Increasingly, LEAs and other agencies provide statistical information to schools as a service. Several LEAs issue all schools with a detailed anlaysis which shows each school's GCSE performance compared with LEA averages and national averages.
The next step is to apply the same principles to monitoring achievement in each subject. Examination grades are a means of doing this. However they ignore the fact that different optional courses attract pupils of different ability.
One method of taking this into account is a calculation of students' achievement in each subject with their achievements in other subjects. (See Figure A). This shows, for example, that pupils who took history scored an average 4.41 in subjects other than history. And, in the third column, it points out that history students are scoring less than the average for other subjects. The information can also be presented in graphical form. (See Figure B).
Nottinghamshire encourages its secondary schools to engage in target setting in years 10 and 11 through a scheme called STAMP (Setting Targets and Monitoring Performance). It relies on accumulating a sequence of grades for pupils at six monthly intervals during years 10 and 11 grades then made available to pupils and staff. All these results are expressed in terms of GCSE grades, allowing comparison between departments, and the data are then processed using software supplied by the LEA. This allows a good grasp of past and prospective results, and makes it easier for schools to set targets.
Rushcliffe Comprehensive, an 11-18 mixed school in a suburb of Nottingham, first used the LEA package of indicators to make assessments in June of last year. Most departments responded well once staff were persuaded of the advantages of self evaluation and of sharing information.
It is too early to see an impact on exam results, but STAMP is already having a positive effect on pupils, staff and the school's assessment and guidance methods. When Year 11 pupils received their first set of grades, for example, many felt they were too low and set themselves higher targets.