School banding 'revised' - with new primary 'grading'

The Welsh Government has announced that a new 'grading' system for primary schools will be introduced from this autumn. Controversial banding for secondary schools will be 'revised' - and run alongside another categorisation system.

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Welsh Govt: Categorising schools is not new

The Welsh Government has stressed that schools being categorised by their local authorities has been going on for some time - and that the process will continue under the system of four new education consortia aimed at improving standards around Wales.

In January, it said "all consortia categorise their schools, but they use four systems. A single national categorisation model will ensure that the regional consortia are assessing schools in a consistent way."

The Welsh Government has had to repeatedly deny that the national categorisation model is replacing the controversial secondary school banding system, and faced criticisms that it has provided too many forms of assessment for schools.

Secondary school banding is here to stay. Primary school grading will be introduced by autumn 2014.

Our ongoing review of banding will develop the best way for Welsh schools to track their performance and potential for improvement but we must be clear that local authorities already categorise their schools and have done for some time.

This process exists alongside current banding arrangements and now fully established consortia are keen for that to continue.

We envisage banding data and primary grading data will be used to help consortia with their categorisation.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Lib Dems: Schools assessed in too many ways

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say the announcement that the secondary banding system will be "revised" from this autumn, and run alongside a new National Categorisation System, will create "more confusion" in schools, as they are being assessed in too many different ways.

There is already a great deal of confusion, with many schools placed in a position where assessment and monitoring can be undertaken in a number of ways: banding, the National Categorisation System, Schools Challenge Cymru, and schools inspection body Estyn.

The result is a complex and unnecessary series of data collection methods which does nothing to give schools the promised “clear way forward” to improvement.

We said in January that if a new system of categorisation was introduced then banding should go and we stand by that statement.

– Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Spokesman

The Welsh Government said in January that "a single national categorisation model will ensure that the regional consortia are assessing schools in a consistent way", and that the system already works alongside banding.

There is little detail on how the categorisation model works.

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ASCL union: Banding to be scrapped after 2016

Headteachers union ASCL Cymru has predicted that the controversial secondary school banding system will be scrapped after 2016, and fully replaced by the new 'National Categorisation System'.

The Welsh Government has previously insisted that "banding is here to stay" and today announced it would be "revised" from this autumn, alongside the categorisation model, developed by regional consortia.

Robin Hughes, secretary of ASCL Cymru, has said that the categorisation system "has merit and promise" - without the "yo-yo grading" of banding.

Secondary banding 'revised', as primary rankings due

The Welsh Government has announced that its controversial banding system for secondary schools will be "revised" from this autumn - and a new "grading" system for primary schools will also be introduced later in 2014.

Secondary school banding was introduced in 2011, but teaching unions and opposition parties have criticised it as based on crude measures and volatile - with some schools jumping several bands from one year to the next.

In January, Education Minister Huw Lewis insisted "banding is here to stay", after reports it was to be scrapped - but that a planned review after three years was underway.

Mr Lewis said today that the measures included in banding "are being reviewed to ensure that the model continues to align with our priorities for education, in particular with a focus on reducing the impact of deprivation on attainment."

There is no more detail on how a new system could work.

Secondary schools are ranked between bands 1 and 5 in the current system. Credit: PA

Plans to introduce a similar ranking system for primary schools were delayed in 2012, with previous Education Minister Leighton Andrews saying the introduction of annual reading and numeracy tests for pupils in Years 2 to 9 would provide the data needed to band schools.

Those tests were introduced last year, and pupils are sitting the second set of them over the next week.

Education Minister Huw Lewis said today: "A primary school grading model is also being developed to help us better identify schools most in need of support. It will give parents across Wales a clear picture of how schools are performing."

He also reiterated that the reviews of secondary banding and primary grading would happen alongside a new 'National Categorisation' System', from the regional education consortia, which is designed to identify what support struggling schools need.

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