Tag Archives: Stanwell

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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Rhowch sylw

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

Exam Results 2012

These are the results for the various Schools for Penarth

Stanwell School

A level – C grade or above 90%; A or A* 37%

GCSE – C grade or above 75%

St. Cyres School

A level – only results for the year 2011 are up on the school website. No comparative measure provided in the school’s report to the Penarth Times.

GCSE – C grade or above 67% – but no date given so this could be for 2011

St. Richard Gwyn Catholic High School

GCSE – results for 2012 not up on school website, but reported to be 62% receiving 5 grades C or above

Westbourne School

A level – no information on school website

GCSE – No meaningful information on school website and no comparative measure provided in the school’s report to the Penarth Times

Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg

A level – C grade or above 83%; A or A* 46%

GCSE – 5 grades C or above 87%

The most fascinating aspect of what I’ve managed to glean – or not – about these schools isn’t the results themselves (I’ll come to those in a minute). It’s the fact that most of them have no meaningful information on their websites a full 6 days after GCSE results were published and 13 days following the A level results. Let’s not forget that schools know the results of pupils as a whole a day or two before the rest of us. Now I know that school education is about a whole lot more than just academic results, but you’d have thought that someone in the schools’ administration would have thought it prudent to spend a few hours creating a new webpage to show the world how well they’ve done.

So it’s hats off to Stanwell School and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg for keeping us all apprised of your results. I would find the lack of interest in publishing results for the other schools a bit concerning if I were a potential pupil.

Some schools have chosen to focus on individual students in their press reports. Any school, including the worst in Wales, can have exceptional students. The bigger picture is how the school has done in aggregate in encouraging good performance from pupils as a whole. So St. Cyres and Westbourne, you tell us nothing other than perhaps you have something to hide. Although actually Westbourne’s press report tells us something about the school’s view of the world. According to Ken Underhill, Head of School, Westbourne is a “non-selective school”. Try telling that to anyone who can’t afford the £10,000 per year fees.

Of the schools we can meaningfully compare, we have St. Richard Gwyn bringing up the rear at GCSE (62%), then Stanwell (75%) and Bro Morgannwg (87%). And for A level, Stanwell and Bro Morgannwg just about share the honours, with a higher proportion of top grades at Bro Morgannwg but a shade more D and E grades.

Of course the primary distinction is that pupils at Bro Morgannwg come out bilingual as well has having a very high standard of education. And in a job market like today’s, that extra life skill might be just what it takes to get the first crucial placement. 

3 Sylw

Filed under Education, Schools

Stanwell 2012

Stanwell comes in as one of the least interesting wards. Given that the result in 2008 was so close, if the Conservatives at the UK level hadn’t been polling so poorly then their local candidates could conceivably have been in with a chance. But given the popularity of their party running up to 3 May, there was little prospect of excitement at the count, and my prediction that the two incumbents would retain their chains of office was uncontroversial. So congratulations to Labour’s Janice Birch and Mark Wilson, and 2/2 for me.

The results themselves are here.

The Conservative vote in Stanwell fell by 33%, slightly more than in Plymouth or St. Augustine’s but in line with the trend. But the most interesting statistic here is the Labour surge – up 36% on 2008. This is looking like a big result for Labour because it’s much more impressive than the increases elsewhere in town. Plaid Cymru’s drop of 20% looks pretty good judging by their results elsewhere, although it’s as well to note that it’s not a strictly comparable result: this was the only ward in Penarth where just one candidate was put up (Sully also had just one).

How did we go for turnout in Stanwell? 1,102 people hauled themselves out of bed to put a cross in a box out of an electorate of 3,245. At 34% this isn’t just the lowest in Penarth, it’s among the bottom wards in the whole Vale of Glamorgan. We’ll see later in this post if there’s a relationship between relative deprivation and turnout.

So Janice Birch got the support of a whopping 60% of voters. With just Sully left to analyse, I’m willing to venture that Janice is the most popular politician in Penarth/Sully. She pipped Mark Wilson, who himself got a 59% approval rating. A stunning victory for Labour in this ward.

The Conservatives’ Ken Lloyd and Christopher Williams got votes from 28% and 27% of the voters, which is only slightly better than the Cornerswell Conservative candidates managed. Adrian Roper for Plaid persuaded 14% of voters of his merits.

The non-voters are potentially hugely significant in this ward with its very low turnout. So let’s remove our 10% from the electorate of 3,245 for a maximum potential roll-call of 2,921. Now subtracting the 1,102 voters leaves 1,819 non-voters, of whom a staggeringly low 37% would need to vote for our independent candidate in order for her to come top of the heap in Stanwell. After all the good news for Labour in this ward, this has got to be cause for some discomfort. After all, if someone really wanted to take this ward (and  Stanwell isn’t the only one to fall into this category), they could theoretically do it with a decent bit of constituency campaigning in the year or two running up to 2017. Hopefully Janice and Mark don’t need to be reminded of this in order to be good constituency councillors.

