Teachers raise concerns over banding system


Rhian Waller

STAFF and politicians have hit out at the Welsh schools banding system after this year’s results were unveiled.

Teachers in Flintshire and Wrexham have raised concerns over the narrow criteria used to decide how schools are banded, as five Wrexham schools saw their ratings fall yesterday alongside three in Flintshire.

The system also came under fire when it was introduced in 2011.

However Ashley Jones, headteacher at the Alun School in Mold, which shot from band 4 to band 1 in the space of a year, said: “Naturally it is pleasing to see the top banding rating our school has been awarded this year. It confirms our popularity with both students and parents alike.

“However, we still have concerns over the system being used for banding as it only provides a snapshot of performance rather than the complete picture for an individual school as happens, for example, in an inspection.”

Tony Davidson, headteacher at St David’s in Saltney, which fell from band 3 to band 4, said the statistics contradicted other findings such as the school’s exam improvements and a glowing Estyn inspection report.

He said: “Last year we were in band three and 74 per cent of our students got five or more A* to C grade GCSEs. This year that rose to 81 per cent, while the school was in the top two per cent in the country for value added progress in 11 to 16-year-olds.

And yet we dropped to band four.

“It’s something of a mystery to be honest.”

Mr Davidson said the discrepancy probably arose from the “narrow range of indicators” used to evaluate schools.

He said: “Last year the inspector called the school outstanding, with excellent prospects. We regularly ask parents for feedback and hold lesson meetings. They don’t lead me to think anything has changed in terms of our performance.

“Of the 219 schools in Wales, about 70 have moved up quite significantly while a similar number have moved down. There’s a real volatility there. The risk is that banding could demoralise staff if they are not careful.”

Maria Rimmer, of St Joseph’s School in Wrexham, which dropped three bands, said: “The information released by the Welsh Government has its use for us as professionals, alongside a range of other important data and a significant number of other positive outcomes for young people, many of which do not conform to strict measurement.”

Aled Roberts, AM for North Wales and Liberal Democrat shadow minister for education, branded the system “crude and simplistic”.

Mr Roberts, a former leader of Wrexham Council, said: “No matter how schools in Wales have performed over the year, we already know there will be a fixed amount of schools in each band.

“Too often we are hearing of how parents are confused why their children’s school has been rebanded despite the fact its results have stayed the same.

“I am concerned about the quality and level of support that is being offered to schools in bands 4 and 5.

“The banding system must be used in a way to help improve our schools. Simply banding them and then hoping for improvement isn’t enough.”

Ian Budd, Flintshire Council director of lifelong learning, said the local authority welcomed the continuing success of learners in secondary schools in Flintshire and thanked staff, parents, carers and other members of school communities for their support.

John Davies, head of lifelong learning at Wrexham Council, said: “The intention is to identify those schools where achievement is high, with a view to sharing effective strategies and targeting resources towards schools where achievement is lower.

“Wrexham Council already has a well-established and agreed process in place for considering a wide range of data and information about its schools. That information is used to ensure available resources are targeted at schools which require support.

“The information from the national school banding system is considered as part of the above process.”

The banding system rates schools from one to five, with one representing the highest score and five the lowest.

The score is calculated using GCSE results and attendance levels and is cross-referenced with the number of pupils eligible for free school meals to reflect the challenges faced by a school in a deprived area.

The system was introduced in 2011, which means this is the first time a year on year comparison is possible.

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