Three tips for communicating Progress 8 to parents

Three tips for communicating Progress 8 to parents

Confusion around how different assessments work can lead to parents putting unnecessary pressure on their children, so schools need to demystify Progress 8, says the acting head of parent organisation PTA UK

Walking the assessment tightrope requires balance and confidence, and as teachers and senior teams work through the latest Progress 8 scores to determine what this means for them, it’s easy to forget that parents may also have questions.

In my view, Progress 8 scores are important to parents in two ways. Firstly, for those whose children are soon to make the move to secondary school, they can consider this measure when they are working through their options. School leaders can use positive Progress 8 scores to market their offering to new families, particularly if they are able to demonstrate that they are either improving or holding their score year on year.

Secondly, for those parents with children already in key stage 3 and KS4, monitoring the academic evolution of your school will provide opportunities for those parents to feed into improvement plans in a more informed way, or to share their views about how to address specific areas of policy.

However, the challenge is in helping parents to understand how to interpret Progress 8 scores and what to do with them, while also explaining Attainment 8 scores – and the fact that, although it seems counterintuitive, a score below zero does not mean that pupils haven’t progressed. Rather, it means that peers in other schools in England with similar results at the end of KS2 have made more progress.

Managing expectations

School leaders may find this reasonably straightforward. But, as with any assessment, without clear information and guidance on which tests are being taken and what they mean, there is a risk of pupils coming under unnecessary pressure from parents to achieve a score that may, in some instances, be an excessive stretch.

Furthermore, parents might be concerned that their child could be encouraged to take subjects that are likely to deliver the best results to achieve a positive Progress 8 score for the school, rather than exploring their true interests and talents.

So, what should teachers tell parents when it comes to Progress 8, to make sure that expectations are managed and pupils are given the right support to follow their ambitions and achieve their potential?

Here are my top three tips:

  1. Be clear in any communications with parents that there are differences between the assessments that take place during a child’s school life. Some of the assessments are specifically used to evaluate an individual’s performance, while others are a way of capturing data to demonstrate how well a school is doing overall, without affecting a pupil’s final results.
  2. Share the results of Progress 8 with your parent community. Be transparent and provide guidance to help them understand. Use this communication as an opportunity to gather feedback, share views and encourage input into future school policy relating to assessment. Parental engagement is critical to driving improvements within a school and engagement on the issue should be encouraged and embraced.
  3. Manage the expectations of the pupils in the classroom. Because there is generally more “noise” about tests these days – such as SATs, which are really a measure of the school rather than the pupil – it is not uncommon to see young people feeling increasingly anxious. Make sure that parents and pupils are on the same page and reassure young people directly about the purpose of each assessment. This will help to manage stress and establish a positive environment for assessing progress.


Michelle Doyle Wildman is acting CEO at PTA UK