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Written Statement - National School Categorisation System – Update in Relation to Secondary Schools

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

I announced in a Written Statement on 25 September 2014 the introduction of a new National School Categorisation System for both primary and secondary schools.  I also announced the range of measures to be used to assess primary schools and promised to provide a further update in relation to secondary school measures.

The new system will assess schools on the following as part of a three-step model:

  • Step One: a judgement in relation to performance and standards in the school, using a range of performance measures provided by Welsh Government;  
  • Step Two: a judgement in relation to the school’s ability to self-improve, based on robust self-evaluation in relation to leadership, learning and teaching; and  
  • Step Three: combination of the two judgements leading to a colour Categorisation, corroborated by education consortia Challenge Advisers and agreed by the local authority.

This decision will then be moderated by a quality assurance and standardisation group to ensure consistency within and across consortia.

The detailed explanation of how the process of the three step system for Categorisation will work was provided in the Written Statement of 25 September 2014.

In reviewing the secondary school measures that were used in Banding, we have listened to feedback from stakeholders and have worked closely with local authorities and consortia. As I mentioned in my previous Written Statement the National School Categorisation System builds on the success of Banding though has now developed into a more holistic approach to school improvement. As with primary schools, this will be an absolute model. This will mean that schools that can demonstrate improvement against their own baseline can move up in the system and will not mean that another school will have to move down in the system.

There are 14 performance measures in total for secondary schools:

Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh first language and mathematics (L2 incl. E/W & M)
a. Overall performance during the previous three years
b. Performance of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (eFSM) during the previous three years
c. Relative progress (based on overall performance)
d. Performance set against Free School Meal (FSM) level of the school

Capped Points Score including English/Welsh first language and mathematics (new measure) 
a. Overall performance during the previous three years
b. eFSM pupils’ performance during the previous three years
c. Relative progress (based on overall performance)
d. Performance set against FSM level of the school

5+ A*-A or equivalent (new measure) 
a. Overall performance during the previous three years
b. eFSM pupils’ performance during the previous three years
c. Relative progress (based on overall performance)
d. Performance set against FSM level of the school

Attendance 
a. Current performance set against FSM level of the school
b. Persistent absentees set against FSM level of the school


The model contains two new measures – the Capped Points Score including English/Welsh and mathematics and achievement of 5A*-A or equivalent. These indicators are described in more detail below:

Capped Points Score including English/Welsh and mathematics

This is calculated in a similar way to the existing Capped Points Score, except that a pupil’s best result in mathematics, and their best result in English language/literature or Welsh first language/literature, are automatically included, plus the remaining best six qualifications. The remaining best six can include any of the mathematics or English/Welsh qualifications that have not been counted as the pupil’s best in those subjects. If a pupil does not have a qualification in either mathematics or English/Welsh then they will score zero points for that qualification within the calculation of the points score.

This new measure is consistent with our direction of travel for measuring school performance at the end of Key Stage 4. I have already announced that in future I will place more emphasis on a revised Capped Points Score that requires attainment of GCSE English Language or Welsh Language, GCSE Mathematics-Numeracy and GCSE Mathematics, as well as a learner’s two best science qualifications.

5+ A*-A or equivalent
This is similar to the Level 2 threshold measure, but to achieve this indicator a pupil must achieve at least 5 GCSE grades A* or A or equivalent. For non-GCSE qualifications, we calculate an equivalence based on the value of an A grade at GCSE.

These new performance measures for secondary schools provide a relentless focus on my three priorities of improving literacy, improving numeracy and reducing the link between poverty and educational attainment.  We have deliberately raised the bar.  

There is an increased focus on the performance of eFSM pupils in the Categorisation System. In addition to looking at the performance of all pupils in the context of FSM levels at the school, we are also looking at the performance of eFSM pupils specifically within each data group. Where fewer than 25.8 per cent (the national average for 2013, which will be revised and updated annually) of eFSM pupils achieve the L2 incl. E/W & M, the school will be placed in the lower Categories. However, where cohorts are very small or where there is a high proportion of pupils with additional learning needs or special education needs, this will be discussed and considered with the school at a local level when making a professional judgement.

However I am aware that the context of a school is a major contributor to pupil outcomes though not an excuse for poor performance.  As part of Step Two of the National School Categorisation System, consortia will make a judgement on a school’s context and the added value the school makes to a pupil’s life chances.

Following the verification of data, the Categorisation of all schools will be published in January of each year on the My Local School website. Full guidance for schools, local authorities and consortia, as well as a guide for parents, will also be made available shortly on the Welsh Government website.