Our free benchmarking tools are now live with the latest KS2, KS4 and MAT data!

Our free benchmarking tools are now live with the latest KS2, KS4 and MAT data!

When we first created our free benchmarking tools in early 2016, a dizzying array of changes to the national assessment landscape had been announced. In this land of confusion, we thought it would be helpful to create a way for people to interpret these new approaches to accountability online, in order to understand more completely the performance of a school.

We’ve since expanded our suite of tools to include one focussing on multi-academy trusts specifically. The idea here is to help you understand the relative performance of MATs to each other, and also the very different school contexts that contribute to a MAT’s headline outcomes.

Since then, accountability measures have continued to evolve - most recently with the introduction of the new 9-1 scale for Maths and English GCSEs, and so we continue to see a value in offering a tool that helps you to make sense of these changes, and offers backward comparison where possible. A full description of the 2018 KS4 Accountability Measures can be found here And now, following the release of the validated 2017 KS4 data by the DfE, we’re pleased to say all our primary, secondary and MAT tools are now fully up-to-date.

How we built it

As any school, teacher, or parent knows no two schools are the same. So how can we use the available data to accurately compare what are likely to be very different schools, in very different circumstances? At Assembly, we believe that progress is a better measure of a school’s performance than attainment - particularly at secondary, where the Key Stage 2 SATs offer a relatively robust baseline. When contemplating attainment, we also prefer average measures (like Attainment 8) to threshold measures (like Ebacc). You can read why we think this in our previous blog post

Here’s a quick reminder of our key principles for designing school dashboards:

  • Data exploration should be interactive and intuitive, so we make it easy to drill down from the high-level summary into the more detailed picture. We also include colour-coding and percentiles to add further clarity.

  • Public data should be free, so we’ll never charge for benchmarking resources.

  • Comparison to the average isn’t enough. Simply knowing you’re above or below average isn’t sufficient to know the areas in which you are truly excelling or lagging behind. So while we include averages in many places, we prefer to contextualise data in more granularity, by using percentiles.

Things to consider for 2017

For secondaries, the new GCSEs in English Language, Literature and Mathematics are now graded on a scale of 9-1. This has a subtle impact on how the English and Maths scores contribute to average measures like Progress 8 and Attainment 8 - the explanation of point allocations can be found on the DfE website For threshold measures, the change is more pronounced. First, the two main attainment threshold measures (previously A*-C in English & Maths and A*-C across a full set of Ebacc subjects) have changed to be 9-5 in English & Maths and A*-C across a full set of Ebacc subjects, except Maths & English where 9-5 is used. That’s a mouthful, but the implications are important. The DfE correlate the bottom of the unreformed GCSE C grade to the bottom of the reformed GCSE 4 grade, whereas the bottom of the reformed 5 grade is equivalent to a high C in old money. This DfE factsheet explains how the two scales map to each other. This means the bar has been substantially raised in the new threshold measures.

However, our tool is not intended to replicate the government’s approach to accountability (you can use their website for that!), so for this year, we’ve prioritised contextualisation of the 9-4 in English & Maths and A*-C across a full set of Ebacc subjects, except Maths & English where 9-4 is used. That’s primarily for the reason that we can compare these data sets to prior year data, which is important when benchmarking. It’s also because we don’t want to get too hung up on where a threshold is created - as mentioned above, we think average attainment measures like Attainment 8 are in any case better than threshold measures for comprehensively representing a school’s performance.

What next?

The Assembly Benchmarking tools are free to use and you may find the built-in twitter feature useful to share and celebrate your success stories. We also welcome feedback to help us improve our product and would encourage you to leave us a message via our feedback survey, by following the link from the tools.

If you like our approach to analytics and are part of a MAT, we’d love to hear from you for a conversation about how Assembly Analytics (our MAT analytics product) can integrate all your internal key performance data in a single online tool. Our dashboards take data from the school MIS as well as other assessment and finance systems, to allow you to make more informed decisions across a broad range of KPIs. This blog post explains how our approach to MAT analytics at primary brings a whole new level of simplicity and reliability to managing your organisation.