What is value-added?
Value-added results show whether or not students have fulfilled their potential in public exams such as GCSE. Positive value-added means that they have got a higher grade than expected. Negative value-added means that they have underachieved compared to their potential. As a school we have always sought to add value to our students – in the classroom and in their extra-curricular activities. We get outstanding academic results, but we take much greater pride in our value-added performance. Using the government’s Progress 8 criteria, our students have averaged +0.9 grades at GCSE over the last five years and this is despite the glass ceiling that prevents our very brightest students achieving more than about +0.5 because their predictions from the system are so high.
How do you know what a student’s potential is?
Computer tests and Key Stage test results can never tell you exactly what each individual’s potential is. However, you can use results from tests taken in Year 6 or Year 7 to create a useful yardstick: you can compare these test results with the same students’ results when they reach GCSE in Year 11 and calculate an average expected grade in each GCSE subject that can be used with students in the future. Progress 8 uses KS2 SATs results as the starting point for this calculation. Hymers College, along with most reputable independent schools, uses the Year 7 MidYIS test run by Durham University. As this uses data from thousands of students across the country in all types of school, we can be very confident that the information it gives us is statistically reliable. We know, for example, that students with a score of 100 (the national average) in the MidYIS test on average achieve just below a C grade in their GCSE Maths exam nationally. If one of our students with a score of 100 gets a B, they have achieved a whole grade more than might be expected.
Is value-added a fairer means of assessing school performance?
If a school claims to have 90% of students achieving grades A*-C it might sound impressive, but you don’t know if the students in that school really performed to their full potential. Once you have the average expected grades from the Progress 8 or MidYIS system, you do know. Value-added is a fairer measure because the results are not positively or adversely affected by the academic calibre of the intake into the school. Schools that achieve statistically significant value-added results, as Hymers College consistently does, do so because of the quality of learning and teaching in the school, not just because they take in a lot of bright kids. A school with relatively low or average ability students may find it hard to achieve a lot of A*s and A grades, but they can still excel at value-added. This means value-added provides a fair way to compare different schools. Parents should certainly be asking what a school’s value-added results are when selecting a school for their children, because a school with high value-added results is likely to get the best out of their child, whatever their ability.
How is value-added information used to improve teaching and learning at Hymers College?
Statistical information should never replace a teacher’s professional judgement, so we use it to help teachers get the best from our pupils. The key benefit is that it places the individual student at the heart of the process – what should that individual be achieving in my subject and how can I help them get there and beyond? At Hymers College we use value-added information as the starting point for a discussion in Year 10 about target grades for GCSE, and also in Year 12 for A-level. Teachers also bring to the table their experience and knowledge of the student and the discussion focuses on not just what can be achieved, but also how to achieve it. Comparing actual achievement during the course with a target grade enables the teacher to give high-quality feedback. Our academic departments use value-added results to evaluate their performance and we use information from the system to help tutors and pastoral leaders work with any students who seem to be underachieving. When data is used as the starting point for a reflective conversation it can be very valuable.
Why do some students achieve positive value-added and others underachieve?
We have found that quality of teaching and student motivation are, unsurprisingly, key positive factors. Personal problems and a difficult home life almost inevitably have an adverse effect. Our experience strongly suggests that involvement outside the classroom is a key way to develop important learning and personal skills that boost academic performance. Students who throw themselves into sport, music, drama, extend their subject interests in competitions such as Maths and Science Olympiads, Cambridge Debating and Young Enterprise and who give back to the community through charitable work and volunteering schemes such as the National Citizen Service tend to become more reflective, resilient and resourceful. They are better at co-operation and teamwork, have more empathy, self-discipline and focus and are generally happier and more enthusiastic about the world.
GCSE value-added at Hymers College using the Progress 8 Criteria