Areas for investigation. This is a welcome change. The new areas for investigation are clearer - and therefore more informative - than the 'written by robot' strengths and weaknesses that preceded them, many of which were indecipherable. They read more like the start point for a conversation and hopefully this will result in more productive, equitable relationship between inspectors and senior leaders.
Context has moved to the front. Good. That's where it should be. It was worrying when context was shoved to the back in RAISE reports. This is hopefully a sign that school context will be taken into account when considering standards. As it should be.
Sorted out the prior attainment confusion at KS2. Previous versions of the dashboard were confusing: progress measures based prior attainment on KS1 APS thresholds (low: <12, Mid: 12-17.5, High: 18+ (note: maths is double weighted)); attainment measures based prior attainment on the pupils level in the specific subject (low: L1 or below, mid: L2, high: L3). This has now been sorted out and prior attainment now refers to pupils KS1 APS in all cases. Unfortunately this is not the case for prior attainment of KS1 pupils - more on that below.
Toning down the colour palette. Previous versions were getting out of hand with a riot of colour. The page of data for boys and girls at KS2 looked like a carnival. Thankfully, we now just have simple shades of blue so sunglasses are no longer required; and nowhere in the new report is % expected standard and % greater depth merged into a single bar with darker portions indicating the higher standard. These are now always presented in separate bars, thankfully. That page was always an issue when it came to governor training.
Progress in percentiles. Progress over time is now shown using percentiles, which makes a lot of sense and is easy to understand. Furthermore, the percentiles are linked to progress scores, so it shows improvement in terms of progress not attainment. Percentiles show small steps of improvement over time, which means that schools can now put changes in progress scores into context, rather than guessing what changes mean until they move up a quintile. Furthermore, an indicator of statistical significance is provided, which may show that progress is be in the bottom 20% but is not significantly below, or perhaps is in the top 20% but is not significantly above, which adds some clarity. And finally, the percentiles for 2015 are based on VA data, rather than levels. Those responsible for the 'coasting' measure take note.
Scatter plots. Whilst an interactive scatter plot (i.e. an online clickable version) is preferable, these are still welcome because they instantly identify those outliers that have had a significant impact on data. In primary schools, These are often pupils with SEND that are assessed as per-key stage, and who end up with huge negative scores that in no way reflect the true progress they made. One quick glance at a scatter plot reveals that all pupils are clustered around the average, with the exception of those two low prior attaining pupils that have progress scores of -18.
Confidence intervals are shown. I was concerned that they'd stop doing this - showing the confidence interval as a line through the progress score - but thankfully this aspect has been retained. It's useful because schools can show how close they are to not being significantly below, or being significantly above. Inspectors will be able to see that if that pre-key stage pupil with individual progress score of -18 was removed from the data, that would shift the overall score enough to remove that red box. Statistical significance is, after all, just a threshold.
Prior attainment of KS1 pupils. I'm not against the idea of giving some indication of prior attainment - it provides useful context after all - but I have a bit of problem here. Unlike at KS2 where prior attainment bands are based on the pupils APS at KS1, at KS1 prior attainment is based on the pupils' development in specific early learning goals (ELG) at EYFS. Pupils are defined as emerging, expected or exceeding on basis of their development in reading, or writing, or maths (for the latter they take the lower of the two maths ELGs, to define the pupils prior attainment band). This approach to prior attainment therefore takes no account of pupils development in other areas, just the one that links to that specific subject. The problem with this approach is that you can have a wide variety of pupils in a single band. For example, the middle band (those categorised as expected) will contain pupils that have met all ELGs (i.e. made good level of development) alongside pupils that have met the ELG in reading but are emerging in other areas, and pupils that have met the ELG in reading and exceeded others. These are very different pupils. Data in RAISE showed us that pupils that made a good level of development are twice as likely to achieve expected standards at KS1 than those that didn't, so it seems sensible that any attempt to define prior attainment should take account of wider development across the EYFSP, and not just take subjects in isolation. Perhaps consider using an average score for EYFS prime and specific ELGs, to define prior attainment instead.
Prior attainment of Y1-2 in the context page. Currently this is based on how NYC the percentage achieving specific ELGs differs from national average, whilst prior attainment for years 3-6 involves APS. As above, perhaps Ofsted should consider using an EYFS average score across the prime and specific ELGs instead.
I am, by the way, rather intrigued by mention of APS for current years 3 and 4. Does this mean Ofsted have developed some kind of scoring system for new KS1 assessments? This surely has to happen as some point anyway, in order to place pupils into prior attainment groups for futures progress measures.
Lack of tables. There's nothing wrong with a table; you can show a lot in a table. In the absence of tables to show information for key groups, the scatter plots are perhaps trying to do too much. Squares for boys, triangles for girls, pink for disadvantaged, grey for non-disadvantaged, and a bold border to indicate SEN. It's just a bit busy. But then again, we can see those pupils that are disadvantaged and SEN, so it can be useful. It's not a major gripe and time will tell if it works, but sometimes a good old table is just fine.
And finally a few minor niggles:
There is no such things as greater depth in Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling at KS2. Mind you, yesterday it had greater depth for all subjects at KS2 and that's changed already so it's obviously just a typo.
And many of the national comparator indicators on the bar graphs are wonky and don't line up. They look more like backslashes.
But overall this is big improvement on the previous versions and will no doubt be welcomed by head teachers, senior leaders, governors and anyone else involved in school improvement. This, alongside ASP and the Compare Schools website, shows the direction of travel of school data: that it's becoming more simplified and accessible.
And that's a good thing.