What are the statutory requirements for assessment and accountability in Key Stages 3 and 4?

Changes in statutory assessment in secondary schools derive from a number of sources.  The removal of levels in the NC at Key Stage 2 affected transfer information after 2015-16.  In KS3 the new NC will have an impact on tracking and reporting in the same way as at KS1-2, with schools needing to work in years 7-9 towards the end of KS3 outcomes.

For Key Stage 4, the DfE Secondary School Accountability Consultation in Feb 2013 which drew on the Wolf Report, stated: 2.2 “…the accountability system should be fair and transparent.  It should reward schools that set high expectations for the attainment and progress of all their pupils, provide high value qualifications, and teach a broad and a balanced curriculum.  The assessment and accountability systems should be the servant, not the master, of excellent teaching.  At the moment, the accountability system has too many perverse incentives and can distort teaching and narrow the curriculum.  The aim of the changes to assessment and accountability is to promote pupils’ deep understanding across a broad curriculum and maximise progress and attainment for all pupils.4.6 This approach (outlined in the consultation) provides a strong incentive for schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, including the academic core of the EBacc as appropriate, and to ensure high standards of teaching in a wide range of subjects.  This balance of measures should improve the current system by rewarding schools more clearly for their work with all their pupils.”

Statutory assessment and accountability in Key Stages 3 and 4

September 2016 onwards

Year 7

Pupils enter secondary school with reading and maths test results expressed as scaled scores and whether they have achieved the required standard on the test. In 2019 they will also have Teacher Assessment in writing, stating which performance descriptor they were working at and, in science, stating whether they were working at the expected standard. Before 2019, they would also have had Teacher Assessments in reading and maths stating whether they were working at the expected standard. 

Assessments and reporting during year 7 are as for Y8 below.

Years 8-10

Ongoing formative teacher assessment/AfL (non-statutory).  Periodic progress checks (non-statutory).  Summative assessments against the end of year outcomes (non-statutory) or end of Key Stage outcomes (statutory). Reporting to parents (statutory)

By the end of key stage 3, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

Year 11

Ongoing formative teacher assessment/AfL (non-statutory).  Periodic progress checks (non-statutory).  Summative assessments are GCSE and other qualifications.  Reporting to parents (statutory)

GCSE English and maths are based on the new NC from 2017. Grades 9-1: Grade 4 is a standard pass (equivalent to grade C) and should be accepted for employment or further study if Grade C was the previous requirement.  Grade 5 is a strong pass – the benchmark measure for school performance although grade 4 results will also be published.  

The GCSE factsheets for employers, HE and FE providers and for parents give further details and lists the dates 2017 to 2020 when the new exams will first be held in different subjects. GCSE new grading scale: factsheets 

All students have to study science up to the age of 16. New science and computer science GCSEs (9 to 1) had the first examinations in summer 2018. 


From 2018, the headline measures of secondary school performance are:

  • progress across 8 qualifications (Progress 8)
  • percentage of pupils entering the English Baccalaureate (EBacc entry)
  • percentage of students staying in education or going into employment after key stage 4 (pupil destinations)
  • percentage of pupils achieving a grade 5 or above in English and maths (Attainment in English and maths)
  • attainment across the same 8 qualifications (Attainment 8)
  • English Baccalaureate Average Point Score (EBacc APS)

The EBacc attainment measure changed in 2018 to an average points score across the 5 pillars of the EBacc.

Schools must publish KS4 results on their websites.


The Secretary of State announced on 4 May 2018 that there will be a consultation on a new way to identify schools that might benefit from an offer of support in the 2019/20 academic year. 

For 2018/19, the definitions for the floor and coasting standard remain unchanged from previous years, as set out in the link below. Where a school is below the floor or coasting standards, but is not judged inadequate, the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) will not use the Secretary of State’s powers to issue an academy order or a warning notice.  Instead, the floor and coasting standards have been calculated in 2018/19 solely for the Department for Education to identify schools that might benefit from support. 

An offer of support is in place in the 2018/19 academic year for schools identified as coasting or below the floor standards, but not judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.

The floor standard at Y11 from 2016 is an average half a GCSE grade less progress in Progress 8 than expected (score of -0.5, if this is significantly low).  There is no attainment element.


The coasting definition is based on three years of data, using the same performance measures that underpin the floor standards.  In line with regulations, in 2018 a secondary school will fall within the coasting definition if, based on revised data:

  • in 2016, 2017 and 2018 the school’s Progress 8 score was below -0.25. The score must be below this figure for all three years.

Changes to calculations: Negative progress scores

We now limit how negative a pupil’s progress score can be when calculating the school average. These pupils still have large negative scores (to reflect that the pupils have made much less progress than other pupils in the same prior attainment group as them), but the disproportionate effect they have on a school’s score has been reduced.  

We do this by setting a minimum progress score that can be assigned to pupils within the prior attainment groups where extremely negative scores exist”.

                                                    Secondary Accountability Measures, March 2019, page 10

Changes to prior attainment measure from 2017

From 2017, a pupil’s prior attainment is defined as the average of their key stage 2 reading and mathematics results, in fine graded levels.  Writing results are not used.  See: Secondary accountability measures (including Progress 8 and Attainment 8).

Prior attainment will be based on KS2 levels of attainment and fine grades within levels until the 2016 Year 6 pupils reach the end of KS4.

Return to Assessment without levels: Assessment in the context of the National Curriculum