02 January 2020

Ashley School results stats

There appears to have been some disquiet about Ashley School's stats, and the way they are being presented to parents. The trust has issued the school with a Notice to Improve, and Simon Walker, the chair of the Good Shepherd Trust, said on 15 Dec: "the performance at Ashley has slipped considerably (since 2016) so as to be a long way below that of our higher performing schools."

You could put that another way and say: "since we took over in 2014, things have gone downhill", but before we start discussing whether or not the Good Shepherd Trust wish to acknowledge this, we should perhaps ask if it it true.

Is Ashley slipping? And if so, who is to blame?

Richard Dunne has already responded to Nigel Stapleton's circular of 18 Dec, stating:

"if the school’s leadership is undermined as it was last year, it makes performing well more of a challenge."


"Last January the school had a Headteacher, an Assistant Head and a part-time Trust Business Manager. This January there will be a Headteacher, a part-time Deputy Head three days a week, two Assistant Heads, an Office Manager and a part-time Trust Business Manager. That is more than double the leadership resources. If the school had not been stripped of its senior resources last year, the results are likely to have been even stronger." [read the letter in full here]

This is useful evidence and it's good to see a fuller picture emerging.

I hope the following contributes to that. It is a report very kindly written br Dr Roger Hutchins who has a grandchild at Ashley School. Dr Hutchins has scraped quite a bit of the publicly available data about Ashley School and analysed it. He makes a further comment about the Richard Dunne response at the bottom of his report. I hope you find it useful:

