Head of Sixth / Post-16 Raising Standards Leader Priorities – England News article - view all

Accountability and assessing progress from KS4

We are all aware that the 5 key pillars of Post-16 Accountability are destinations, retention, GCSE progress, average grade(s) and the progress score(s). The Floor Standards are based on progress and in 2016 for Academic VA the Floor was -0.50 and for Applied General -0.75. However, it is impossible to predict your 2017 L3VA / Performance Table Progress scores with any degree of certainty as scores in each subject will be determined by the 2017 national results.

The 1 600 providers using Alps are in a much stronger position. You know your Alps grades for 2016 and 2017. If your Alps scores and grades are improved in 2017 you can be confident that your eventual L3VA / Performance Table VA scores will have risen too.


Performance Evaluation and Priorities for 2017-18

Check the College / School and Sixth Form Improvement Plans. Is one of the main targets for 2017-18 about improving Sixth Form student progress? If not, why not?

Make sure you use your 2017 Alps reports strategically. Organise robust Performance Management meetings with all Post-16 Heads of Department that focus both on evaluating 2017 performance and on planning to make a difference in 2017-18. If a department is significantly under-achieving, make it clear ‘what got you here won’t get you there’, agree what is going to be different and when you will be regularly checking up.

Excitingly many of you will be evaluating your data using in Alps Connect, our interactive online product. This enables you to interrogate the data rigorously looking for underperformance in student groups and teaching sets, comparing school and subject performance in terms of disadvantage and so much more. Have a look at our website at https://alps.education/connect/. If you are behind the curve on this, we can get you involved very quickly.


To be on top of likely VA progress in 2018, upload a new data set to Connect via Alps to establish Monitoring Point Zero for your new Y13 (Y2). This data set should only include the students who have progressed to Y13 and only the subjects they are continuing to study. By comparing these students’ actual AS grades or end of Y12 teacher predicted A Level grades against A level benchmarks, Monitoring Point Zero shows you what your A level VA wIll look like if your students achieve these grades in 2018. If you are not purchasing Connect for the time being, you can order a Monitoring Point Zero (MPZ) report instead.

Schools and colleges using Connect will be uploading monitoring data throughout the year looking for key interventions, comparing PPE / Mock results with predicted grades and utilising the ‘How Do I’ and ‘What if’ scenarios so teachers and Heads of Department have a firm grasp on what needs to be done to either move out of the blue or into the red.

Compare your 2017 final predicted AS and A Level grades to see which subjects and teachers predicted outcomes more accurately. This will inform your monitoring, support and intervention in 2017-18. As we move deeper into the linear landscape, the accuracy of progress grades is crucial.


Your new Y12 (Y1)

You will all have made decisions about how many courses students in your new Y12 (Y1) will study, 3 or 4. You will also have decided whether these courses are linear A Levels or whether to carry on using the standalone AS as an externally validated ‘marker’ in all or some subjects. Whatever decisions you have taken, you must ensure students are on the right courses – for any Y12 students this must mean ones they will not fail! For Y12 students taking linear A Level courses, and only starting with 3 subjects, this must mean ones in which they will hopefully excel!

Setting aspirational Minimum Expected Grades (MEGs) for your new cohort may be worrying you because the 2017 GCSE results delivered a curve ball in the shape of the three 9-1 grades in Maths, English Language & English Literature. Fear not, Alps has mapped these 9-1 grades, using national data, onto the 8-1 scale so that you can confidently set students, with a mix of 9-1 and A*-G grades, aspirational MEGs. You will then be able to track their progress towards our A, AS and BTEC national benchmarks during the year whether using Connect, Monitoring Reports or excel-based ‘what-if’ spreadsheets.


Table 1: Mapping 9-1 grades to the traditional A*-G (8-1) scale

9-1 grades 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2    1 U
Mapped to 8-1 scale 8 7.67 7 6.33 5.67 5 4 3        1 0


There is of course a linked issue that will become much more important in August 2018 when the vast majority of GCSE grades will be on the 9-1 scale. Where are you setting the bar in terms of entrance to L3 courses, 4 or 5? Where is the bar for individual subjects such as Chemistry or Physics? If 66% of C grade students nationally achieve grade 4s and this effectively becomes a barrier to studying A levels in your school or college will you be barring their way rather than raising the bar? You ought to be thinking creatively about how to prevent your sixth form shrinking in size by ensuring there is sufficient Level 3 provision for students who mainly achieve 4s and Cs.

One final point about those grade 4s in English and Maths. In 2017-18 you are only required to put on L2 GCSE provision for students below 4. But, as the world begins to think of the 5 as the ‘strong and stable’ pass in future years, will grade 4s be what universities and employers are looking for? Will it be to students’ advantage to re-take English Language or Maths to achieve grade 5 if they achieved 4s in Y11?


The Modular Landscape

Not long for the world, but not quite gone yet! In subjects like Maths that retained their legacy modular structure 2016-18 make decisions now about AS re-sits for Y13 students in May 2018. Some students can be scheduled into Y12 AS classes for the unit they are re-taking. Others can be allocated specific periods of supervised study and set regular work and given additional twilight support.


Guidance and Destinations

Crack on with UCAS to drive the early completion of applications – personal statements and references – on as much as possible between now and the end of October, whilst ensuring you don’t ignore advice and guidance for those for whom University is not their preferred option. Make sure students are also exposed to the wide range of apprenticeships they might apply for too. Unifrog is a great tool for this. Students can easily find and apply for every course and apprenticeship in the UK – everything from university courses, to School Leaver Programmes, to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Finally, above all, try your best to take every decision in the best interests of your students and never feel you can’t turn to the team at Alps for help and advice.