25 September 2014
Article written by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Welsh Government has announced the new model for categorising schools in Wales. This follows its pledge to introduce a primary school grading system and will also replace the existing system for banding of secondary schools. The first results will be published in January 2015.
In a Cabinet Statement published today (25 September 2014), the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, set out details of a three step process for categorising both primary and secondary schools.
- Step 1 will use data on a school’s performance and standards to form a judgment between 1 and 4. Details of the data metrics for primary schools have been announced in the Minister’s statement with the detail for secondary schools to follow next month.
- Step 2 provides for self-evaluation by schools themselves and will be based on the school’s ability and capacity to self-improve. It will focus on leadership, learning and teaching. The regional consortia’s Challenge Advisors, which effectively carry out the former role of individual local authorities’ school improvement functions, will examine how the school’s self-evaluation corresponds to the performance data under Step 1. This is intended to ensure the process is robust. The outcome of Step 2 will be an A-D judgement.
- Under Step 3, the two judgements reached under the first two steps will lead to an overall judgement and a categorisation of each school based on four colours: Green, Yellow, Amber and Red. These judgments will trigger a tailored programme of support, challenge and intervention, which will need to be agreed between the local authority and the regional consortia.
In summary, the Minister’s statement describes each category colour as follows:
- Green: these are the best schools
- Yellow: these are good schools
- Amber: these are schools in need of improvement
- Red: these are schools in need of greatest improvement
(Further explanation of each category colour is given in the Minister’s statement)
Within the explanation of the data to be used in respect of primary schools for Step 1, the socio-economic context of schools, as represented by Free School Meal eligibility levels, will continue to be a key factor as it is under the current secondary school banding system. The measures used for the primary school data will be placed into benchmark groups based on proportions of pupils eligible for Free School Meals.
The Welsh Government has stressed that the introduction of a national system for categorising schools will build on current arrangements where some grading of schools is already carried out on a local authority or regional basis. It has also emphasised the role of local government and regional consortia in developing the national categorisation model and the combination of the principles of existing secondary school banding with a system-wide approach that considers leadership, teaching and learning.
The new model will be different from secondary school banding in that a school’s rise up one or more categories would not necessarily mean another school dropping down. Also, through the use of three year weighted averages, the new model should provide for a longer-term analysis of where a school is at rather than one which is arguably primarily based on a single year cohort of pupils.
For further information, see the Research Service’s previous blog article on school banding from December 2013.