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Does Progress 8 encourage schools to work more equitably?

Researchers: Dave Thomson | Professor Simon Burgess

Project overview

This project will investigate the impact of the 2016 Progress 8 accountability measure for KS4 education, looking at its effect on pupil attainment and how this varies by school type and pupil characteristics.

Prior to 2015/16, the accountability measure used for secondary education was the proportion of pupils achieving 5 GCSE A*-C grades (or equivalent). Research found that this approach incentivised schools to focus their efforts on pupils at the C/D borderline, at the expense of higher- and lower-attaining pupils. Progress 8 instead measures the average attainment of all pupils within a school, thereby reducing the incentive for schools to focus on any one sub-group of pupils.

Using data from the National Pupil Database, researchers will compare the first two national cohorts of pupils measured by Progress 8 with several earlier cohorts drawn from the period 2005-2014. The researchers will assess the overall impact on pupil’s educational attainment and identify any differences for particular types of schools and/or pupil groups. This will include looking at the impact on pupils from different ability groups, Pupil Premium pupils and schools with different performance, attainment and qualification profiles. Researchers will also survey school leaders to capture views about the Progress 8 measure.

The project aims to inform school accountability policy and effective practices to help improve outcomes for low attaining pupils.


  • Dave Thomson
    Education Datalab
  • Professor Simon Burgess
    University of Bristol

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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