Recently released data from the Ministry of Education shows a slight improvement in Key Stage 2 performance and in that of Year 12 students. However, the comparative performance of Year 12 students to how they were expected to do fell off in 2018.

Much of the information in the 2018 Education Data Report, which deals with government school students, has previously been reported, but there are a few elements that are new.

As part of assessments, Year 9 students are administered CAT4 exams, which measure cognitive ability. The results of the exams are used to predict how well students should do on the GCSE exams they take at the end of Year 11 and, if need be, again at the end of Year 12.

Year 11 exam scores for five or more Level 2 passes – whether with or without English and maths – have traditionally been below the predicted performance. In 2018, however, the scores for five or more Level 2 passes including English and maths, met the expected performance level of 37%. That level is still well below the UK standard of 56% in 2016 (the UK has changed its grading system since then).

In 2016 and 2017, the scores for five or more Level 2 passes, not including English and maths, were 20% below the expected level. However, in 2018, students performed 1% better.

However, students under-performed on the English and maths tests, scoring 1% and 5% lower, respectively, than predicted.

While scores for Year 12 students rose across the board, the gap between predicted and actual performance narrowed. In previous years, the scores for Year 12 students were typically above the predicted level, often substantially. In 2016, Level 2 English scores were 26% higher than expected. And in 2017, they were 21% higher.

In 2018, however, that number dropped to 6%. Maths Level 2 scores were just 2% higher, while the number of students achieving five or more Level 2 passes, without English or math, was 2% below expectations.

Given that the Year 11 students in 2018 scored closer to expectations in most areas than in previous years, one might expect to see better performance from their Year 12 scores. Those will be available at the end of August.

Wingrove Hunte, senior manager of data and testing services for the Department of Education Services, said it’s reasonable to compare such cohorts year to year. He said recent inspection reports have shown that the work being done in Key Stage 4, Years 10 and 11, is “a lot better” than in Key Stage 3. The report says that for Year 12 students, “It is also noteworthy that of the approximate 54% of students achieving the expected standard, 79% of them achieved honours status.” That relates to those taking seven or more exams including English and maths.

Hunte said this means that for those who are succeeding, the majority are excelling. The standard bell curve of performance does not apply to these scores, he said.

“At the top point, you will get a bump,” he said. “It indicates that those students who are good, are very good.”

He said if chronically low maths scores improved, the distribution might look more normal.

“It discounts those students who did well but did not pass the maths,” he said of the data for 5-plus Level 2 scores, including English and maths. “The maths really is driving this.”

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