The Department for Education is taking steps to downplay the importance of its flagship school accountability measure when judging the success of university technical colleges.
The changes, which will take effect in October, follow complaints that Progress 8 is unfair on institutions that educate 14- to 16-year-olds.
This is because it holds these institutions to account for three years of schooling from the age of 11 that took place at other institutions.
Last year, a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research called for an urgent review of how Progress 8 affects UTCs.
And in April, the DfE’s top civil servant, Jonathan Slater, called for a “more rounded” way of judging the success of UTCs.
Now, the DfE’s chief data office has revealed that the department will stress that other headline measures – “particularly pupil destinations” – are more important for these institutions.
In his letter to the Office for Statistics Regulation, Neil McIvor says that it “would not be right to exempt these institutions” from Progress 8.
However, he says “there are steps we can take to make much clearer the special considerations that apply in the case of these institutions, with respect to Progress 8”.
Progress 8 'not most appropriate measure'
From October, the DfE will strengthen the health warning in its league tables about applying Progress 8 to institutions with an “atypical age”.
The new caveat, which will also be given increased prominence, will say: “Some schools start educating pupils part way through the five-year period covered by Progress 8, which should be taken into account when comparing their results with schools that start at key stage 3.
“Progress 8 is not the most appropriate performance measure for university technical colleges, studio schools and some further education colleges.
“These establishments typically start educating pupils at age 14, with a focus on preparing pupils for their future careers by providing an integrated academic and professional education.
“Other headline measures, particularly pupil destinations, are more important for these establishments.”
The DfE will also stop using the phrases “below average”, “average” or “above average” to describe the Progress 8 scores of UTCs and similar institutions in league tables.
In his letter, Mr McIvor says: “Removing them, alongside greater prominence of the caveat above, will emphasise that Progress 8 is not the most appropriate measure for these institutions.”
Describing these measures as “first steps”, he adds: “We will consider what more we can do to increase the focus on destinations as a key indicator of the performance of these institutions.”