I’ve been intrigued by the link between turnout and relative deprivation, and it turns out there is somewhere that we can explore the link: the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.  This index goes deeper than our electoral wards, each of which is sub-set into three or four constituent parts by the WIMD (not to be confused with WMD). So we can go about it by the statistically unsatisfactory way of ‘averaging’ the WIMD rankings for wards as a whole. And this is what we come up with (in order of most deprived first). Note that a ‘higher’ number means that that ward is relatively less deprived:

  • Stanwell – 1,177 (turnout 34%)
  • St. Augustine’s – 1416 (turnout 38%)
  • Cornerswell – 1,420 (turnout 38%)
  • Sully – 1,624 (turnout 44%)
  • Plymouth – 1,722 (turnout 41%)

Well that looks pretty convincing to me. It would be relatively easy to do this for the whole of the Vale, and I’d be very surprised if the statistical link were not very strong indeed.

Of course, that’s also slightly depressing. Does it mean that there’s essentially no hope for us to buck the trend in Penarth? That we’ll never get decent turnouts regardless of the commitment and enthusiasm of the candidates?

4 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Schools for Penarth

I was delighted to read the results of the recent banding exercise for secondary schools in Wales, not least because Penarth’s two comprehensives come out pretty well. Stanwell School came ranked in Band 2, and St. Cyres School is placed in Band 3. I’m not sure what the banding actually means – the Welsh Government’s guide for parents and carers explains it with about as much clarity as Lord Goldsmith justified the war in Iraq. But it seems pretty obvious even to me that schools in Bands 2 and 3 are likely to be better places for education than Band 5.

But this post is ‘schools for Penarth’, not ‘Penarth schools’, so let’s not forget the other options for secondary education in Penarth.

Families with loads of money can avail themselves of all that Westbourne School has to offer – or indeed any of the other private schools in south Wales and beyond. I’m sure these schools do a fine job of educating our youngsters, but at around £10,000 per year it doesn’t come cheap. I wonder how many of Westbourne’s pupils are in receipt of free school meals? Sadly, we’re unlikely to find out, because private schools don’t participate in the banding exercise like the commoners.

Those of us with an ecclesiastical bent can take advantage of the spiritual learning offered by St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School. This school is, like St. Cyres, in Band 3. It turns out that God – or at least her nominated educators in Barry – exiles you to Cardiff at age 16 if your mind is on academia (although free bus transport is available). Not that that has any effect on numbers of pupils; indeed “the number of applications received is far greater than the number of places available”. Let’s just hope the entry test doesn’t involve saying the Welsh version of the school name out aloud.

And talking of Welsh, Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg is the final option for parents in Penarth. This school was ranked in Band 1. Now, I can’t be alone in having seen houses in certain parts of Penarth advertised as being in the catchment for Stanwell School. If you want a Band 2 school for your offspring, that’s fine. But the catchment area for the one and only Band 1 school in the entire Vale of Glamorgan IS the entire Vale of Glamorgan. Funnily enough, I don’t see that mentioned in adverts for houses in the Stanwell catchment, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the Vale.

One of the significant differences between Welsh medium education and non-Welsh medium education is that pupils can transfer out of Welsh medium education at any time and for any reason. The reverse is only true to a limited extent. The fact that this ‘leakage’ doesn’t really happen in the case of YG Bro Morgannwg (see page 11 of this report) seems to indicate a tremendously strong desire among pupils to stay there. To my mind, that’s at least as good a bellwether as a school being in Band 1.

In fact, such is the success of Welsh medium education in the Vale that despite the creation of a fourth Welsh language primary in Barry in September 2011, “further [Welsh language] reception places will be needed for September 2012 in the Barry area” (page 4 of the same report). Education chiefs appear to be scrambling to keep up with demand. The Council is reviewing future demand to assess whether this is a “one off situation”. And back in Penarth, Ysgol Pen-y-Garth has been expanded to increase capacity from 350 to 420 pupils.

I have no idea whether parents and pupils are attracted by the cultural benefits that come from knowing both languages that Wales is blessed with, by the increasing number of jobs for which proficiency in Welsh is essential/highly desirable, or the 10% salary premium that bilingual workers attract. But as from 8 December 2011, we can add ‘the highest standard of schooling’ to that list. I’m no psychologist, but I’d venture a shilling or two that a fair few parents in the Vale will have taken notice of this banding exercise. And if Cllr Anthony Hampton is worth his salt, he’ll have been scurrying for his slide rule in an attempt to determine how likely we are to see many more “one off situations” right throughout the Vale.

The simple truth is that despite the apparent ignorance of estate agents in Penarth, Barry and for all I know the big City, a quiet, and distinctly Welsh, revolution is happening in the Vale of Glamorgan.

This post has been modified to make clear that God does not abandon students of St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School at the age of 16. My thanks to MC for highlighting this error.

7 Sylw

Filed under Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council