A very frequently asked question at the moment is ‘how will progress be calculated for the current cohort of Year 6 children?’ (This is the first cohort of children to have been assessed at Key Stage 1 using the new system - the Teacher Assessment Frameworks - rather than the old levels.)
The short answer to that FAQ is: nobody knows.
The DfE have not announced the methodology yet, and I doubt they will do until after these children have taken the tests.
The slightly longer answer to the question is: there are various different ways they could do it. I am going to describe what I believe is the most likely model. Please note, it’s not the only possible approach. There are other ways they could do it. However the approach I am about to describe is what I would guess to be the most likely - not based on any inside knowledge, I hasten to add. Just based on my gut feeling and on the direction of travel in recent years.
Let’s remind ourselves of the current methodology for calculating KS2 progress scores, which is as follows:
- each teacher assessment category (level) at KS1 is allocated a point score
- each child’s attainment in all three subject areas (reading, writing and maths) is used to produce a combined ‘average’ points score
- in producing this ‘average’ score, the child’s maths score is given double-weighting, so that maths has equal volume to the 2 elements of English
- children are grouped into Prior Attainment Groups (PAGs) based on their combined points score
- once that cohort of children have taken the KS2 tests and that national data has been collected in, the national average attainment outcome is calculated for each PAG
- the KS2 progress measure is calculated as the difference between a child’s actual outcome and the national average outcome for their PAG
Now, there is absolutely no reason why the DfE couldn’t use this exact same process in 2020. (And therefore my prediction is they will do just that.) The only difference is that the calculation of KS1 average point scores will now be based on differently named categories (BLW, PKF, WTS, EXS, GDS) rather than the previously used levels (W, 1, 2c, 2b, 2a, 3).
The DfE statisticians have always said that this approach - measuring progress from a combined score based upon the 3 subjects, rather than measuring progress in each subject from the previous attainment in that subject alone - is a more statistically robust method. The national data has better correlations when done this way. I am not aware of any reason why they would have changed their minds about this.
It’s easy to imagine a much simpler alternative model, looking at progress in each subject separately, i.e. KS1 reading to KS2 reading, KS1 writing to KS2 writing, KS1 maths to KS2 maths. For example, if a child was assessed at EXS in writing at KS1, and they then achieve EXS in writing at KS2 - that would be ‘average progress’ (score of zero). EXS at KS1 to GDS at KS2 could be given a positive score; progress from EXS at KS1 to WTS at KS2 given a negative score.
However I do not think such an approach is likely to be implemented, because it would too closely resemble the old ‘expected progress approach’ (2 whole levels of progress) that used to exist and I do not believe DfE would want to recreate that.
This brings me onto the next FAQ - how can we ‘set targets’ for these Year 6 children?
What we can’t do is anticipate what kind of scaled score in reading or maths any individual child would need to achieve in order for them to accrue a positive progress score. (Strictly speaking, you never can, because progress is always calculated against the national patterns of progress in that year - which of course can’t be known until the children have taken the tests - but realistically in recent years the national progress model has settled down a bit so it has become reasonably predictable.)
However I would recommend looking at the estimates that can be produced in FFT Aspire, if your school uses that tool. These show the most statistically likely outcomes, in terms of a scaled score (with a +/-4 margin of error) for each child, according to the model that you select (median progress, 20th percentile progress or 5th percentile progress).
How accurate these estimates are remains to be seen, but I think the methodology employed by FFT is sound, i.e. by percentile ranking every single child’s attainment at KS1, and matching it to the percentile ranked KS2 outcomes, you can see what sort of outcome is likely to be the national average for that PAG when the children take their tests next May.
What can be seen by looking at the FFT Aspire estimates is the need to aim high. For example, for children with KS1 assessments of EXS across the board, the FFT estimate based on median progress is typically a scaled score in the region of 107 - 109. So, if teachers have the mindset of thinking ‘these children need to reach the expected standard’, and therefore are thinking that a scaled score of 100 will be enough, you could find yourself looking at significantly negative progress scores.
Ultimately, the only thing you can depend upon this year, is that you want every single child to do the best that they can possibly do - and hopefully the result will be positive progress. Focus on securing really deep understanding of the curriculum and hopefully the data will take care of itself.