Merchiston Value Added

Some parents ask us how we can be sure that the considerable cost of an independent education is actually worth it. This is a difficult question to answer, as many of the benefits of an education at Merchiston are intangible.

We cannot easily quantify or measure the value of the wide range of opportunities and experiences a boy receives at Merchiston. It is often only some years after a boy has left us that the shaping of his character, the broadening of his outlook and the boost to his confidence and self-belief become apparent.

However, we can tangibly demonstrate the ‘value-added’ of our teaching – how our direction to a boy’s learning improves his exam grades  – over and above the results he would normally expect to achieve. Thus we are in a position to demonstrate, to both prospective and current parents, the ‘Merchiston difference’.

We do this by the use of two statistically-based predictive ‘systems’ which are able to forecast how our boys will perform. The systems are provided and managed for us by CEM, an offshoot from Durham University, which has pioneered this approach since 1983. We have been using these systems at Merchiston for over ten years – and through experience we know how accurate they are.

Value-added at GCSE

The first system we use is called the Middle Years Information System (MidYIS) which is based on data collected from over 1,500 secondary schools across the UK. This is used for the GCSE exams.

By using the MidYIS system for GCSEs, we are able to predict how a boy is likely to perform in his GCSE exams – 24 months prior.

How do we do this? All Merchiston boys take a test to measure potential at 13 years old. This is similar to an IQ test but it is based on a UK-wide statistical database of other pupils taking the same test and their actual GCSE results. The test should accurately predict each Merchiston boy’s likely GCSE results at 16 years old. However, at Merchiston this prediction forms a baseline which we try to improve upon. In other words, we want all our boys to do better than the expected ‘norm’ revealed by MidYIS.

When your son gets his actual GCSE results, MidYIS allows us to measure, based on his actual GCSE results and the original prediction, whether your son (and thereby the School) has exceeded his expected results.

What do the results show about Merchiston’s teaching at GCSE?

As you can see from the table below – on average – across all the subjects taught, Merchiston boys outperformed their forecast results in all subjects.

2016 Exams No. of subjects Results ahead of forecast Results in line with forecast Results below forecast
GCSE 25 25 0 0

In general, the boys did one whole grade better than predicted. For example, in History, a C became a B, a B became an A and an A became an A*. The best result was in English, where the boys achieved 1.2 grades higher than forecast by Durham.

At GCSE Merchiston adds significant value – the teaching helps boys excel far above their expected levels – on average one whole grade better.

Value-added at A level

The second system provided by Durham University, the Advanced Level Information System (ALIS), has grown from only 12 schools in the North East of England in 1983 to cover over a third of all A level entries in the UK and international schools sitting UK exams.

By using the ALIS system for A levels, we are able to predict how a boy is likely to perform at A level based on (a) his actual GCSE results and (b) the results of another IQ-style test called the TDA test. The boys take the test at 16 and we then get two sets of predictions for them 24 months prior to their final A level results. It is obviously crucial in considering their university options and planning A level choices.

How do we do this? Durham University has the databank of GCSE results from across the UK, combined with a matching database of A level results. Based on the two sets of data, ALIS is able to look forward to each Merchiston boy’s likely A level results – two years in advance. The TDA test provides  a separate prediction, again based on data from across the UK. These predictions form the baseline which we will aim to exceed. In other words, we want all our boys to do better than their predicted ‘norm’ – we aim to ‘add value’.

Then, when the A Level results are known, the ALIS system also allows the School to:

Measure, based on actual A level results, whether your son (and thereby the School) has outperformed his expected results. In other words, has Merchiston been able to ‘add value’ at A level?

How do we do this? When we get your son’s A level results, the system can immediately back-track to the predicted results; both based on GCSEs and the TDA test. Has he done as expected at A level? Or has he exceeded his prediction? This is what we expect (and hope for) as it demonstrates the excellence of our teaching and the commitment of the boys.

What do the results show about Merchiston’s teaching at A level?

We can see from the most recent results at A level in 2012 that Merchiston’s boys have exceeded their predicted results in almost all subjects.

2016 Exams No. of subjects Results ahead of forecast Results in line with forecast Results below forecast
A Level 22 22 0 0

Here again, the boys tended to perform better than predicted, at a rate of approximately 1 grade for every 2 A-levels sat, so a boy who was predicted BBB in fact achieved ABB, and often AAB.

Even though, by this stage, it is harder to improve on the predicted results (because the predictions get more and more accurate as the boys get older), the School is still able to help the boys outperform predictions – which is testament to the School’s teaching and the boys’ efforts.

The benefits of this approach

Given the growing competition for university places and in the jobs marketplace, we feel these tools are vital in helping both the School and boys plan and focus on the challenges of GCSE and A level exams. They are also a good way for parents to see exactly what added value Merchiston has delivered.

The tools allow us to:

  • Manage the expectations of both parents and boys as to likely results well in advance.
  • Focus both staff and boys on key challenges.
  • Help parents and boys plan and choose subjects, careers and university courses.
  • Monitor our own staff and departmental performance.
  • Demonstrate to parents the ‘added value’ Merchiston offers them.

If you would like more information on the MidYIS and ALIS systems we use, and how they can help plan your son’s education, please contact the Deputy Head (Academic).

See Academic Results for the School’s record over the last five years at GCSE and A level.

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