The league table performance of grammar and faith schools drops substantially once "fairer” measures of pupil background are added to progress measures, a new study demonstrates.
The report published today claims that the Department for Education’s current performance tables, based on Progress 8 scores, “punish and reward the wrong schools”.
Researchers have instead created a new Fair Secondary School Index which factors in pupils’ ethnicity, deprivation and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to give each school an adjusted progress score.
The index radically alters schools league table standings, with a fifth of schools’ national rankings moving by more than 500 places.
And it reveals that grammar schools' and faith schools' "high average Progress 8 scores reduce substantially once the educationally advantaged nature of their pupils is considered".
By contrast, it adds that the low average pupil progress seen in sponsored academies improves once the disadvantaged nature of their pupils is recognised.
The authors claim that Progress 8 punishes schools for teaching high proportions of pupils from underperforming groups. Their report identifies how white British pupils, pupils with SEN support and those from long-term disadvantaged backgrounds perform less well under Progress 8.
They said the research showed how the current league tables were rewarding schools for their intake rather than the teaching or learning taking place.
The new report shows that if an adjusted Progress 8 score was used by the DfE, more than half of the schools that are currently judged to be underperforming would no longer be in this category.
Schools in the North and particularly the North East have moved up in the rankings while progress scores in London and South East have declined.
The new report and the index have been published today by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership – a think tank set up by former chancellor George Osborne.
Lucy Powell, a Labour MP who has supported the report, said: “The league tables and data that we use to judge schools are often more a measure of the school’s intake than the quality of teaching, learning and real progress being made in that school.
“Indeed, Ofsted themselves often reward these same measures, and therefore a school’s intake, when giving their judgements, as headteachers and others have warned.
“This independent Fair Secondary School Index uses much more detailed data and analysis to arrive at fairer and deeper understandings of what makes a good school, often turning league table standings on their heads.
“We can see from this that some schools operating in the most challenging contexts are doing an outstanding job. Other schools that may have previously escaped scrutiny actually require support.”
The figures come from a study by Professors George Leckie and Harvey Goldstein of the Centre for Multilevel Modelling at the University of Bristol, who analysed the 2018 data from all 3,165 state-maintained secondary schools in England.
Under the current system, secondary schools in England are held to account in large part on a measure called Progress 8.
The accountability measure, introduced in 2016, looks at the progress pupils in a school make between the end of primary school (age 11) and the end of key stage 4, when they sit their GCSEs (age 16).
The new study suggests schools should be judged on a more contextual Progress 8 measure that takes into account other factors that can play a part in a child's achievement as well as the progress they have made.
The adjusted progress score gives a weighting to pupils' age, gender, ethnicity, English as an additional language, SEND, proportion of pupils on free school meals and residential deprivation.
The new tables give each school a ranking based on their adjusted Progress 8 score and also show how their national ranking has changed compared with the official Progress 8 statistics.
According to the Fair Secondary School Index, Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford is the highest-performing secondary school in England.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want all pupils to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background, and we introduced Progress 8 to provide a fairer measure on how schools are supporting pupils to achieve their best.
“Progress 8 helps parents choose the right school for their child, specifically recognising those schools that make good progress with lower attaining pupils, and identifying those schools not doing enough with a high performing intake."