‘Coasting’ schools

30 June 2015

ASCL Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe is giving evidence today to the parliamentary committee scrutinising the new Education and Adoption Bill. The Bill strengthens the Education Secretary’s powers to compel schools rated as ‘inadequate’ to become academies, and gives her new powers to turn ‘coasting schools’ into academies.

The government’s accountability system already defines a floor standard, the standard below which they consider it is unacceptable for any school to fall even in one year and where immediate scrutiny and/or intervention may be needed. The new coasting levels are proposed to be set at a higher level on the same measure as the floor standards in any given year. A school will be defined as coasting only where it has been below this level for three years.

The draft regulations will apply for the first time in 2016. At this point, a school will be coasting if it has fallen under the coasting criteria for all of the three years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The draft regulations describe performance against coasting criteria based on the current accountability measure levels for 2014 and 2015. Once tests and examinations have been sat and verified in 2016, they intend to use these regulations to set out the exact coasting level which will apply in that year, based on the accountability measures being introduced in 2016.

The levels prescribed in draft regulations will not be applied to special schools which do come within the scope of the legislation. The government will consult on the possibilities around coasting special schools and alternative provision.

Secondary schools

Floor standard
A secondary school is below the floor in 2014 and 2015 where fewer than 40 per cent of a school’s pupils achieve 5 A*- C grades including English and maths and the school has a below median score for the percentage of pupils making expected progress.

2016 sees the introduction of, the Progress 8 measure, a measure of pupils' progress from the end of primary school to 8 qualifications at the end of secondary school compared to other pupils with the same starting point.

The government has already announced that the absolute floor standard for 2016 will be -0.5 (where, on average, pupils in a school achieve half a grade less than those with similar starting points nationally).

Coasting definition
For 2014 and 2015 the draft regulations propose that a school will fall within the coasting criteria if fewer than 60 per cent of a school’s pupils achieve 5 A*- C grades including English and maths and the school has a below median score for the percentage of pupils making expected progress.

Once 2016 results are available, the government intends to announce the level above the floor standard which will be the coasting level in that year.

A school will be defined as coasting, and become eligible for intervention, if it falls below the standard in 2016, and has already failed to meet the coasting standards specified above in 2014 and 2015.

Primary schools

To be deemed coasting, a primary school must fall below the coasting level for all three of the years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Floor standard
A primary school is below the floor standard in 2014 and 2015 if fewer than 65 per cent of pupils achieve Level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics and below the median percentage of pupils make expected progress in reading, writing and maths.

2016 sees curriculum and assessment changes for primary schools and the government has already announced that they will be holding schools to account for the percentage of pupils achieving a new higher expected standard at the end of primary and against a new, value-added measure of progress.

A school will fall below the floor standard in 2016 where fewer than 65 per cent of pupils achieve the expected standard and pupils do not make sufficient progress.

Coasting standard
For 2014 and 2015, a school will fall below the coasting level if fewer than 85 per cent of its pupils achieve Level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics and below the median percentage of pupils making expected progress.

The government is proposing a school will fall below the coasting standard in 2016 where fewer than 85 per cent of pupils achieve the expected standard across reading, writing and mathematics and pupils do not make sufficient progress. The same progress measure will be used in both the floor and the coasting criteria, but a higher progress bar will be set for the coasting criteria. The government will announce the exact levels of progress for both the floor and the coasting criteria once tests have been taken in 2016.

Action in coasting schools
Schools will be notified that they fall within the definition. Regional Schools Commissioners will look in more detail at the circumstances of any coasting school and any coasting school will be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they have the capacity to make sufficient improvement.

The government plan is not automatically to seek academy solutions for all schools that fall within the definition of coasting. They indicate that they want to challenge and support these schools to improve sufficiently and it is only where the capacity or plan for sufficient improvement is not evident that intervention will follow.

ASCL response

Commenting on this announcement, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman, said, “We are disappointed that this announcement has come without a formal consultation, and that the criteria it sets out for what constitutes a coasting school will initially be on an attainment rather than a progress measure.

“As we have said previously, academisation is not a magic wand. Schools in challenging circumstances require individual support which takes account of their specific situation. For instance, academisation is not a solution to a severe supply shortage of high-quality teachers in key subjects like maths, science and English.” Read the full press release for more.”