THE most recent batch of league tables for schools across the country included a new measure to rank how schools are performing.

Ministers have introduced a new headline measure called “Progress 8”, which looks at the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary education.

It compares pupils’ results with the achievements of other youngsters with the same prior attainment and measures performance across eight qualifications.

The Government has argued that this measure is fairer because it takes students’ previous achievement into account, and recognises the results of all youngsters, not just those on the border of C and D grades.

Overall, 282 secondaries, educating 206,991 children, fell below the Government’s floor standard based on this new measure – about 9.3 per cent of secondaries.

Schools that are considered under-performing face intervention, and could be taken over.

In Taunton, most schools performed above the national average in the new measure, one scored the national average, and three dropped slightly below.

The Taunton Academy ranked -0.29, below the national average.

Head teacher Jenny Veal says that although the measure is useful, it can also be disproportionate for some schools.

She said: “The Progress 8 measure is a useful way of recognising the progress of all students in a year group and is an improvement over the far more narrow system which recognised only those students who attained grades C or above.

“It does, however, have limitations and does not always provide an accurate reflection on school progress.

“A student who for whatever reason fails to engage with the final exams can have a disproportionate impact upon the whole school results.

“Equally, the methodology for calculating Progress 8 is changing over the next two years while the new 1-9 grades are being introduced. This has a more significant impact on those students who are working hard to secure grades from C down. For a school where the intake is significantly below national average this is a very important consideration. A difficulty for schools is in accurately tracking Progress 8 during the year as the government will not announce the final calculation until after the results are announced in the summer of 2017. This is a further limitation and a source of deep frustration for schools.”

Sky College received a ranking of -2.66 and Court Fields School received a ranking of -0.01 below the national average.

Heathfield Community School came out on top with 0.49 above national average, closing followed by The Castle School with 0.48. West Somerset College scored 0.06 in the Progress 8 measure, and Kingsmead Academy scored the same as the national average. Bishop Fox’s ranked 0.2 above the national average.

Head teacher Kerry Tonkin has welcomed the new system, saying its a “fairer” way to measure a student’s progress.

Ms Tonkin said: “Progress 8 is a fairer way to measure students and school performance. This measure takes in to consideration the starting point of the student and measures the progress that the student makes in their five years at the school.

“In a comprehensive school such as Bishop Fox’s, we have students from the full ability range and this measure shows the success the school has had when challenging and helping students make progress – regardless of their ability.”

Sarah Watson, headteacher of The Castle School, said although the new measure is fair, it could leave behind the students that don't fit into the one-size-fits-all category. 

She said: "Progress 8 is a challenging measure and we welcome the new focus on achievement rather than attainment. This is a fairer measure for schools than the old 5ACEM.  

"Obviously, the way schools are measured drives their behaviour.  For example, when 5ACEM was the measure, the GCSE Grade C was the focus.  Now every child is measured on the progress he or she makes from his or her starting point and every grade counts; I think that is far better.  However, the 8 part of Progress 8 (which is based on every child taking exams in 8 subjects including English, Maths, Science, Humanities and a MFL) means that only some qualifications count.  

"For children who do not fit into that one-size-fits-all category, their achievements are not recognised and so schools are forced to make decisions that pitch the interests of the school in the performance tables and with Ofsted, against those of the child. 

"A strong school will make decisions that put children first but it may appear to be doing less well in the league tables.  We did this for a number of children in the last Year 11 and will do it again (as I know other schools in Taunton did).   

"The private sector does not have to report according to the performance measures and parents still do not have the transparency to help them really judge a school’s effectiveness or value for money. "