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FFT: ***...

Discussion in 'Education news' started by Vince_Ulam, Oct 17, 2015.

  1. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    A humble and wholly independent parser of data, the Fischer Family Trust has been managing the National Pupil Database since 2004, a role giving it considerable power to homogenise pupil expectations. It has now set itself up as a think tank. Here is one of its more amusing thoughts:

    Should we stop handwriting essays at school?

    'We should be careful about generalising beyond our small sample and the domain of creative writing for now, but surely it’s time to take a close look at whether we can allow the word processor more often into the classroom.'

    (EducationDataLab.org.uk, 9th September 2015.)

    Readers will recall that the Fischer Family Trust was set up by the co-founder of Research Machines.
    Scintillant likes this.
  2. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

  3. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    I don't want to sound too extreme but I'd happily see everyone working for Fisher Family Trust shot.

    In a nice way of course.

    And yes, I am sardonically joking. But their target driven culture is what has destroyed teaching for me over the last decade. Ah but I'll probably be criticised for wishing ill on them. Bad me.
    hermitcrabbe, Rhoswen77 and drek like this.
  4. Rhoswen77

    Rhoswen77 Established commenter

    Apt title. You even used a colon.

    : )
  5. yfel_endwerce

    yfel_endwerce Established commenter

    First time I've ever seen a poster admire another poster's colon :D
  6. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Take a look at some of the Like counts.
    yfel_endwerce likes this.
  7. yfel_endwerce

    yfel_endwerce Established commenter

  8. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    The problem is not the FFT, it's the fact that some SMT haven't any mathematical knowledge.
    FFT is just a calculator. Results are fed in one end and estimates come out at the other, based on the quite reasonable assumption that if nothing changes the future will be similar to the past. They are quite clear about the unreliability of their estimates when applied to small numbers of children.
    It's up to teachers to argue their case and present good defence if their results do not come up to the estimates. It's going to happen to probably about half of teachers and schools, after all.
  9. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    The only thing we can safely assume to hold true is that your 'reasonable assumption' won't.
  10. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    How on Earth does the quote function work on this new website?
    "The only thing we can safely assume to hold true is that your 'reasonable assumption' won't."

    Next year is totally unpredictable? Well, if that is your belief you simply have to justify it to SMT and you'll be OK.
    Anyway. FFT is more a summary and analysis of last year's results than it is a predictor of next year's.
    As such, how can it be criticised? The facts are there - if you can get hold of them then anyone with a calculator and a lot of time could work them out and get the same answers, like "the most probable KS2 grade in Reading was 4b for a child who attained a level 2a at KS1 (I just made that up, BTW - don't start worrying).
    Since teacher pressure got rid of contextual analysis in FFT it has been even easier to argue your way out of trouble, if you know how to do it.
  11. drek

    drek Star commenter

    It is used to judge teachers using mysterious witch hunting techniques.
    The new progress 8 data, sounds far worse. It is November, we have been promised enlightenment for 2 years.
    It is so steeped in mystery, knowledge is only for a few and should apparently lead to the golden grail!
  12. hermitcrabbe

    hermitcrabbe Established commenter

    But things have changed significantly haven't they? I speak of the fact that for the last two years exams have been made " harder" by government dictat ( I do not necessarily disagree with them on that) and this makes a mockery of any statistical analysis that tries to make predictions based on previous performance ,or the performance of previous cohorts as a predictor for a current group with what are considered similar attributes.

    This is made even worse because in the next year many new specifications will come on board with decoupled ( but co teachable?) A levels. My subject is in the first tranche. I am already teaching the " decoupled" A level. Any predictions from previous cohorts are as likely to be as accurate as a fish flying in outer space. Yet I will still be assessed by those "predictions". I will also be compared to subjects which have not yet changed......have coursework .... and will not be allowed the +/- 1 grade allowance that is in built into the so called predictive system ( I speak more of ALIS, but if I recall FFT is worse as its predictions are even more wildly out of the ball park.
  13. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    "but if I recall FFT is worse as its predictions are even more wildly out of the ball park."
    But FFT doesn't make predictions, does it.
    SMT may make predictions and they may initially be influenced by FFT 'Estimates', but everyone should know the limitations of such predictions. Unless your kids are absolutely average for the nation, the FFT estimates are just a starting point - a number to fill up the "prediction" column on the Tracker. You've got to take other factors into account. Even then, the number in your cohort may be too small for anything worthwhile to be said about them.

