Posted by: mrlock | January 8, 2014

What is happening with the Best 8 measure?

The headline is that everyone is going to be taking English Literature, and it has equal status with English. However it’s not as simple as just that.

The DFE released a paper yesterday (7th January 2014) entitled update on progress 8 and reforms to secondary school accountability

I thought it was pretty clear, but as I have discussed it on twitter it has become apparent that some colleagues disagree with my interpretation of the paper, or think that it’s not as crystal clear as I was suggesting. I therefore thought I’d publish some of my thoughts. I’m sure that this will be clarified in time in any case. I am not promising I have everything right – this is just how I read it.

The first thing is that the DFE have confirmed that accountability measures for Progress 8 will be published in February. This is late for schools, but I feared it might be even later than then. I think enough has leaked out for us to set our curriculum for current Year 9 students. Schools with a three year Key Stage 4 might be scrabbling about, but the broad EBacc model has been known about for some time so I think schools that enforce significant changes on their students (and I offer no judgement on this in this post) now as a result of accountability measure changes will be rare.

The second change (starts page 2) refers to how we will be compared to other schools. In schools we currently get compared to national average rates of progress for students who enter at each ability level. This means that when we get our results in August, we are unsure of how we have done compared to national average progress rates until the national picture is published (and then still unsure until all the results are verified). So we could in theory set a target, meet the target, but then find the national average has increased significantly and we are actually underperforming according to “expectations”, because these expectations have been set retrospectively.

The DFE is suggesting that we can set expectations three years in advance. So if this was applied now, to look at “expected progress” of students with the same prior attainment in 2014 we would look at the average scores of similar students in 2011.

Because many schools are reshaping their curriculum, the DFE has realised it might be inaccurate to compare students in 2016 (who will largely take the EBacc) to students who completed Key Stage 4 in 2013 (who in many cases will not take the EBacc). They are therefore suggesting that the first benchmark of expectations will be the national picture of achievement in 2016. IE the students who take qualifications in 2019 will be compared to the progress of students in 2016.

They haven’t decided about 2017 or 2018 yet, but they might be compared to 2016 as well. This allows the whole system to improve rather than have examination accountability measures a zero-sum game.

The third measure is that from 2016 the confusing points system at GCSE will be reformed and a G will be worth 1 through to an A* being worth 8. This is no surprise given the new grading system for some qualifications.

The biggest change to the measures is with regard to English Literature and there are several aspects to this.

My understanding is that the best 8 measure for each student was going to consist of English (which counts double), Maths (which counts double), 3 x EBacc subjects and 3 other subjects (which can include English Literature).

Effectively this remains the same for students who achieve the same or worse result in English Literature as English.

To quote

“The new position is: 

 The best of English Language and English Literature will be double-weighted, provided a pupil has taken both qualifications. 

 The second best score of English Literature and English Language can be counted in the ‘open group’ of subjects, if it is one of the pupil’s highest scores in this group.” (page 4)

If they achieve a better result in English Literature than English, then the two qualifications swap places, and hence English Literature counts double and English can count in the “other subjects” part of Best 8.

The only condition is that students have to have sat English and English Literature.

Effectively, there will be a safety net for English, in that if a student bombs in English but does well in Literature it won’t affect the school’s results as significantly.

There will also effectively be a safety net for English in the other parts of the accountability measures – the proportion of students who get a C grade in English and Maths and the proportion of students who achieve the EBacc.

So a student who achieves a C in Maths, an E in English and a C in English Literature will count as having achieved English and Maths (whereas they don’t now).

Similarly, a student with a C in Maths, a D in English, a C in English Literature, C in History, C in Languages and two C grades in Science will also have achieved the EBacc (whereas they don’t now).

To quote (including the typo which I’ve left in):

“In the measure showing the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade or better in English and maths, a pupil would have to achieve a C in either English Literature of (sic) English Language to satisfy the English requirement (in 2016, a C in Combined English would be sufficient). 

 In the EBacc measure, a pupil must study both English Language and English Literature, and achieve a C grade or better in at least one of these qualifications,  to satisfy the English requirement (in 2016, a C in Combined English would be
sufficient).” (page 4)

So the reason for writing this blogpost is that that’s my understanding and I thought it was pretty clear. However some colleagues have caused me to doubt myself. Please can you comment if you think I’ve read it wrong (or indeed, if you think I’ve read it correctly)?

As way of a postscript, the things I note here are that:

1) I can imagine English teachers stereotypically celebrating as they tend to love teaching literature (why wouldn’t they – they’ve overwhelmingly studied it to degree level)

2) It makes an Arts subject one of the most important qualifications to schools

3) It makes Maths the single most important subject for schools to get right from 2016 (though it’s obviously vital already, it will count double and not have the safety net that English/ English Literature will have).



  1. You are reading it right as far as I can see. I suspect the naysayers were basing it on the earlier documents. This one is very clear.


  2. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  3. […] UPDATE – based on the Update on Progress 8 measure and Stuart Locks’s blog ( […]


  4. […] can find his reading of the report on his site Mr Lock’s Weblog and the full discussion on his Twitter […]


  5. Yep, how I read it


  6. That’s my take on it too


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