"Has Ashley’s performance slipped considerably since 2016?
by Dr Roger Hutchins B.A. (Hons), PGCE, MAEd, EdD
1. A personal introduction
Roger Hutchins
My name is Roger Hutchins. Although now retired, most of my working life was spent within education. After teaching in a junior school in Twickenham, I moved to Portsmouth where I worked for 22 years as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)/ Inclusion Manager in three primary schools. For much of that time I was a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) in each of these schools. I served as a governor for nine years in one of them. For five years I was an Associate Lecturer at the University of Chichester, training SENCOs from across the south of England as part of the National SENCO Accreditation programme. In 2013 I completed an educational doctorate with the University of London, researching into aspects of assessment and testing in the primary school sector. I have co-authored five books for Teaching Assistants.
One of my grandchildren attends Ashley whom I regularly drop off and pick up from school. That is my only involvement with the school. I do not know or have ever met any staff member (past or present) or governor (past or present) and have no connection with the Good Shepherd Trust. The only parents I know are the members of my family and their immediate friends.
2. The school context
The following is taken from the latest inspection report by the Diocese of Guildford: Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) 17 October 2017 (NB This is an inspection distinct from and different to OFSTED)
Current SIAMS inspection grade: Outstanding
Ashley CE School is a large primary with 510 pupils on roll. The majority of children are from a White British background. The proportion of pupils receiving SEN support, and those with English as second language is below the national average. Relatively few pupils come from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
The school, through its distinctive Christian character, is good at meeting the needs of all learners.
The effectiveness of the religious education is outstanding.
The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the school as a church school is good.
3. Be aware
In this paper there are no headlines, sound bites or twitter feeds. The world of school assessment is too complex and too important to yield itself to such simplistic modes of communication. All the data in this paper are in the public domain. References are linked and clicking on them will take you to the source. The school will have more detailed information regarding individual pupils and specific groups of pupils, but such information is obviously confidential. Nothing that is open to public scrutiny should aid in the identification of any one individual or group of individuals.
The following four sections do not necessarily make for easy reading, but they are essential to be grasped if an accurate understanding and interpretation of school statistics is to be had.
4. A word about averages and percentages
4.1 In the world of school assessment the word ‘average’ is used a lot. We need to be clear what is meant by that term. Two types of averages are used in school statistics. The most common is the mean average when test scores are totalled and then divided by the number of pupils sitting the test. The ‘mean’ can be skewed disproportionately by a few items, for instance, I was once part of a small group where the majority were younger than 40; however, the mean average age was over 60 because one member was in her 90’s. A more accurate average for that group would have been a median average. If each age was placed in order from youngest to oldest, the age in the middle would be the median. 
4.2 By definition, in any measurement of averages 50% of schools (or pupils) must be ‘below average’ and 50% ‘above average’. This does not mean that 50% are ‘failing’, for instance, in a test where full marks are 100 and the pass mark is 50, if all entering the test score 60 or above, all have passed, but 50% will still be ‘below average’.
4.3 With regard the use of percentages, in cohorts of relatively small numbers of pupils each pupil could equate to two or more percentage points. This means that a few pupils who do not perform as well as the others could reduce the overall average percentage quite significantly. Alternatively, a few pupils who perform exceptionally well could raise the overall average percentage significantly.
5. A note about national assessment in schools
5.1 Full-time education in English schools is compulsory from the age of 5 to 16. It begins with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – Reception class – and is followed by four ‘Key Stages’: Key Stage 1 –Years 1 and 2; Key Stage 2 – Years 3-6; Key Stage 3 – Years 7-9 (Senior) and Key Stage 4 – Years 10-11 (Senior, GCSE years). The National Curriculum starts at year 1 and that is when national assessments also begin. In Year 1 there is a nationally administered test of phonics. At the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 are ‘Statutory Attainment Tests’ (SATs). Progress and attainment at EYFS and the end of Key Stage 1 are measured by teachers according to national criteria. 
5.2 There are four items to the Key Stage 2 SATs – Reading, Writing, Maths and English Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (EGPS). All apart from writing are administered via paper tests where the answers are largely right or wrong. These papers are sent away to be marked. Writing is assessed over the course of year 6 by teachers following national guidelines and criteria and here there is more emphasis on value judgement. This is why, in the data to be considered later in this paper, progress ‘scores’ for writing do not exist.
5.3 All the above assessments measure pupils’ attainment, i.e. what they have achieved in relation to national standards set by the government within the National Curriculum. The scores given by these assessments are used to measure the progress of pupils, dealt with in the next section.
6. Measuring progress
In December 2019, the Department for Education published the guidance Primary school accountability in 2019: A technical guide for primary maintained schools, academies and free schools (Crown Publications Reference DfE-00172-2019). It is actually more accessible than it sounds and the following paragraphs are taken from it to provide a platform for the discussion of Ashley’s data. 
Page 7: The progress measures aim to capture the progress that pupils make from the end of Key Stage 1 to the end of primary school. They are a type of value-added measure, which means that pupils’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils nationally with similar prior attainment. 
Page 12: To calculate progress scores, pupils are allocated into prior attainment groupings with all other pupils nationally with similar Key Stage 1 attainment. In 2019, pupils’ prior attainment was based on their teacher assessments at the end of Key Stage 1. These assessments took place in 2015 and were reported in national curriculum levels. Individual Key Stage 1 subject teacher assessments were converted into points… A pupil’s Key Stage 1 point scores for English reading, English writing and mathematics is then combined to give them a Key Stage 1 average point score (APS). 
Page 15: The process described above created 24 prior attainment groups to which pupils have been allocated depending on their Key Stage 1 results… A pupil’s progress score is the difference between their own Key Stage 2 result and the national average Key Stage 2 result for their prior attainment group. 
Page 17: For English reading and mathematics, Key Stage 2 test results have been reported as scaled scores, with 100 as the ‘expected standard’. The scaled score for each subject is used as the pupil’s Key Stage 2 outcome in the progress score calculation. 
7. Interpreting a school’s progress scores 
Page 20: Individual pupil-level progress scores are calculated in comparison to other pupils nationally. For all mainstream pupils nationally, the average progress score will be zero. 
A school’s progress scores for English reading, English writing and mathematics are calculated as its pupils’ average progress scores. This means that school-level progress scores is presented as positive and negative numbers either side of zero. 
• A score of zero means pupils in this school, on average, do about as well at Key Stage 2 as those with similar prior attainment nationally. 
• A positive score means pupils in this school, on average, do better at Key Stage 2 than those with similar prior attainment nationally. 
• A negative score means pupils in this school, on average, do not make as much progress by the end of Key Stage 2 as those with similar prior attainment nationally. A negative score does not mean that pupils did not make any progress between Key Stages 1 and 2. A negative score means that they made less progress than other pupils nationally with similar prior attainment. 
Page 21: Schools should not share individual pupil progress scores with pupils or parents. 
8. To summarise
Key factors in interpreting the data from Year 6 SATS include:
  • Taking note of the progress made by pupils and not just their attainment
  • Trends over three years or more – one year’s results taken by themselves are insufficient to bring a judgement about a school’s overall performance
  • Taking note of ‘value added’ – how much progress pupils made over and above what would be expected, all other things being equal
9. Data for 2019: How does Ashley compare with other schools in the Good Shepherd Trust (GST)?
The following statistics were published in October 2019 and relate to the academic year 2018-19. [Source: The Good Shepherd Trust website]
9.1 EYFS: 84% of Ashley pupils achieved expected standards (known as ‘Good Level of Development’ (GLD)). This ranked Ashley 2nd out of 14 GST schools. The national average was 72%.
9.2 Year 1 Phonics: 91% of Ashley pupils passed, ranking the school as joint 1st out of 14 GST schools. The national average was 82%.
9.3 Pupils achieving expected standards at the end of Key Stage 1:
In reading, 90% of Ashley pupils achieved expected standards; in writing, 84%; and in maths, 87%. In all three the school ranked 1st out of 14 GST schools. All areas were well above the national average.
9.4 Pupils exceeding expected standards at the end of Key Stage 1:
In reading, 49% of Ashley pupils exceeded expected standards; in writing, 23% and in maths, 41%, ranking Ashley as 1st out of 14 GST schools in reading and maths and joint 3rd in writing.
9.5 Progress at the end of Key Stage 2:
In reading, the average scaled progress score for Ashley pupils was -0.6, placing Ashley 9th out of 12 GST schools (range of progress scores: +6.4 to -3.2). 
In writing, the average scaled progress score for Ashley pupils was -2.0, placing Ashley 8th out of 12 GST schools (range of progress scores: +3.7 to -4.3). 
In maths, the average scaled progress score for Ashley pupils was -0.3, placing Ashley 9th out of 12 GST schools (range of progress scores: +5.6 to -2.3). 
9.6 Pupils reaching expected standards in Reading, Writing and Maths combined:
68% of Ashley pupils reached expected standards in all three subjects, placing the school 7th out of 12 GST schools (range of percentages was 83 to 56). The national average was 65%.
10. Data over time
Summary of data aggregated from the websites of Ashley School (including the school online prospectus), The Good Shepherd Trust and the government's Find and compare schools in England:
10.1 Key Stage 1
Percentage of pupils working at or exceeding expected standards (i.e. measures of attainment)

