Right, this blog is for a new page I’m setting up on the site which will be concerned with the use of Fischer Family Trust data in schools.
This is an area that I’ve been trying to get to grips with over the last year, amid tales from teachers and others which point to concerns about the workings of this data system, which makes estimates of pupils’ future exam performance based on their previous test scores and other information.
Many of the underlying issues with the use of FFT data in schools seem to have links with wider concerns about the implications of England’s test-driven education system. These include the dangers of using information for purposes for which it was never designed, the problems with over-interpreting data and the inherent conflict between using information on pupils’ exam performance to help that child improve, and also to hold their teacher to account.
I wrote a piece for the TES on this shortly before I left the paper, which would be a good starting point, I guess, for those interested in this subject. It’s available here.
Since then, I’ve had contact from a teacher and, separately, a parent, who both have made the interesting observation that FFT data can actually act to demotivate children.
The teacher said that she teaches in a school where many children are from poorer backgrounds and arrive with low predictions under the Fischer Family Trust’s “D” indicator – often F or G grades at GCSE.
The teacher adds: “Firstly, I don’t have to do much to meet my targets for these groups of children and wonder if FFT data therefore helps to maintain the status quo – ie we are not expected to achieve much with the most socially deprived pupils we teach. Secondly, my experience shows that pupils at this end of the spectrum often have far more ability than is predicted by FFT. In my first year of using FFT data, a pupil predicted grade F achieved grade B and pupils have regularly exceeded targets in these groups – quite often pupils achieve two or three grades higher than predictions. This tells me that poverty is not necessarily correlated with ability and we do pupils a disservice if we use data based on this assumption (FFT use of post code and FSM).”
The teacher goes on: “My school (and I suspect many others) uses FFT data not only with teachers but in setting pupil targets. On target setting day, an individual pupil’s FFT data is published for them and parent’s/carers to see and this is expected to be their aspirational target. At the top end of ability that may be appropriate but at the bottom end – is an E, F or G at GCSE meant to be aspirational – it is certainly demotivating for the pupil. I find myself telling pupils and parents to ignore it, that the data is irrelevant and not applicable to the child – as indeed it often is not.”
Recently, a parent got in contact about the way FFT data was being used in her son’s school. Her son is in year 10. She said:
“He achieved level 4’s at KS2 and level 6’s at KS3, and he has just had the result of the first part of his GCSE double science award in which he achieved a grade ‘A.’ [Yet] his target grades based on Fischer Family Trust analysis done by the school are for grade ‘D’s in every single subject. I have asked the school how this can be so given that he managed level 4’s and 6’s in key stage tests. I was always led to believe that a level 6 would equate to a grade B at GCSE. He is currently attaining grade B level grades in most subjects but he has not had his target grades increased to match his performance and hard work. I am incensed that his diligence and the good teaching he is having are not being recognised by the school as an institution.”
I would welcome any comments on this, particularly as it seems to me that Fischer Family Trust data is increasingly influential in terms of how teachers and even pupils are judged.
I will also shortly be introducing another new category, called Data watch: Ofsted, which will look at the use of statistics in inspections.