What’s the context?
In its update to the secondary performance accountability measures in October 2023, the DfE confirmed two changes to future accountability measures:
- Entries into triple science (the percentage of pupils entered for all three single sciences) and entries into languages (the percentage of pupils entered for an EBacc language) will change from being additional measures to become headline measures for 2023/24, and will be reported on the main school page in performance tables from autumn 2024.
- The DfE wants to move to a headline EBacc attainment measure that incentivises full EBacc entry. They will explore making changes to the headline EBacc attainment measure (EBacc Average Point Score). They plan to engage with the sector on this during the autumn, with a view to confirming the approach in early 2024. The change would be introduced for 2024/25 measures, to be published in autumn 2025.
As indicated by the publishing years above, these measures will be applied retrospectively to the current year 11 and year 10 cohorts, who have already started their GCSEs.
Currently, Ebacc entry is a headline measure. Ebacc APS is currently measured by the average grade in each ‘bucket’ of the Ebacc (English – if both are taken, maths, two sciences, history of geography and a MFL), divided by six.
It is not yet clear (as at October 2023) what the changes to Ebacc APS would look like.
At ASCL’s data conference in autumn 2023, the DfE confirmed that no formal consultation will take place on these changes.
ASCL believes that school performance measures should not be applied retrospectively to cohorts who have already started their GCSEs. This holds schools accountable against a headline metric of which they weren’t aware when curriculum decisions were made.
We also believe this contravenes the DfE’s own workload protocols to give schools a full academic year’s notice of significant changes to accountability.
Why are we saying this?
It is wrong to hold schools accountable against a measure which they didn’t know was coming for cohorts who have already started their GCSEs, and made their options.
Under these proposals, entry into triple science and languages will become a headline measure for the current year 11s; and the more significant change to Ebacc APS will apply to the current year 10s. As students have already started their courses, there is little schools can now do.
The DfE confirmed that they are not planning a public consultation on either of these changes. Given the significance of this for schools, we think that is inappropriate; and that a short consultation, with a quick response from government is in the public interest.
The rationale given for these changes is to incentivise full Ebacc take-up. As these measures are being applied retrospectively, this will not be an immediate output. If these measures were to be implemented (after proper consultation) it would only make sense to implement them for the 2025/26 measures, at the earliest.
ASCL believes that this breaks the spirit of the DfE’s own workload protocols, which promise a full academic year before any major changes are made. Although the announcement on Ebacc APS itself is expected in spring 2024, for publication in autumn 2025, there is nothing that schools can do change the curriculum plans students are on. Doing so would drastically increase workload and be severely damaging to young people.
We urge the DfE to consult the sector and public on these proposals, fully publish the outcome of the consultation, and to delay any changes to existing measures until 2025/26.