industry will have heard at some point or another.  Qualifications such as Functional Skills or Entry Level (and more recently the now somewhat ‘infamous’ ECDL) can be vitally important to the development of students at all ability ranges, yet in most cases these qualifications do not contribute to a school’s performance figures.

Perhaps, we should be asking ourselves a different kind of question – ‘What can these qualifications do to benefit our students?’  And, with that in mind, ‘How can we show this in our school’s data analysis?

Unapproved qualifications can (and perhaps should in most cases) be treated like any other qualification.  Performance and progress can be tracked and analysed in the same way as you would a GCSE or points scoring non-GCSE qualification, if you have the right tools for the job.  With this blog I intend to show you how to work with your Unapproved qualifications in SISRA Analytics to help add some real weight to any analysis you may perform on them.

Your first port of call in SISRA Analytics (as always when creating a new qualification) will be to create a relevant Grade Method (i.e. the types of grade you’d like to track for the qualification).  As ‘Attainment 8’ style points are required in order for the Grade Method to be used in the ‘KS4 Exams’ term of an Expected Attainment Pathway (EAP), I recommend using an ‘N/A’ grade or equivalent with a very low A8 points value (this won’t affect your headlines as we shall see shortly when we look at the Matching Page).  Here are a couple of ideas, one for an example Entry Level qualification, the other a simple ‘Pass or Fail’ style grading system.

Following this format, you will be able to create any qualification type in SISRA Analytics and make it analysable in the reports.  You will also see that the grade method for Pass/Fail has been given subgrades of + = – for its grade scale.  Subgrades can be extremely useful when aiming to show progress for students taking Unapproved qualifications.  A simple + = – may be enough, but you could expand this in many different ways.  A decimalised .0 to .9, perhaps?  Or maybe an A to G suffix?  The more subgrades you include, the more room you will have to show progress throughout a student’s time in school.  And if subgrades aren’t enough, how about including a ‘Working Towards’ grade in between Pass and Fail?

When it comes to setting up Expected Attainment Pathways (EAPs) for your Unapproved qualifications, this should work the same as any other EAP in SISRA Analytics.  Choose the relevant grade method for your qualification and then decide upon some termly expected grades, which will give you a direct ‘target’ that students should be aiming for at each term of their academic life.  This could be the same target across the entire EAP (ideal if you are collecting termly predicted grades) or a staggered target (ideal with subgrades if you are collecting termly current attainment grades).

Here are a couple of (somewhat exaggerated) examples, one using a flatline ‘Pass’ grade, one using staggered decimalised ‘EL’ grades.

Finally, complete the qualification setup on your Matching Page.  This is probably the most vital step, as you must ensure that you select ‘Unapproved’ in the ‘KS4 Measure’ column (A1)

This will guarantee that the qualification does NOT contribute towards school performance figures, regardless of any Attainment 8 points that you included in the Grade Method earlier (so you can use an existing A*-G grade method which uses Attainment 8 points and entries, rather than creating a new method with ‘0’ points and ‘0’ entries as we did for our Entry Level and Pass/Fail qualifications).  The image above also shows how you can use this ‘Unapproved’ KS4 measure to apply the same logic to Legacy A*-G GCSEs (in our case Religious Studies) which have been discounted by reformed 9-1 GCSEs in the same subject.

This means Tracking over time, graphical Student Flightpaths and On/Above/Below Track analysis will now be available for these Unapproved qualifications within the reports J all of which can be used to highlight potential intervention, or show the growth of student, class, and your school overall, when it comes to catering for students of all ability levels.  Setting up Unapproved qualifications in SISRA Analytics will give you a broad, healthy picture of student performance and progress in a countless range of qualifications that contribute so much to a student’s future development.  And really, isn’t that what school data analysis is all about?

So there you have it!  Using the above steps, you will now have Unapproved qualifications in SISRA Analytics that will not count towards school headline figures, but can be analysed in all other reports.  Enjoy!

John Seddon, Data Consultant