A Mishmash of Confusing Information

Well, I’m as surprised as the next person that the schools banding exercise has come about again. I’d been under the impression that it would be done every four years or so, but I suppose the data come out every year so there’s no reason for sticking with old data.

And Ysgol Bro Morgannwg will be thanking their lucky stars, because if last year’s generosity was anything to go by, their rapid slide down the rankings is compensated by a whopping £10,000. Because they’ve shot from hero to zero in 11 short months, from the Vale’s only Band 1 school to one of the Vale’s only Band 4 schools! What precipitated this fall from grace?

Dipping deep into the stats we see that although the school’s performance received the top rating, their rating against the proportion of pupils in receipt of free school meals was poor. Put simply, because relatively few pupils (6.8%) come from poor families, Ysgol Bro Morgannwg should do better in Welsh/English and Maths.

How did the other Schools for Penarth fare?

St. Cyres remained in Band 3, with ‘good progress’ in performance between 2010 and 2012.

St. Richard Gwyn Catholic High School got an almost clean sweep of ‘top quarter’ results in its scintillating promotion to Band 1 status. In fact, it came joint second of all the schools in Wales, which must have the staff and pupils feeling pretty chuffed.

Joining St. Richard Gwyn in Band 1 was Stanwell School.

In other Vale news:

  • Llantwit Major Comp remains in Band 4
  • Barry Comp rises to Band 3, joining Bryn Hafren (relegated from Band 2)
  • Cowbridge Comp stays in Band 2

I’ll repeat something I said back here in relation to the banding exercise:

the process is evidently imperfect, and the Welsh Government has conceded that most of the flaws raised by MC are valid. We live in an imperfect world, so my advice to the teaching profession is to continue doing what you’ve always done – teach to the best of your ability. Every child counts…. So for the time being I’ll go along with the Welsh Government’s approach to avoid league tables but stick with some element of comparison through school banding.

But I confess to feeling less generous about the banding approach now than I was earlier in the year. That’s partly because of the conversation I had with the Welsh Government and MC. It’s also partly because the response of teaching unions has been almost universal opprobrium.

But it’s also because of another factor that popped into my head. Even if all schools improve, there will still be schools in Band 5 because the bandings are made on a comparative basis: schools are compared against each other, rather than against desirable standards. To put it another way, if every child in every school in Wales got a clean sweep of A* results at GCSE year after year after year, you’d still get a bunch of schools in Band 5.

If improvement of educational standards is about anything, it’s about absolute improvement, not relative improvement. So while I have no problem with the metrics the Welsh Governments uses, I no longer support the process of placing schools in bands based on relative performance. If banding is used, it should be used to denote measures of absolute performance. That way, as time goes by, the Welsh public will get a genuine measure of whether or not educational standards are improving.

As it stands, all we’re getting is a mishmash of confusing information.

As a final note, to tie today’s discussion in to this recent one, the latest Estyn report (2009) for Ysgol Bro Morgannwg notes that:

All pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard within the school.

That doesn’t exactly tally with the statistical conclusion I came to that 76% of pupils end up classifying themselves as bilingual in the census.

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Filed under Education, Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

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