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NASUWT: Welsh Government 'missing the point'

Wales's largest teachers' union, the NASUWT, says that while it welcomes the end of the 'discredited and flawed banding system,' there are questions over whether investment in the new colour-coding is an effective use of resources.

The new system at least has the merit of allowing all schools to go 'green.' However, the Welsh Government continues to miss the point that what's needed is investment in the school workforce, not back-room bystanders.

The driver for school improvement rests in effective and fair performance management processes and access to professional development, rather than the duplication of the work of the school inspectorate by local authorities and the consortia.

– Rex Phillips, NASUWT Wales organiser

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Plaid Cymru: Scrapping banding is 'step in right direction'

Plaid Cymru has described the replacement of the controversial banding system with a new school categorisation model as "a step in the right direction."

This new categorisation system for schools is a step in the right direction, but there is still a need for improvement in measuring and raising education standards.

Plaid Cymru always warned that banding did not provide a whole view of a school’s performance. We believe that pitting schools against each other is destructive and should not happen.

Plaid Cymru has said from the very beginning that the volatility of the banding system would not prove an effective way to raise school standards, and many educational professionals agreed with us. I am glad that the Welsh Government has now seen sense and scrapped the system of banding.

We have always called for support for underperforming schools and hope that the new system will provide this support. The fact that support services are to be provided by the education consortia means that there is work to be done to strengthen the consortia.

– Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru education spokesperson

Party of Wales Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas has welcomed the replacing of the banding system with a new way of assessing school standards.

The Mid and West AM said scrapping banding was a step in the right direction as the Welsh education system moves to improve standards.

“It is disappointing that the Education Minister has not allowed for proper scrutiny on this matter by making a statement in the Senedd.

“An incoming Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would have scrapped the banding system after the 2016 election, so I’m glad the present Welsh Government has replaced it now.

“We have always called for support for underperforming schools and hope that the new system will provide this support. The fact that support services are to be provided by the education consortia means that there is work to be done to strengthen the consortia.

“Plaid Cymru is has always been clear that a strong education system is the foundation of a strong economy, and that is why we will always strive for excellence.”

ASCL union: New school ranking system 'promising'

Headteachers' union ASCL Cymru has welcomed the introduction of a new system for ranking schools in Wales to, saying "it has real promise."

It replaces the controversial 'banding' system for secondary schools.

Accountability is important and necessary. But poor accountability helps no one.

This new system has benefited from lengthy discussions and will take account of more of the things that matter. It has real promise. Implementing the model will need care and we will be looking closely at lessons learnt along the way.

The minister and his officials have been listening. He is acting decisively to find a more intelligent way to ensure our schools are accountable and we applaud him for it.

– Robin Hughes, ASCL Cymru General Secretary

New colour-coded school rating system replaces banding

A new school rating system has been outlined by the Welsh Government.

It will replace the controversial banding model for secondary schools.

Primary schools will also be ranked - including the smallest ones.

Schools will be placed into a colour-coded system: green for the best, yellow then amber, and red for those struggling. These ratings will be released each January, starting in 2015 - on the My Local School website.

Primary schools will now be included in school rating system. Credit: PA

Schools will be judged according to key performance measures but with a self-evaluation from schools, on their leadership, teaching and learning, taken into account after analysis from regional advisers.

Banding was heavily criticised by unions and opposition parties as too volatile, with some schools jumping several bands in a year, and crude, based on a small number of data methods.

The data that will be used for ranking secondary schools has not been revealed yet - it is now due in October.

For primary schools, pupils' performance in key subjects at age 7 and age 11 will now be used, alongside attendance rates - and the scores compared with other schools with a similar number of pupils from poorer backgrounds.

The performance data will be taken from over three years, rather than one under banding, in an attempt to stop volatility, and allow fair judgement of smaller primary schools.

Schools will be placed into the colour bands, but not given individual scores, and the system is no longer relative - they could all theoretically climb to the top.

Welsh Government: Attendance report is 'encouraging'

The Welsh Government has described Estyn's report into school attendance as "encouraging."

It says it has targeted attendance with increased investment, and including attendance within the banding system for rating secondary schools gives parents "a clear picture of how schools are performing."

Estyn's report makes encouraging reading.

In the last two years the Welsh Government has invested £800,000 to support local authorities and schools in securing long-term improvements in school attendance. The inclusion of attendance data in the All Wales Core Data Sets for schools and local authorities is a key source of information for schools to use in self-evaluation and improvement processes.

In addition, we have introduced school banding, helping to give us and parents a clear picture of how our schools are performing. Attendance forms part of the banding process which provides us with a constructive evaluation process to improve school performance.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

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Report author: Vulnerable pupils most often absent

Huw Davies, author of today's Estyn report on school attendance, says that vulnerable pupils and those eligible for free school meals are most likely to be persistently absent from school.

He told our reporter Tom Sheldrick that schools succeeding in battling absenteeism work well with parents, pupils, and other local support services.

Poor attendance a problem at third of secondary schools

Poor attendance is still a problem at nearly a third of secondary schools in Wales, according to a report published today by the education watchdog Estyn.

It says absenteeism has improved over the last five years, but more needs to be done.

The education watchdog says there is a direct link between attendance rates and attainment. Credit: PA

Key findings from Estyn's report include:

  • Pupils that are persistently absent now account for a quarter of all absence
  • Absence rates for pupils eligible for free school meals are nearly twice those of other pupils
  • Less than half of schools analyse well enough why pupils miss school

Among the watchdog's recommendations to schools are improving their use of attendance data, strengthening links with external groups that help support families, and engaging more with pupils.

Estyn also recommends local councils should provide schools with more training on attendance - and the Welsh Government should provide clarity on where responsibility for attendance lies between local authorities and regional consortia.

Rise in Welsh students going to English universities

The number of students from Wales beginning degree courses at universities in England this year has risen by nine per cent from this time last year, to reach 8,840, according to new figures from admissions body UCAS.

The Welsh Government subsidises Welsh students' tuition fees, wherever they study in the UK, at a cost of more than £5,000 per student.

The number of Welsh students applying to study in England has risen consistently from 6,640 in 2011-12.

Thousands of young people are beginning university courses, after receiving their A-level results in August.

The new figures, released today by UCAS, show university acceptances up until four weeks after A-level results day, for the 2014-15 academic year.

24,750 students are beginning degree courses at Welsh universities this year, a rise of 730, or three per cent, on this time last year.

11,400 are from Wales, while 10,590 come from England.

Across all UK universities, there is a four per cent rise in accepted students, to reach just under 500,000.

10-year plan for 'highly-skilled' early years workforce

Proposals to create a "highly-skilled" workforce for early years education, play and childcare have been outlined by the Welsh Government.

It has published a draft 10-year plan, which aims to have a workforce that is bilingual and "proactive learners in their own right" through a range of career development opportunities.

The 10-year plan aims to raise the status of early years workers. Credit: PA

It encompasses workers with children aged 0-7, including childminders, play workers and teachers.

Education Minister Huw Lewis said: "We’re determined to raise the status of careers in early years, childcare and play to a level which better reflects the vital role these practitioners play in supporting children’s development.”

Proposals include:

  • Raising minimum qualification standards for childcare workers
  • Developing early years learning hubs to support collaboration and workforce development
  • Relaxing adult-to-child ratios for school reception classes, from 1:8 to 1:10

The draft plan is now open for consultation until 15 December, with final proposals due next April.

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