Progess 8 and Attainment 8: an overview


What are they?

Up until 2016, all students and schools were measured on how many good GCSE's they achieved at A*- C, including English and mathematics.

In October 2013, the government announced that a new secondary school accountability system would be implemented from 2016. It included two new headline measures, Attainment 8 and Progress 8. From 2016, the headline indicator of school performance determining the floor standard was Progress 8.

Now, all students are measured on how much progress they make from when they start in Year 7 (end of the Primary stage) to when they complete their exams at the end of Year 11. This is known as Progress 8 – it's a type of value-added measure.

The results are compared to the national average of pupils with similar academic starting positions i.e. based on pupils' results in English and maths assessment tests (SATS). The measure is designed to encourage all students to study a broad and balanced curriculum. The measure is based on students' progress measured across eight subjects.

A Progress 8 score is calculated for each pupil by comparing their achievement – their Attainment 8 score – with the average Attainment 8 score of all pupils nationally who had a similar starting point (or 'prior attainment'), calculated using assessment results from the end of primary school. The greater the Progress 8 score, the greater the progress made by the pupil compared to the average of all pupils with similar prior attainment.

The Attainment 8 score is calculated from the sum of four elements. These elements are also called 'buckets'. Note that due to their perceived importance, English and maths are double weighted:

  • English – double weighted – best of English Language or Literature
  • Maths – double weighted
  • EBacc 3 subjects– three highest point scores from any of the EBacc qualifications in science subjects, computer science, history, geography, and languages.
  • Other 3 / Open 3 – the three highest point scores in any three other subjects. Up to three GCSE qualifications (including EBacc subjects not used to fill the slots in the EBacc element) and/or non-GCSE qualifications from the approved list for the year in question, can count towards the three slots in the 'open' element in the Progress 8 measure. 

Progress 8 measure

The Progress 8 score for a school is the average of the pupil scores, but it's important to understand that Progress 8 is calculated each year on the basis of the actual results of all of the pupils taking exams at the end of Key Stage 4 that year. Consequently, nobody knows on results day in August what the national average will be - and so cannot know their Progress 8 score.

The average score of all secondary schools pupils nationally, is 0. This is a relative measure, which shows if a schools' pupils are performing above, or below, the national average. It means that half secondary schools have positive scores, and half negative.

A school's Progress 8 score is normally between -1 and +1.+1 means that pupils in that school are achieving on average one grade more in each qualification than similar pupils across the country. -1 indicates that pupils are achieving one grade less. Consequently, schools with a score of -0.5 are not achieving the minimum standard expected by the government and could attract the attention of Ofsted. A school with + 0.5 or greater is making well above average progress with its pupils.

Pupils are included in Progress 8 if:

  • their key stage 4 (KS4) attainment can be matched to their attainment at key stage 2 (KS2);
  • they have a KS2 average point score that is greater than zero;
  • they do not have a missing or disregarded outcome in both English and maths KS2 tests/teacher assessments;
  • they attend a maintained mainstream school.

A pupil's Progress 8 score is defined as their Attainment 8 score, minus their 'estimated' Attainment 8 score. The estimated Attainment 8 score is the average Attainment 8 score of all pupils nationally with the same prior attainment at KS2.

Every school's initial Progress 8 scores is published on the DfE website

Headline measures

The Government's main measures of secondary school performance are as follows:

Attainment 8

Attainment 8 measures the average achievement of pupils in up to 8 qualifications including:

  • English (double weighted if the combined English qualification, or if both language and literature are taken)
  • maths (double weighted)
  • three further qualifications which count in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc)
  • three further qualifications that can be GCSE qualifications (including EBacc subjects) or any other non-GCSE qualifications on the DfE approved list.

Progress 8

Progress 8 aims to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of key stage 2 to the end of key stage 4. It compares pupils' achievement – their Attainment 8 score – with the average Attainment 8 score of all pupils nationally who had a similar starting point (or 'prior attainment'), calculated using assessment results from the end of primary school.

English Baccalaureate achievement and entry

The EBacc is made up of English, maths, science, a language, and history or geography.

To qualify within the Ebacc, qualifications they must be included in the Ebacc list of qualifications

For further information about the Ebacc, read our Ebacc Overview

Pupils achieving a Good Pass in Maths and English. (A*- C GCSE)

Statistics are available in the 'Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England: 2016 to 2017' National Statistics release.

A beginner’s guide to Professor Dylan Wiliam
EBacc overview


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