Cautious welcome as government says it will revise Welsh banding system

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Wales’ controversial banding system for secondary schools is to be “revised”, the Welsh government has announced.

The move has been given a cautious welcome by union leaders who feel the system was having a “yo-yo effect” on schools – with some jumping several bands from one year to the next.

However, there is some concern over the introduction of a new grading system for primaries and that the new system overall might be too complicated.

Banding has been controversial since it was first introduced in 2011, but only in January of this year Wales’ education minister Huw Lewis insisted it was “here to stay”.

However, he revealed this week that the current system was being “reviewed” at secondary level.

He said: “The measures included in the current secondary school banding model are being reviewed to ensure that the model continues to align with our priorities for education in Wales, in particular with a focus on reducing the impact of deprivation on attainment.”

He continued: “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.”

Both the review of secondary school banding and the development of a primary school grading model will be considered alongside the National Categorisation System developed by regional consortia for schools, Mr Lewis explained.

A revised secondary school banding model and a new primary school grading model will be introduced in the autumn term later this year.

But even as the review takes place there is concern from opposition politicians that the system is too complicated.

Plaid Cymru’s education spokesman Simon Thomas said: “The government proposes an over-complex system of grading for primary schools, banding for secondary schools and yet another national categorisation system driven by the regional consortia.

“It’s hard to believe two different systems, the national categorisation system and primary and secondary school banding, with three different sets of criteria, will bring the clarity, focus and strong leadership that Welsh education needs.”

Teachers, meanwhile, are concerned at the impact of the current system and hope the National Categorisation System will be more “helpful”.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said: “The inadequacies of the current banding model are plain for all to see. The yo-yo effect on schools and the model’s inability to show whole system improvement meant that it would only ever have a very short shelf-life.

“The categorisation of schools promises to be far more sophisticated and helpful. 

“However, the key word is ‘support’. Schools have experienced an immense amount of challenge over the last three years, what they are still badly lacking is the expert support that will enable them to raise their game still further.

“The introduction of primary grading is a new departure and will have to be handled carefully. We look forward to working with the government to ensure that the best practices are shared across Wales.”


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