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5 tips for governors on responding to GCSE results

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Get to grips with new GCSEs and accountability measures

You need to understand how changes to GCSEs and accountability measures this year may impact your school’s performance. For the first time, students will receive results in new, and more challenging, GCSEs in maths and English. These will be graded using a new 9-1 system.

While the DfE has explained that the new grading system itself should not affect a school’s progress 8 score, you may find that your school’s performance against other headline threshold measures is affected.

The headline threshold measures will include:

  • The percentage of pupils achieving a 5 (a ‘strong pass’) or above in English and maths
  • The percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc at grade 5 or above in English and maths and a C or above in unreformed qualifications

You may find that percentages drop in these headline measures compared to 2016 as a grade 5 is roughly comparable to a high C grade.

However, the DfE will also publish the percentage of students achieving a 4 (a ‘standard pass) and above in English and maths and the percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc at grade 4 to enable you and your senior leadership team to identify progress over time.

Interrogate your school’s provisional results

At your first governing board meeting or relevant committee meeting of the autumn term, ask the headteacher for the results. Official performance data isn’t released until January 2018 but the provisional results should be available for you to analyse.

As you will have done last year, look at whether your school has met the minimum standards (except in special schools, where these don’t apply). A secondary school will continue to be below the floor standard if its progress 8 score is below -0.5 unless the confidence interval suggests that the school’s underlying performance may not be below average. If your school has not met the floor standards, it is more likely to come under scrutiny through inspection so you will need to prepare for this (log-in required).

Interrogate the data, questioning any wide gaps in achievement between groups of students or underperforming groups. These might be students eligible for the pupil premium, with special educational needs, or students who have English as an additional language, for example.

Look at how your school’s performance against the headline measures compares to the national average, as well as any context that may explain your results.

If results are worse than expected, find out why

If your results are not good as predicted, you need to investigate. At your next meeting, ask the headteacher why the school’s forecasts weren’t accurate. Once you’ve established the reasons, ask senior leaders to set out how they will address these issues next year. Consider, also, how you monitor achievement: does the governing body scrutinise data often enough? Don’t be afraid of asking for further information, or clarification of anything confusing.

Don’t forget to support the headteacher – staff morale may be low if results were not good. There could be fears that an inspection will come sooner than anticipated. Ask your headteacher if they would appreciate any additional support – for example, from a national leader of education – or whether staff would like any extra continuing professional development.

Remember to celebrate success

It may sound obvious, but if the results are good, congratulate students and staff! Even if the overall results are not as good as hoped, make sure not to overlook any success, no matter how small. Did any groups of students do better than expected, for example?

School staff can sometimes be so focused on their relentless drive for improvement that they forget to reflect on what has actually gone well. Celebrating success can help boost staff (and governor) morale.

Reflect and prepare for the year ahead

Remember that these results often dictate students’ futures. Find out where your students go after year 11. And take some time as a governing board to reflect on the year as a whole at your next meeting: what went well? What will you do differently for 2017-18?

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