Impartiality and Independence
- The Trustworthiness pillar of the Code of Practice for Statistics sets out that users should have confidence in the people and organisations that produce statistics. Two key elements of this in relation to KS4 performance statistics are the impartiality of the commentary in the bulletin and the independence of the decision making around which measures are published.
- The users that we spoke to reported that the statistics are presented clearly and impartially and that the narrative in the statistical bulletin aided them to interpret the data. No concerns were raised with us around the impartiality of the commentary in the bulletin. Based on responses from 100 users who responded to our online questionnaire, satisfaction with the impartiality of the statistics scored the second highest rating of the ten elements that we asked about (see Annex A for more information).
- Ministers have a responsibility to monitor the education system and to hold schools to account. This is achieved through the use of accountability measures, the choice of which is made by ministers in line with current priorities. These accountability measures are reported along with a range of other performance and contextual information in the statistical bulletin (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. KS4 statistics
Determined by: DfE Ministers
Primary use: Used by Government to hold schools accountable
- Attainment 8 – attainment across 8 qualifications
- Attainment in English and maths – percentage of pupils achieving a grade 5 or above in English and maths
- Progress 8 – progress across 8 qualifications
- EBacc entry – percentage of pupils entering the English Baccalaureate
- EBacc APS – English Baccalaureate Average Point Score
- Pupil destinations – percentage of students staying in education or going into employment after KS4
Wider performance and contextual information
Determined by: DfE statisticians
Primary use: To provide users with additional contextual information
- Disadvantage attainment gap index
- Breakdowns by pupil characteristics:
- English as an additional language
- Special Educational Needs (SEN)
- KS2 prior attainment
- Local Authority
- The accountability measures are designed to be used to inform parents and students about school performance and support school choice, to enable schools to monitor their own performance and guide improvements, to inform the public and stakeholders, and to provide information on underperformance so that action can be taken.
- The wider KS4 performance statistics are used for a range of purposes, such as understanding the differences in attainment between sub-groups with different characteristics, research by academics, and by DfE to inform education policies.
- Concerns were raised through the interviews we conducted and in our online questionnaire around the use of Progress 8 as well as the EBacc set of subjects for the key accountability measures. Specifically, users reported that Progress 8 could be difficult to understand and that it did not take into account contextual information. Several users commented on the removal of the contextual value added measure that had previously been available which, in their opinion, provided a more balanced view of schools performance than Progress 8.
- The KS4 statistics team explained to us that there is a difference between the purpose of the KS4 statistical release and the KS4 metrics included on the Compare School Performance website. The KS4 statistical release (consisting of the bulletin, data downloads and table building tool) aims to provide a broad view of KS4 performance in England and includes the headline accountability measures, additional performance measures and contextual information. In comparison, the Compare School Performance website has been designed for users to be able to view information on KS4 performance for individual schools and presents the accountability measures as well as some contextual information.
- The publication of the accountability measures at a national, regional and local level provides helpful information and allows users to contextualise a school’s performance. Although the statistics are reported on impartially, it may not always be clear to users within the statistical bulletin which statistics relate to the accountability measures, and thus are determined by ministers, and which statistics relate to KS4 performance more broadly.
- Where users have concerns about the political nature of the accountability measures, these are often extended to all KS4 statistics. In order to support trust in the statistics, it is important for users to be able to easily understand the purpose of each statistic and how they were chosen and developed.
- The Head of Profession for Statistics has stated to us that he would be willing to consider alternative ways of presenting the KS4 statistics to make the responsibilities clearer and support trust in the statistics.
Requirement 1: Improve the distinction between the KS4 accountability measures and the wider KS4 statistics by investigating and implementing changes to the presentation of the statistics in the statistical bulletin.