With the exception of writing, the data show a consistency of high standards over the four-year period. Each of these subjects in each of these years is significantly higher than national averages and (where the data is available) local authority averages.
The drop in reading between 2017 and 2018 is mirrored by a similar drop in writing; however, the drop in reading is redressed the following year. This is not the case in writing and it would be important to ascertain the reason for this drop in writing. One very possible reason is that teachers became more accurate in their assessment of children’s writing during the year 2017-2018.
10.2 Key Stage 2
Percentage of pupils working at or exceeding expected standards (i.e. measures of attainment)

Reading, writing and maths
Three year average for achieving expected standards in all three areas: 76% (local authority average: 69%; National average: 63%)
With three exceptions, each of these areas in each of these years is higher than national averages and (where the data is available) local authority averages. In 2018 all three subjects were almost 20 percentage points higher than the national average.
Two of exceptions relate to writing: in 2017, the school’s score was slightly below the local authority average and the national average, and in 2019, the school’s score was almost exactly the same as the national average of 78%. The third exception was 2019, when the school fell two percentage points below the local authority average for achieving expected standards in all three subjects; nevertheless, it continued to be above the national average.
There is no obvious indication here of consistently falling standards. Indeed, in maths the scores for 2018 and 2019 are higher than for the previous two years. The pupil cohort of 2018 scored exceptionally well and, therefore, a decline from that high point would not be unexpected.
10.3 Summary of SATs data taken from the government website 
Measures of progress (progress scores). The progress description given in brackets relates to a comparison between the school’s scores and the national average.

2.8 (above average)
3.5 (well above average)
-0.6 (average)
-1.6 (average)
-0.2 (average)
-2.0 (below average)
0.6 (average)
0.5 (average)
-0.3 (average)
When compared to national averages, over the past three years pupils have maintained a steady position in maths (average progress). For two years, reading was above or well above average, but dipped to being average in 2019. Writing has also dipped in 2019 and was then below average for the first time.
10.4 Average SATs scores compared with those for the local authority (given in brackets)
NB There is no score for writing as this is measured via teacher assessment

109 (106)
112 (107)
106 (106)
107 (105)
108 (105)
107 (106)
Achievement in reading and maths in each of the three years has been higher than the average for the local authority, except for 2019, when reading was the same as the local authority.

