Controversial school banding system is ‘here to stay’

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Wales’ education minister Huw Lewis says the controversial banding system for schools is here to stay.

A total of 218 secondary schools were assessed for their work in the last academic year and ranked in one of five bands. 

Schools in Band 1 are the best performing across all measures while schools in Band 5 require additional support.

This, the third set of results for secondary schools in Wales, showed that 81 schools moved down at least one band between 2012 and 2013, while 71 schools moved up at least one band. No school has moved from Band 1 to Band 5 but one school has moved from Band 5 to Band 1.

Following publication of the results, Mr Lewis said: “School banding is a permanent feature of the Welsh educational landscape. What really matters about banding is that it relates to the teaching and learning experience in the classroom. I don’t see the system in any way fundamentally flawed, but I think it could be perfected a little.

“I’m keen that it takes a proper look at the poverty agenda – and whether or not schools that have a relatively low proportion of free school meals are still paying proper attention to that area and making sure every child is on the agenda.”

The Welsh government is clear there are no plans to scrap the support system – which provides extra funding to those in lower bands – despite growing criticism from the profession.

Mr Lewis added: “If we’re to improve the performance of schools across the board in Wales we need to both challenge and support them. Challenge if they’re underperforming or coasting, but offer the support they need, financially and through sharing best practice, to deliver the best results for our young people.

“It’s encouraging that since banding has been in place absenteeism has fallen and we’re seeing improvement in our exam performance.”

The minister said recent statistics which show an all time high of 15-year-olds achieving the equivalent of five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English or Welsh first language and mathematics, was a sign of improvement.

Banding is just one of the strategies being used by the Welsh government to drive up standards in Wales following disappointing results in the UK and on the world stage. 

According to the PISA international tests, Wales is not just behind the rest of the UK in reading, maths and science but is slipping down the world rankings. As more countries have joined, it has slumped from 22nd in science to joint 36th, dropped 10 places in maths and fallen from 29th in reading to 41st.


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