Key points: secondary accountability announcement. 14th October 2013

Summary of key points: today’s announcement on the new secondary accountability system. 14th October 2013.

The minister for schools has made a statement around changes to the secondary accountability system, following a period of consultation.


  • Secondary schools are currently judged by the proportion of pupils awarded 5 GCSEs at grade C or better, including English and maths.
  • Schools have essentially been incentivised to focus excessively on the small number of pupils around the 5 Cs borderline. Many, including the government, believe this is unfair to pupils with the potential to move from E grades to D grades, or from B grades to A grades. It is also considered unfair to those on the C/D borderline because it leads schools to teach to the test.
  • There is also significant evidence to suggest that the current accountability framework discourages schools from focusing on the lowest attaining pupils. Over the last 15 years, the attainment of pupils has risen on average. This has not been the case for underachieving pupils.
  • The government’s view is that the accountability system must set challenging but fair expectations for every school. This includes those schools that are achieving a high number of C’s and above but are in effect coasting by virtue of the fact that their pupils would have been be capable of achieving higher grades should they have been progressing at an acceptable rate.
  • It is also said that the 5 A* to C measure encourages schools to offer a narrow curriculum. “Mastery of just 5 subjects is not enough for most pupils at age 16.”

Key points:

  • Schools will be required to publish core information on their website, in a standard format. There will be 4 key measures which must be published:
    • pupils’ progress across 8 subjects. So, a parent will see whether pupils at a school typically achieve 1 grade more than expected, or 1 grade less
    • the average grade a pupil achieves in these same ‘best 8’ subjects. This will show, for example, that pupils in a particular school average a high B grade or a low D grade in their GCSEs
    • the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade in English and maths
    • the proportion of pupils gaining the EBacc, which will continue in its current form
  • The government will also look at including a destination measure to show the percentage of pupils who move on to further study or employment – including further training.
  • Rather than the 5 A* to C GCSE threshold measure, a new progress measure will be used. This will take account of a school’s intake. The new approach was explained in the following terms:

“A pupil’s key stage 2 results, achieved at the end of primary school, will be used to set a reasonable expectation of what they should achieve at GCSE. Schools will get credit where pupils outperform these expectations. A child who gets an A when they are expected to get a B, or a D when they were expected to get an E, will score points for their school…..Coasting schools will no longer be let off the hook. Equally, headteachers will no longer feel penalised when they have actually performed well with a challenging intake. We must not deter the best headteachers and teachers from working in challenging schools.”

  • Pupils’ progress and attainment will be assessed in 8 subjects: English and maths, 3 further EBacc subjects, and 3 other high-value qualifications. This final group can include further traditional academic subjects, subjects such as art, music and drama, and vocational subjects, such as engineering and business. English and maths will be double weighted to reflect the importance of these subjects.
  • The new floor standards will be defined as progress half a grade lower than reasonable expectations. For example, if pupils at a school are expected to average a B in their 8 subjects, the school will be below the floor if they average less than 4 Bs and 4 Cs.

Further key points:

  • A school in which pupils average a full grade above reasonable expectations will not be inspected by Ofsted in the following year.
  • The Minister added: Schools have planned their current curriculum for years 10 and 11 on the basis of the existing accountability system. For that reason the new system will begin in 2016, that is, for students currently in year 9…We will, however, allow schools to opt in to the new system from 2015.”

The full response to the consultation is available on the Department for Education’s website.


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