27 January 2016
Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Tomorrow (28 January 2016), the Welsh Government will be publishing the latest results of the categorisation of schools based on their performance and capacity to improve.
Under National School Categorisation, each primary and secondary school in Wales is assigned a colour-coded ‘support category’ 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
We blogged about the new arrangements when school categorisation was introduced for the first time in January 2015, and in September 2014 when it was announced as a replacement for the previous school banding system.
The Welsh Government says the main purpose is’ to identify which schools are in most need of support’ and is ‘not about labelling or creating league tables’. One of the messages arising from the OECD’s review of Wales’ education system (pdf 3.75MB), and Professor Graham Donaldson’s review of the curriculum (pdf 1.58MB), was that pupil assessment and measurement of school performance should be driven towards informing learning and teaching, and school improvement, rather than used mainly for accountability and comparison purposes.
There are three steps to the school categorisation process, which are in summary: forming a judgement on a school’s performance data; self-evaluation, challenge and discussion between the school and the regional consortia; culminating in an overall judgement and colour-coded verdict. In more detail:
Step 1 uses data on a school’s performance and standards to form a judgment between 1 and 4. This data consists mainly of teacher assessment of pupil achievement in primary schools and GCSE attainment in secondary schools. This is based over a period of three years to maximise longer-term judgements and considers free school meal eligibility levels to account for the socio-economic context.
Step 2 provides for self-evaluation by schools themselves and is based on the school’s ability and capacity to self-improve. It focuses on leadership, learning and teaching. Challenge advisors from the regional consortia, which effectively carry out the former role of individual local authorities’ school improvement functions, 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 is an A-D judgement.
Under Step 3, the two judgements reached under the first two steps lead to an overall judgement and a categorisation of each school based on four colours: Green, Yellow, Amber and Red. These judgments trigger a tailored programme of support, challenge and intervention, which needs to be agreed between the local authority and the regional consortia.
The Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis believes the Welsh Government’s National School Categorisation model is the ‘most accurate and most incisive quality-control mechanism in a school system that there has ever been.’ He told the Children, Young People and Education Committee on 13 January 2016 (pdf 2.04MB):
‘We have a system of categorisation around our schools now that I’m very proud of, and that I think is by far the most intelligent accountability system for parents, in particular, and for the wider public, around how our schools are doing, that there has ever been, anywhere in Britain. It’s a co-production between the professionals in the schools themselves, the local authority and the improvement services at a regional level. It’s rigorous, it’s intensive and, as you know, it rolls on year after year.’
Further information is available on the Welsh Government’s website. This includes the data metrics used for the performance data at Step 1, and several other documents explaining the categorisation models such as answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
The Welsh Government has said the outcomes of the categorisation system for primary and secondary schools will be published on the My Local School website on Thursday 28 January 2016.