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Written Statement - Update on the National School Categorisation System

Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education

This government’s vision for an education accountability system is one that is fair, coherent, proportionate, transparent, and based on our shared values for Welsh education.

Working with the teaching profession, local government, consortia, unions and international experts, we have been undertaking a fundamental review of the accountability system. As set out in our action plan ‘Education in Wales: Our National Mission’, we will publish a new assessment and evaluation framework for the entire education system during autumn 2018.

‘Our National Mission’ also sets out the actions that we will take between now and next year. International evidence, and the message within Wales, is clear. We must ensure a coherent approach that avoids unintended consequences and contributes towards the raising of standards in every classroom and for all our learners. Raising standards, reducing the attainment gap and ensuring a system that enjoys public confidence and is a source of national pride is at the heart of our action plan.

Ensuring coherence was a key finding in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) rapid policy assessment “The Welsh Education Reform Journey”. While recognising our important progress towards a long term vision for Welsh education, it made a number of recommendations aimed at supporting us on our journey of continuing improvement. One of the report’s recommendations was that we should consider making school self-evaluations more prominent in the School Categorisation System, possibly by removing the calculation for school performance data (Step 1) altogether.

In ‘Our National Mission’, for this autumn, we committed to “transitional evaluation arrangements with schools in order to support deeper collaborations between schools and secure the raising of standards for all learners”.

As part of our fundamental review of the accountability system, I recognise that robust and continuous self-evaluation, along with professional dialogue, are key tools to support improvement.

I fully accept the OECD recommendation and will therefore be removing the data-driven judgement that places schools into a standards group as part of Step 1 of the National Schools Categorisation System from this point on.

Instead, self-evaluation features more strongly in the model. School data, including that which was part of Step 1, will continue to be shared with the regional consortia and used to form the starting point of discussions within the school, and with their Challenge Adviser, about their capacity to improve in relation to leadership, teaching and learning.

To ensure consistency, steps have been taken to strengthen Step 2 of the process, ensuring that any judgements of a school’s capacity to improve are made fairly, and applied consistently to all schools in Wales.

To further ensure consistency in determining categorisation outcomes for schools, a two step Regional and National moderation process remains. Schools will still be given a colour coding for the level of support that they need and this will continue to be published on My Local School. The timelines and processes for the National Schools Categorisation System remain the same.

This is a further step forward in our national mission to reform accountability within our education system and ensure that schools, and ultimately learners, are given the right support at the right time to enable them to fully realise their potential. I will keep you updated with further developments as our review of accountability progresses throughout this new academic year, ensuring clarity and coherence in how we value and measure improvement across the entire system.