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Written Statement - Publication of National School Categorisation System categories - year three

Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education

Introduced in 2014, the National School Categorisation System provides a clear picture of how well schools in Wales are performing and the level of support they need to do better.

Today we have published the support categories for primary and secondary schools for a third year, as well as, for the first time, the support categories for special schools. This follows a rigorous regional and national moderation and verification process.

The purpose of the categorisation system is to identify what support our schools need to improve. It offers a holistic approach to school improvement, which allows the regional education consortia to take the context of the school into account when determining a judgement on the school`s self-evaluation and capacity to improve.

The system is about providing support and encouraging collaborative improvement and is not about labelling or creating crude league tables.  It is about putting schools into a position that enables them to identify what the factors are that contribute to their progress and achievement or which areas to focus on to achieve further development.

The system is a three step model that is not purely data-driven but also takes into account the quality of leadership and teaching and learning in our schools:

  • Step one is a data-driven judgement using an agreed set of performance measures,
  • Step two begins with the school’s own self-evaluation of their capacity to improve in relation to leadership, teaching and learning,
  • Step three is agreed between the local authority and regional education consortium and leads to a colour-coded support category for the school which will trigger a tailored programme of support, challenge and intervention. 

The figures we have published today show that 84.4% of primary and 64.6% of secondary schools are now in the green and yellow categories. This increase from last year of 8.5 and 7.6 percentage points respectively is to be welcomed. These schools will have a key role to play in supporting other schools in Wales, by sharing their expertise, skills, and good practice. In this way they will be making a vital contribution to driving forward improvements in Wales and moving us towards a truly self-improving system.

Finally, it is worth reiterating that, in order to ensure a maintained focus on the performance of eFSM pupils, there is an agreed minimum standard for the performance of this group of learners in secondary schools. This was introduced for the 2015 outcomes and set at a level of 30% increasing incrementally to 32% in 2016 and 34% in 2017. This means that, where a school’s performance of eFSM learners is below the agreed minimum standard, the judgement in relation to their standards group will not be assessed as being better than a 3. If other indicators are good, and correlate with a strong consortia assessment at later steps, then a school can be awarded a yellow category at best. Therefore there will be no green schools in Wales who have not met the minimum standard of 32% (three year weighted average) for its free school meals pupils in 2016.

I am committed to continuing to use available evidence to help raise standards in our schools and improve outcomes for all of our learners. I will now ask my officials to work with our regional education consortia to consider the best way forward for categorisation to ensure the system remains fit for purpose in the evolving landscape of Welsh education.