Progress 8 and ECDL

The explosion of the ECDL qualification throughout 2016 and 2017 has been well documented before by myself and elsewhere. It is also common knowledge that students were able to gain much higher grades and in a shorter timeframe than other approved qualifications.

“In the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) qualification, which has drawn criticism recently, the difference is staggering. On average, pupils taking the ECDL achieve 52 points – equivalent to a grade A – whereas they average 38 points – below grade C – in their GCSEs.” (Edudatalab, May 2016)

However, this isn’t to say that the qualification itself was a bad thing, indeed for some students it provided important recognition of their competence in Microsoft Office packages that could then be used to progress to another course or help them access employment.

Some schools were evidently using the qualification in this way, whereas others it would have to be questioned whether they were entering the whole cohort in order to mask the progress made in other subjects in the overall Progress 8 (P8) score.

Indeed 2240 schools used the ECDL (or close equivalent) in some form in 2017.

Of these schools, 880 used ECDL for less than 25% of their cohort, whilst 626 entered 75% or more of their students into the qualification. The average ECDL entry percentage of schools that offered ECDL was 45%.

209 schools entered over 95% of their cohort into the qualification.

On average the schools with over 95% of entries achieved a progress 8 score of +0.23


It’s a fair assumption to say that on average the overall P8 score for these schools was driven disproportionately by the Open Element, which is where the ECDL qualification falls.

However within these 209 schools it is evident that some blanket ECDL use was not complicit in them achieving a strong Progress 8 score: Take this school for example:


Here we see that the Open Element is the strongest Element but the overall P8 score would be very strong anyway so entering all the cohort for ECDL has possibly made marginal difference to the P8 score but it would have remained in a very strong position anyway.

In contrast, the school shown by the data below has achieved a positive P8 score, solely because of it’s outcomes in the Open Element of Progress 8:


Clearly, without the Open Element (of which ECDL makes up a maximum of a third) this school would have achieved a much lower overall progress 8 outcome. Now of course it is not for me to say that this wasn’t the right course of action for this school in order to deliver the best set of qualifications for it’s students. I am simply pointing out how the P8 score is a balance between several subjects and it is up to others to decide whether that balance represents a good level of education, or not.

For those interested, the top school here is judged Outstanding at the time of writing and the second school; Good.

I should, as ever, place a reminder that progress 8 is a zero-sum measure, which means gains in one area, must be offset elsewhere, that is the nature of the beast.

Ofsted of course remain clear that no single measure can ever be used to form a judgement of a school, which is entirely sensible, and they seem keen to get to the bottom of curriculum mix and qualifications offered in schools and to what purpose they are occurring.




1, Data Source:
 2, Throughout this piece I referent to ECDL, the data actually refers to to ECDL or equivalent qualifications and by equivalent I mean qualifications with the discount code CN1 that are VRQ2s and carry a D*, D, M, P grade structure.




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