Progress of Portsmouth’s GCSE students falls for second consecutive year

PROVISIONAL results suggest a slight fall in the attainment and progress of the Portsmouth’s GCSE students.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 1:48 pm
Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for education, Suzy Horton, believes the city's children need greater guidance in selecting GCSEs which give them the best possible chance of success. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Results published by the Department for Education show Portsmouth has a provisional Progress 8 score of -0.41 compared to -0.34 in 2018 and -0.13 in 2017.

Similarly, the percentage of pupils achieving a level 5 (equivalent of a strong old grade C) and above in English and maths has fallen from 37.1 per cent to 34.8 per cent. The national average was 43 per cent.

Progress 8 looks at the progress students with the same academic starting point have made between the start of Year 7 and their GCSE results. Zero indicates a student has made the same amount of progress, on average, as students with the same Year 7 starting point nationally. On a sliding scale, the further the score from zero the more or less progress has been achieved by the school.

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St Edmund's Catholic School has once again achieved the city's top GCSE results for pupil progress.

Tables composed by The News shows that six out of nine mainstream schools in the city experienced a fall in pupil progress. Admiral Lord Nelson, Mayfield and Trafalgar schools saw an increase in their Progress 8 score. As this was the first set of GCSE results for University Technical College Portsmouth there is no previous data.

St Edmund’s Catholic School and Portsmouth Academy were the only two schools across the city to achieve positive Progress 8 scores, attaining scores of +0.41 and +0.14 respectively. With zero indicating pupils have on average made the same progress as students of the same starting ability nationally, this means pupils at St Edmund’s and Portsmouth Academy have made better than average progress.

Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for education, Suzy Horton, believes more work needs to be done to ensure pupils are making the right subject choices for their GCSE’s which will help the city improve Progress 8 score.

Cllr Horton said: Progress 8 is a complex measure; the curriculum choices of children can affect their scores. We want to see the Portsmouth figure move towards the national average and it’s important to note that some schools in the city are achieving this, or even better. We are working closely with the Multi Academy Trusts in Portsmouth to ensure both that children have a broad, stimulating curriculum and that they make good progress from their starting points.’

Simon Graham, head teacher St Edmund's Catholic School, is 'delighted' with the progress made by pupils at the school. Picture: Allan Hutchings

Across Hampshire there has been a slight decrease in Progress 8 scores, falling from -0.09 in 2018 to -0.12 in this year’s results. However the number of students achieving grade 5 and above in English and maths has risen from 45.2 per cent to 45.4 per cent. Not counting Castle View, which is a new school, 11 out of the 18 mainstream schools in our publishing region experienced a fall in their Progress 8 scores with one school staying the same.

Oaklands Catholic School, Brookfield Community School and Bay House all had positive Progress 8 scores, of +0.29, +0.28 and 0.11 respectively. This indicates that on average pupils with the same academic starting point had made better than average progress. 

Hampshire County Council’s executive member for education, Cllr Roz Chad, said: ‘Progress 8 has remained largely unchanged this year across Hampshire schools. The provisional results this summer were really positive and, in line with previous years, were comfortably above the national average. 

These are provisional results which may change slightly once GCSE remarks have been completed.

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Progress 8 and Attainment 8

Schools were previously ranked on raw outcomes – on the percentage of students attaining A* to C grades in five subjects including maths and English. However, due to the vastly different intakes of students in terms of both academic ability and socio-economic backgrounds it was judged as an unfair comparison on which to judge schools.

A school may have a large group of students who started from a low level of literacy and numeracy and the school may have developed those students a great deal – however under the old system they could still have been viewed as performing poorly in terms of raw outcomes.

Progress 8 has been brought in to avoid this situation by assessing school performance based on the progress of students between Year 7 and 11 rather than their final outcomes.

An Attainment 8 score is calculated by adding up the grade scores achieved by students in their eight main GCSEs. Maths and English grades are counted twice to signify the importance of these subject. The schools Attainment 8 score is the average score achieved by the school’s pupils.

A Progress 8 score is then calculated by comparing the Attainment 8 outcomes of GCSE students across the country who had the same academic starting point based on Year 6 Standard Attainment Test (SAT’s) results. 

The traditional A* to G grading has also now been replaced by grade 1 to 9, with 9 representing the highest level of attainment. When compared to the previous system, a grade 4 would constitute a low grade C, with grade 5 at the top of this mark band, whilst grade 9 is viewed as higher than an A*.

The percentage of students attaining grade 5 and above in maths and English has been maintained as an indicator of performance to reflect the importance of these two core subjects.


A Progress 8 score of 0 indicates a student has made the same amount of progress, on average, as students with the same Year 7 starting point nationally.

On a sliding scale, the further the score from zero the more or less progress has been achieved by the school when compared to the same level of students nationally. 

A positive reading would reflect better than average progress and a negative reading would indicate below average progress.

Up to -0.25 schools are still categorised as having made expected progress. Schools with a progress score of between -0.25 and -0.5 would be classed as ‘coasting’ therefore be a potential concern.

The government’s minimum required ‘floor target’ is -0.5 which would indicate that on average children were attaining roughly half a grade lower than comparable students nationally.

University Technical Colleges, such as UTC Portsmouth, don’t take students in until Year 10 and so are only partly responsible from their progress from Year 7. Progress 8 therefore only provides a limited indicator of the progress achieved by these types of school.


ST EDMUND’S Catholic School has been named as the city's best performing secondary school for the third consecutive year.

The school achieved a Progress 8 score of +0.41 indicating that on average pupils attained almost half a grade higher in their GCSEs than students with the same starting point in Year 7 nationally.

In total, 53.4 per cent of pupils attained grade 5 and above in their English and maths compared to 43 per cent nationally.

Head teacher, Simon Graham, said: ‘We are once again delighted that so many of our young people left St Edmund's with a range of outstanding qualifications and made such great progress. The students who left us last year are in a great position to start the next phase of their lives and contribute towards the continued growth of our city. All of the St Edmund's family are proud of their achievements and all that they contributed whilst with us. Our success owes much to the strong moral and spiritual values within the school and the amazing high standards of teaching and learning. As an outstanding school we continue to achieve and set standards considerably above the national average.’