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The evolution of school league tables in England 1992-2016: ‘Contextual value-added’, ‘expected progress’ and ‘progress 8’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193–212
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jan 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Sep 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jan 2017
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2017


Since 1992, the UK Government has published so-called ‘school league tables’ summarizing the average General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) ‘attainment’ and ‘progress’ made by pupils in each state-funded secondary school in England. While the headline measure of school attainment has remained the percentage of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs, the headline measure of school progress has changed from ‘value-added’ (2002-2005) to ‘contextual value-added’ (2006-2010) to ‘expected progress’ (2011-2015) to ‘progress 8’ (2016-). This paper charts this evolution with a critical eye. First, we question the Government’s justifications for scrapping contextual value-added. Second, we argue that the current expected progress measure suffers from fundamental design flaws. Third, we show that the differences between expected progress and contextual value added are considerable leading to fundamentally different school rankings. Fourth, we discuss how ‘progress 8’ attempts to address some, but not all, of the flaws in expected progress. We conclude that all these progress measures and school league tables more generally should be viewed with far more scepticism and interpreted far more cautiously than they have often been to date.

    Research areas

  • contextual value-added, expected progress, progress 8, school league tables

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