Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sedgehill... Ofsted performs unfair comparison that ignores a key factor: %FSM

Ofsted offers a summary view for every school. Sedgehill can be seen here .  It is a concise report that shows some of the key measures for the school.  But crucially it also adds a comparison to a list of so called ‘similar schools’. The list is here
I found that Sedgehill has been compared against a list of 55 schools that I don’t find to be similar in one very important respect: % Free school meals.  It also includes two GIRLS SCHOOLS and two GRAMMAR SCHOOLS who unsurprisingly have good results and so skew the data.  But I trimmed those ridiculous four out to look at the rest and see where we sit.
I decided to go through the data, build my own spreadsheet and plot %A*-C(inc English&Maths) against %FSM.  This was all for the summer 2013 GCSE results.

What I found was:
  1. (this is already well known) there is a very clear trend/correlation between exam results and %FSM in the set of schools Ofsted compared us against.  Lower %FSM, higher exam results (note the concentrated cluster to the far top left), and vice versa. There are some notable exceptions: once the %FSM goes much above 50ish, the results seem to go up!  As if these schools are free to develop a FSM-centric strategy that helps get the best out of the kids maybe?  But crucially, the vast majority of  the 20%-50% FSM set of schools underperform relative to the trendline for the whole set.
  2. Sedgehill had 54% FSM for the ’13 exam cohort.  I’ve put that in a green ring so you can see. You can see that out of the 55 ‘similar’ schools, only FIVE of this comparison set had higher %FSM than us!  What Ofsted have scandalously done is compare us to schools that have almost all got a much lower level of deprivation:
    • 23 of the supposedly 'similar' schools had FSM 20% or below!  That’s almost half the comparison set.
    • 12 had FSM 12% or below – these are ‘wealthy’ schools that bear no comparison to ours whatsoever.
That, I think is a deeply flawed methodology, considering it is well known what the link is (to quote the gov.uk website: “Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to get good GCSE results. Attainment statistics published in January 2014 show that in 2013 37.9% of pupils who qualified for free school meals got 5 GCSEs, including English and mathematics at A* to C, compared with 64.6% of pupils who do not qualify.”
So, by comparing apples with pears, they make Sedgehill look like underperformers.  Whereas if you look at my chart you see that:
  • Sedgehill was actually bang on the GCSE results trend line compared to the other schools in the set, meaning that once you take into account the high %FSM we have, we were doing as well as most schools.  We were not by this measure underperforming at all.  We were not, however, performing highly either, and that is an aspiration that I’m sure we all share – we want to be above that red line in the set of schools who do very well despite their high %FSM cohort.
  • Sedgehill was in fact doing better than most of the schools with %FSM in the 20-50% range – you can see them clustered well under the red line. That means we outperform a lot schools who are less disadvantaged than us!
Why am I boring you with this geekery?  It's just more evidence for my central point: Lewisham is acting on a groundless case.  The Lewisham education department has launched a 'section 60' intervention against Sedgehill, and based it on an allegation of 'unacceptably poor performance'.  But as Martin Powell-Davies has shown Sedgehill was one of Lewisham's most improving schools during the last few years.  And now I've shown that compared to a set of schools around the country Sedgehill is actually doing unusually well considering the extremely high % of kids eligible for Free School Meals.  (It would be interesting to repeat this FSM/GCSE comparison for just Lewisham schools).
As far as I can tell, Lewisham has launched this section 60 intervention without any justifiable basis in facts.  I actually think that this is bordering on wrongdoing: 
  • They are using 2014 GCSE data as the centerpiece of their argument, when the Dept for Education expressly said that '14 data cannot be directly compared to previous years.  This point alone should ring dodgy alarm bells!
  • They are ignoring the 2013 Ofsted findings of good leadership
  • They are ignoring the great A level results delivered by the same leadership and teaching team
  • They are ignoring the informed views of parents and children and teachers
  • They are ignoring their own Borough stats that show Sedgehill as one of the strongest/only improvers in Lewisham
  • They are ignoring the effect that the high %FSM has on attainment*
  • They are ignoring the amazing results forecast for 2015 - 65%
  • They are ignoring the detrimental effect that will come from the disruption if an IEB is imposed on a school that does not support it.
  • They are ignoring the offers of increased partnership activities with the existing challenge partners
*Some of you may be thinking "yes BUT isn't the whole point that we need to get better results from disadvantaged kids?" Well yes of course that's a point.  But all I'm focused on at the moment is that Lewisham have singled out a school that is not performing anywhere near badly enough to warrant the use of this extreme intervention. 

And, crucially, there's no sign that Sedgehill are heading that way either.  If they were, as a parent of a year 7 just started there, do you think I would be supporting the current leadership team??  It's time for Lewisham to come to the table and look at a compromise way of working TOGETHER to make further improvements.  Share in the success story.  There's no shame in changing your minds, if your priority is the wellbeing of Lewisham children.

[update after publishing.  It seems Ofsted use "pupil level prior attainment data" to group and compare 'similar schools' - see http://dashboard.ofsted.gov.uk/news.php .  That is not 'similar schools'.  It is 'schools whose pupils achieved similar attainment in a different school when they were younger'.  I wonder how many people know this.]

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