Government data on school performance is flawed, says Co-op Academies Trust

‘Some very good school leaders don’t get the credit they deserve based on this simplistic analysis’

The data the government uses to analyse school students’ progress is fundamentally flawed and biased in favour of middle-class schools, says the Co-op Academies Trust.

The Trust, which runs 20 academies and colleges in some of the most challenging economic areas across northern England, believes the Department of Education’s Progress 8 data fails because it lacks any contextual data.

Co-op Academies Trust believes the true achievement of its schools is masked because the statistics are only based on pupils’ prior attainment. It cites research from the University of Bristol which applies a contextual element to the Department of Education’s performance data. This shows that many schools would rise more than 500 places in the national league tables. while others would fall by a similar amount.

Dr George Leckie and Prof Harvey Goldstein at the university’s School of Education directly extended the government’s Progress 8 measure to account not just for pupil prior attainment in English and mathematics, but also pupils’ ethnicity, gender, age within their year group, special educational needs and eligibility for free school meals.

Dr Leckie said: “When we look at these ‘Adjusted Progress 8’ results for the Co-op’s academies, we see their ranking in the national school league tables rise considerably. One of the academies rose by 24 percentile points to the 90th percentile.”

Frank Norris, director of the Co-op Academies Trust, said: “Some very good school leaders don’t get the credit they deserve based on this simplistic analysis and so it is imperative that the data takes into account every aspect of a school’s performance by applying a contextual element.

“Despite our academies having the second lowest attainment on entry of any multi-academy trust in the country, our performance is strong particularly for disadvantaged students. But this is not reflected fully in the Progress 8 analysis.”

The Co-op Academies Trust is considering asking the University of Bristol to undertake a contextual value added analysis for all of its academies each year and plans to publish this alongside the government’s blunt measure.

“I would encourage other schools and Trusts to do the same, so that parents and carers get a true picture of a school’s academic performance,” said Mr Norris.