11 Results by pupil characteristics
Schools need to report on the attainment and progress of pupils not only as overall year groups, but also by specific background factors termed ‘Pupil Characteristics’):
  • girls and boys
  • pupils who are disadvantaged (defined as those who are either currently in receipt of free school meals or have been in any of the previous six years or those who are being looked after by the local authority)
  • those who have been identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) and are in receipt of SEN Support or who are in possession of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • those for whom English is an additional language (EAL).
Individual pupils may well appear in more than two categories, for instance a pupil for whom English is an additional language who is also identified as having SEND and is in receipt of free school meals will be measured and summated in each one of the categories of ‘Pupil Characteristics’. This, however, will not be distinguished in the publicly available data.
Schools will be monitoring the progress of pupils in each of these groups and will be putting in support mechanisms where appropriate. The effectiveness of any such support will also be being monitored. Any findings from SATs results will be used to inform the monitoring of younger year groups.
To keep the data as simple and clear as possible, I have deliberately not made reference to the characteristics of pupils which may nor may not affect the average results of any one cohort. However, as there is a concern over writing progress in Key Stage 2 it is important to point out the following (sourced from Ashley’s website):
In Year 6 (2018-19) there were 59 pupils, of which 24 were girls and 35 were boys. The balance of boys to girls in this cohort was thus higher than in the school as a whole, which has affected the overall results. Progress in reading and writing for girls was significantly higher than that of boys, whereas boys’ progress in maths was higher than that of girls. 83% of girls met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. 57% of boys met those same standards. The most significant difference came in writing. There is, therefore, need to examine boys’ writing.
In that cohort, 10% were pupils with EAL. Overall the progress of this group in reading and writing was well below the cohort average, but in maths it was in line with expectations and above the cohort average. There is, therefore, a need to examine the support given to pupils in all aspects of literacy for whom English is not their first language.
It is in this context that the difference between ‘mean average’ and ‘median average’ becomes significant. All the figures in the data relate to ‘mean’ averages. The results may have been quite different if they were calculated using the ‘median’ average. However, as all schools use the mean average, comparison with other schools remain valid.
NB The Good Shepherd Trust website only provides performance data for 2019. It has not therefore been possible to compare Ashley’s data over time with that of other schools in the trust.
12. Has Ashley’s performance slipped considerably since 2016?
The short answer is that the statistics do not indicate this to be the case. This is especially so for EYFS and Key Stage 1 where results have been consistently high over the previous four years. It is, however, clearly the case that SATs results for 2019 were disappointing, and that writing (particularly EAL and boys’ writing) needs to be improved. However, the year before was particularly strong. There is therefore no trend indicating a drop in the overall performance of the school.
Improvements can always be made. No school is perfect. Whilst trends over three years or more give a clearer indication of a school’s performance than any one year group’s results, where a particular cohort falls down an investigation needs to be mounted to find out why this was the case so that issues can be identified and responded to. 
It could also be argued that, given the many advantages enjoyed by the school, Ashley should be consistently ‘above average’ in every area when compared with national data and possibly local authority data as well. The data could indicate that writing generally in Key Stage 2 does not make the progress that would be expected, given the strength of writing at the end of Key Stage 1. This is an issue nationally. Statistically, it is very hard for a school to make more than expected progress in years 3-6 when the starting point is so high. 
Whilst no overall conclusion can be drawn about the performance of the school over time, the sustained high standards of Key Stage 1 need to be acknowledged and celebrated, and questions need to be asked about why the 2019 cohort did not make the same progress as those in previous years.
13 An addendum
The day after completing the above paper I received a copy of Richard Dunne’s statement in response to the Local Governing Committee’s message regarding falling standards at Ashley. Alongside the fact that the data discussed above agrees absolutely with Mr Dunne’s comments, I wish to emphasise three points:
  1. The school was clearly very aware of the needs within the year 6 of 2018-2019 and were putting support mechanisms in place. My final comment regarding questions needing to be asked has therefore been answered.
  2. The information Mr Dunne cites regarding teacher predictions of expected results and the results actually achieved is crucial in understanding the 2019 SATs results. However, the predictions of teachers are not in the public domain and therefore did not form part of my analysis. 
  3. Also not in the public domain was the level of SEND in that cohort of pupils nor the disruption brought to the school by the redeployment of senior leaders. Neither of these factors were therefore included in my paper, but they are similarly crucial in coming to an appreciation of the school’s performance. 
Finally, I repeat what is written above, and which Mr Dunne very importantly refers to as well: ‘Statistically, it is very hard for a school to make more than expected progress in years 3-6 when the starting point is so high’."


My profound thanks to Dr Hutchins for the work he has done in putting his report together. If anyone wishes to add to or correct anything they read above, please send me a message on the secure contact form which you can find over here on the right hand nav bar: --------------------->
on the desktop version of this website. 

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