    I think it's a pity that FFT use the word "estimates" at all, actually. If, as you say, important factors have changed compared to last year, then last year's data may have little predictive power for the future.
    Instead of "estimates" I would like a word which has no suggestion of the future attached to it. Something like "Peak frequency" or whatever, would tie it into to that years data, which is what it is a description of, after all, and the temptation to apply it to next year would not be so... tempting.
  14. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    FFT is dismal.
    SMTs are dim

    the combination of the two is, unfortunately, more than the sum of its parts. In a bad way.

    FFT should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
  15. Compassman

    Compassman Star commenter


    The thing now more than it is impossible to estimate the future grade because the exams are changing.

    What exactly are FFT grade based on. A now discredited exam system where the pupils found it easier to pass exams? Certainly looks that way. So how the hell do you say pupil x is at level 5 in Year 6 will get a certain grade at Year 11 when the exams have changed.

    Very very poor use of statistics. The scandal of it all is that teachers are being forced out on capability or just resigning due to the pressures of trying to reach these unattainable goals.
  16. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    "FFT is dismal."
    No idea what that means.

    "FFT should be consigned to the dustbin of history."
    To be consistent, why not ban statistics per se. Let's get rid of the census for a start - nobody needs to know how many people live in the country or if the population is rising or falling.
    Nobody needs to know Arsenal's goal average, or road accident statistics.
    In fact, we don't really need to know anything at all, if truth be told, especially if it involves numbers.
    The numbers of everything should be a secret.
  17. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter


    I'm fairly sure there are useful statistics like the census which permits town planning, services, education and health provision... and then useless statistics, such as... oh an example... got it... FFT.

    And FFT seems pretty secretive already to me. Teacher is presented with a Grade, it isn't explained that the grade is actually the highest probability on a curve. The teacher receives little input [to none] about the target and at the end the teachers whole performance for the year is measured off of the use of these impenetrable statistics.
  18. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Try a dictionary.

    That's the sort of ridiculous argument a junior member of SLT might make when faced with some hard evidence of the failings and misuse of FFT data. These failings and the misuse have been documented and explained in links I have provided. As a scientist, I probably appreciate the need for reliable and valid data more than the average high flying SLT member. However, that is no excuse for the people who are paid to deal with data, not to educate themselves to the required standard.

    Out of interest, why is Arsenal's goal average higher than Bournemouth's?
  19. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    I think when T34 mentions Arsenal's goal average or road traffic stats they are meaning specific statistics useful to certain people surely? So a road traffic safety person needing to know where to put a speed camera would look at the statistics for different stretches of roads. At least that was how I took their example.

    However, those are statistics as a result of action [so after the accident, after the goal]. FFT is statistics to work towards, these are goals to achieve. So a teacher has to modulate their performance to reach FFT statistics. A different ball game.

    **** me defending FFT... ******* cost me my job.
  20. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    I was pointing out that the data doesn't tell you anything about the reasons for the difference. If you swapped Wenger and Howe, there would be little difference, if you swapped the players there would... Would you then blame Wenger if Bournemouth weren't as good as Arsenal?

    The problem with (school) data is that people read much more into it than it can reliably tell you - for a variety of statistical reasons - or conversely do not realise that what it does show is the limits of what can be reliably inferred. If the data were used in sensible ways, it might be useful in some situations.


    Thirteen years of FFT analysis has shown that trying to summarise every diverse school community in England is witchcraft of the highest order and, at individual child level, is little better than examining patterns in tea leaves. The cost, both financially and on the diminished education of children by the limited focus on badly assessed levels, is simply not worth paying. Examining tea leaves is ultimately pointless, because they tell you nothing you couldn't have worked out for yourself. And in this case, having looked closely at the tea leaves, we need to stop throwing our money away on yet more worthless data driven nonsense and completely rethink the way we assess 'achievement' and 'progress' in English schools..
    hermitcrabbe, drek and lanokia like this.

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