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Written Statement - Banding of Primary Schools

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In 2011 the previous Minister for Education and Skills set out the case for improvement and a clear set of actions to drive forward his improvement agenda. Banding is one of those actions.
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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
My written statement on 2 December 2011 set out the challenges that we faced in developing an objective model for primary schools compared to secondary schools and, in particular, the consistency of teacher assessments and the large number of schools with a small number of pupils.

The Chief Inspector for Education and Training’s Report for 2010-11, published on 31 January 2012, has since highlighted fully the extent of the difficulty with teacher assessments. I also recently discussed this issue in person with the Chief Inspector. Her Report stated that almost half of the 238 primary schools that had been inspected under the Common Inspection Framework, introduced in 2010, had aspects of assessment which were weak. Estyn judged the end of key stage assessments to be insufficiently accurate in around a quarter of those schools.

I have also listened to similar concerns expressed by local authority officials and teachers.

On the basis of all this evidence I do not feel we currently have sufficiently robust data to be used in the calculation of bands for primary schools. We need to wait until we have data which are based on more consistently standardised, and therefore, more robust data.

We are in the process of introducing new reading and numeracy tests. These will all be in place in all schools on a statutory basis from 2013. These tests will be subject to a more stringent level of quality assurance and standardisation and will therefore provide data which is more reliable for the calculation of bands. I shall therefore be delaying the introduction of bands for primary schools until September 2014, when we can use the data from the new tests.

I am, however, still committed to ensuring that that we consider the whole passage of children through the education system and ensuring that we have quality provision at an early age which remains consistently high for all pupils until they leave education.  This was a manifesto commitment of the incoming Government and it will be implemented. We are not going to wait until we produce bands for primary schools to begin the process of developing a more consistent national approach to assessing their performance and support needs.  The regional consortia of local authorities inform me that there are already examples of efficient and well-developed systems in place for undertaking this work. I have asked officials in the School Standards Unit to explore these approaches with the consortia with a view to sharing good practice nationally to ensure efficient and high quality approaches are in place across the whole of Wales.

To further assist this process we will be developing a performance profile for all primary schools in line with our manifesto commitment. Whilst we do not feel the teacher assessments are sufficiently robust to objectively produce bands for schools at this time, they do provide a picture of schools’ performance, which alongside other information, such as Estyn Inspection reports, provide an indication of schools in particular need of support.

The performance profile will build on the approach that we already take to providing schools with information through the core data packs, and will need to be presented in the context of the number of pupils which make up any one figure.  I have also previously indicated that we want to find a way of fairly   presenting performance data for schools with resource bases for children with special educational needs as these pupils will generally not be able to achieve the same level of qualifications as their peers.

Officials will be working closely with key stakeholders, including local authority consortia, teachers, teaching unions, governors and parents to develop a performance profile for all primary schools to be available early in the Autumn Term 2012. At the same time it will be considered how these profiles can best be integrated into national and regional systems for assessing the performance of primary schools and providing them with a suitable level and type of support.

We shall build on this basis with the introduction of Primary Banding, based on robust data from reading and numeracy tests in September 2014.