1. ITV Report

Banding data for secondary schools published by Welsh Government

The Welsh government puts secondary schools into five bands based on factors such as GCSE performance. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The Welsh Government have published the latest banding data for secondary schools. It shows a total of 219 secondary schools which have been banded and has revealed that 72 schools have moved up at least one band, *71 schools have moved down at least one band, *75 have stayed in the same band, with one school was not being banded last year.

It is the second year that data of this kind has been released in Wales.

Banding is determined using information about how well 15-16-year-olds have performed in examinations, and information about their level of attendances. It then uses the performance of schools to group them into one of five bands – from Band 1, schools which are performing well, to Band 5 schools which need to improve.

The robust data released today gives us and parents a clear picture of how our schools are performing and provides us with the information we need to challenge schoolswho are not delivering for our young people in Wales.

It is encouraging to see the number of schools in Bands 4 and 5 last year making real progress on improving the percentage of pupils achieving Level 2 (GCSEs grades A*-C) including English / Welsh first language and mathematics. At Band 4 we’ve seen the percentage go from 41.7 per cent to 46.5 per cent and at Band 5 we’ve seen the percentage go from 36 per cent percent to 41.8 per cent.

61 out of 79 Band 4 and 5 schools last year saw improvements in the percentage of pupils achieving the Level 2 English / Welsh First Language and Mathematics. This is a significant achievement.

I have made a clear commitment to raising standards and performance in schools in Wales, improving levels of literacy and numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty on educational attainment. Banding is at the heart of our school improvement agenda in Wales and we're committed to releasing this performance data year on year.

– Leighton Andrews, Education and Skills Minister

A headmaster who’s school has fallen from Band 1 to band 4 in one year says the system is questionable.

Gwyn Tudur of Ysgol Tryfan, in Bangor says his school is being punished for it’s exceptionally good performance in 2011.

We are obviously disappointed the system of branding is high profile but it is a limited view of a school, parents I think, have a much more holistic apparoach.

Banding takes only one year’s performance into consideration and I question the value of it because of the effect on moral of people in the profession and any system that has such inconsistent results.

Jumping from 1 to 4 or from 5 to 2 – is that a true indicator of a school’s position?

– Gwyn Tudur, Headmaster at Ysgol Tryfan

The school banding system has been a total failure according to Wales’ largest teaching union. NUT Cymru said the system has proved divisive, ill-thought through and not fit for purpose.

The Union has also criticised the failure to ensure support is provided for those schools suffering as a result of the Welsh Government’s league table style system.

When the league table style banding system was first announced, we warned that it would prove divisive for schools in our communities, give a misleading picture of performance to parents and would fail to help to target and provide support. We take no pride in being right on this issue, but those fears have been proved correct.

The Minister himself has openly admitted, very recently, that schools have not been given the right levels of support. The rush to banding means that we have had a year of undermining the hard work of teachers, pupils and parents but very little actual support. That is a record the Welsh Government simply cannot be proud of. What we can be proud of is that schools, even without support, have worked hard to continue to improve. They deserve credit for that commitment.

It is hard to see how a system that has so little support amongst the profession can continue in its current format. It is causing real difficulties for schools and unless that is addressed, risks creating a long-term crisis for Welsh education. We only need to consider the fact that the school ranked at the top of Band 1 last year but now finding itself in Band 4 to see that this is a seriously flawed system.

We know this system has failed students and teachers in Wales over the past 12 months. The fact that the number of schools in each band remains relatively constant shows it is a worthless indicator of national standards. At individual school level, we can only see schools moving up the bands if others fall downwards, creating a system which pits schools against one another. Whilst the Welsh Government may argue that schools are performing better within those bands, there is no way for parents looking simply at the band rankings to appreciate that.

We are all for accountability in our schools. That is something as a Union we support, and it is right that parents have information available to them. Packaging it in this crude way does nothing to build relationships between schools and their communities. Unless the Welsh Government recognises the mistakes they have made with banding, we will continue to see it failing the education system.

– David Evans, NUT Cymru Secretary

For a full list on where your school has been banded visit: Welsh Government