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Clarifying primary prior attainment bandings

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: inspection, RAISEonline, schools

It has come to my attention recently that there is some misunderstanding around the differences in the prior attainment bandings used in the Inspection dashboard, RAISEonline and FFT data for key stage 2 (KS2). This was highlighted in Jamie Pembroke’s recent SigPlus blog.

These three sources of information are, it appears, providing three different definitions of a low, middle and high attainment band. I want to clarify this issue now.

There is obviously a need to review the disparate approaches to prior attainment.

When we design reports with the RAISEonline team we don’t set out to cause confusion about the data, but sometimes our decisions can lead to this. So, why was the approach for prior attainment bandings taken?

RAISEonline summary tables

RAISEonline is a joint product between the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted. In calculating progress in primary schools the DfE used the overall prior attainment, not the subject prior attainment.

Overall prior attainment combines reading, writing and mathematics. There is much more information on their approach here. For consistency across all DfE publications, the overall prior attainment groups were used for progress and attainment in the summary tables.

In the more detailed RAISEonline tables, showing data for pupil groups, both overall and subject prior attainment groups were included.

Inspection dashboard

The content of the Inspection dashboard is closely aligned with our inspection handbook, as it aims to help inspectors identify key lines of enquiry.

Progress data was shown by overall prior attainment here too, because this is used in calculating progress. This helps inspectors to identify how each prior attainment group contributed to the headline progress scores.

For attainment we used subject prior attainment in order to provide additional insight into the impact of curriculum provision. This means KS2 reading was shown by prior attainment in reading, and so on.

We were also aware that using overall prior attainment can mask different prior attainment in the separate subjects.

Let’s take an example. The pupil in the table below was placed in the middle prior attainment band overall, but had very different prior attainment when looking at the individual subjects.

Key stage 1 prior attainment
Reading Writing Mathematics Overall points
Level 1 Low Level 1 Low Level 3 High 15.0 Middle

It is helpful for us to understand that this pupil had low prior attainment in reading and writing, and a high prior attainment in mathematics. This informs inspectors so they can ask the right questions about the curriculum provision for pupils.

We took steps in the dashboards to try to make this clear. We included the following note at the top of the relevant page. This one is taken from the reading page:

In each group, data is shown overall and for pupils with low, middle and high prior attainment, where prior attainment is overall for progress and in reading for attainment. Note that attainment tables in RAISEonline show groups based on prior attainment overall.

We also differentiated the headings on the dashboard. The chart showing the progress by overall prior attainment used the headings ‘Low’, ‘Middle’ and ‘High’, whereas the chart showing attainment used the headings ‘Reading low’, ‘Reading middle’ and ‘Reading high’.

But we understand that we could do more to reduce the confusion. While there are reasons for the approach we took, we will revisit how we can improve the clarity and understanding of the data provided to schools and inspectors. We are listening! And we are working with DfE on their replacement to RAISEonline.

As part of this work, we will continue to take on board feedback to improve the Inspection dashboard, along with the guidance and training for inspectors.

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FFT is a non-profit organisation who produce their own analyses of school performance data to schools, Local Authorities and Academy Chains. Inspectors do not have access to FFT data.









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  1. Comment by Michael L posted on

    Dear Sir/Madame,

    I was wondering if you could clarify for me whether the old 2a level at the end of KS1 is considered 'prior higher attainment'.

    Many thanks,

  2. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

  3. Comment by Paula Hamilton posted on

    Could you please clarify whether a pupil with a KS2 average fine level of 4.98, which rounds to 5.0 when rounding to one decimal, would be classified as a high or middle prior attainer?

    Thank you.

  4. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi Paula, thanks for your enquiry. The Department for Education would be best placed to answer this question for you -