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What does progress mean for your school?

Matt Koster-Marcon
Jul 31, 2017

‘Good Progress?’ ‘Expected Progress?’ ‘Three points of progress?’ ‘Progress+?’

Over the last three years the move to setting our own expectations of ‘good’ progress has led to a fear of stepping into the unknown. What is good progress for our school?

This question has led many down the route of increasing the number of attainment descriptors so that ‘good’ progress can be shown with the policy that having more descriptors means there are more steps of progress and the larger the number of steps will equate to ‘good’ progress. If you have gone down this route then just pause for a moment...

Yes, the reporting externally progress box can be ticked “this pupil has made 3 points of progress because they have gone from Secure Beginning to Secure Advanced” however, in the classroom does this number give our colleagues anything valuable to enhance their teaching or improve pupil learning outcomes? In reality more progress steps means more boxes to tick, a strong sense of nervousness and accountability for anyone who has to move pupils from threshold to threshold alongside deja-vu for Levels. Progress doesn’t have to be complicated.

“In scrutinising pupils’ work, inspectors will consider how well pupils are making good progress towards meeting or exceeding the expected attainment for their age, as set out in the school’s own curriculum and assessment policies.”

Ofsted Inspection Handbook, revised 23rd August 2016


More and more schools are taking the leap and forming what ‘good’ progress means to their school and for their pupils. These schools are ensuring that their curriculum is designed to meet the needs of their pupils whilst providing a solid, clear and consistent assessment policy across their teaching staff. With this in place, schools’ expectations of good progress are forming from the solid understanding of their curriculum alongside accurate, and effective, formative assessment.

At the end of the day, your teachers know their pupils far more than an algorithm in a tracking system ever can. If you’re relying on an assessment system to tell you what good progress is (or using it to show multiple steps of progress = good) for your pupils then take a moment to walk down the corridor and ask one of your teachers about the progress their pupils are making. They will be able to tell you a rich academic, and personal, history for every child. Can they show you examples of pupils making good progress? Of course, the classroom is heaving with this evidence. Recording good progress really doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

"All Saints has just received an Ofsted 'Outstanding' judgement from Requires Improvement two years ago and through Learning Ladders our progress data was scrutinised - so thank you very much for such a fab system! Both schools now hold the 'Outstanding' grade."

Kelly Ellis, Deputy Head

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