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Measuring Exam Success

Exam results day

This year there are so many new performance measures (some worthwhile and some about doing what the government wants) that every head teacher will be claiming their school has done a brilliant job. Every announcement will say best results ever, top school in the world, most progress ever seen, etc.

While I am unlikely to say publicly that we have achieved results that stink the place up I do want to be honest about what, in our eyes, would constitute success. An honest school measures itself through student progress, which we won't know until next term. On results day the measure is about attainment. On that we would say the following:

A Level

For us, a reasonable performance would be about 52% A* to B. That would signal progress that is a fair bit better than national average across the board.

If we get 55% or more we have done a really good job, even better than the high levels we have been used to.

58% or better and the school will be punching the air, and you can expect our value added to be very strong indeed, despite our great GCSE performance with this year group two years ago.


EBacc, Progress 8, Attainment 8 etc. are measures to do with making students follow courses that fit league tables. We may decide not to publish them, though our EBacc score is always very strong.

The subjects everyone takes, and which are very difficult to game, are English and Maths. They are also pretty important for young people starting off in the world. For that reason we are judging ourselves against this measure.

We want 70% students taking Maths to be at Level 4 or better and the same for English to say we have done a decent job.

If we get 76% it will be a very successful year indeed. This should hit the top 20% nationally for progress.

78% would be terrific and it has been the very top end of our ambition, perhaps top 5% nationally for progress.

At level 5 we want 50% to be good by our standards, 55% to be very smug indeed and we set a very ambitious target of hitting 62%. It is not impossible but beyond what could reasonably be expected of staff or students, even those as talented as ours.


I am aware we are making ourselves a hostage to fortune by stating this before the results are published but wanted you to be able to trust us when we say we feel we have done a decent job and for it not to look like sour grapes when others may make a fuss about what we see as less genuine measures.

You can see that nothing we have aimed at is safe or mediocre. Even so, if we fall short we will acknowledge that and not pretend otherwise. If we say we are pleased with our performance you can tell that we have good grounds.

- Mr Willis

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