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Written Statement - National School Categorisation System – An update

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

I previously announced the introduction of the national school categorisation system in a Written Statement on 25 September 2014 and published the colour category of each school at the end of January 2015.

The national school categorisation system is based on 3 steps:

  • Step 1: is a data driven element that is provided by Welsh Government based on an agreed set of criteria for both primary and secondary schools
  • Step 2: is led by consortia and takes into account schools’ self-evaluation and capacity to self-improve in relation to leadership and teaching and learning
  • Step 3: is led by consortia and generates 2 grades - a letter ‘A-D’ based on schools’ ability to improve and a coloured support category. The coloured support category for each school triggers a bespoke programme of support, challenge and intervention. The support category is also used by consortia to plan and deploy their resources.

It is important to remember that the primary purpose of the national school categorisation system is to identify schools that are most in need of support, to ensure that, in partnership with local authorities and consortia, we direct our support and resources most effectively to secure the improvements necessary in our school system.

Following publication of the outcomes we have worked with schools, local authorities, consortia and trade unions to further strengthen the categorisation model and to review the primary school pilot. We have agreed a number of revisions to step 1 and these will be introduced immediately:

  • amend the weighting of indicators that underpin the generation of Step 1 for secondary schools, placing a greater focus on the eFSM residual element and a marginally lower focus on the performance of eFSM pupils. This is a minor adjustment and is mitigated by the point detailed below
  • set the eFSM target for a 3-year period at school level. This will continue to be a 3-year weighted average but schools will know the target in advance. The target will now be set at 30% (2015), 32% (2016) and 34% (2017). The current target is 27.2%
  • move the assessment of achievement of the eFSM target from Step 2 to Step 1.

Any school performing below the eFSM target will automatically be placed in standards group 3. If the other indicators are poor it goes into group 4. If other indicators are good, along with the consortia assessment at Step 2, 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 eFSM target.

For amalgamated schools, data will be produced for Step 1 but not published for the first full year of a school’s operation. Step 2 and Step 3 will be carried out by consortia and will be published. In year 2, Step 1 will be published and will include an element of historic data within the calculation. It will be weighted in favour of the most recent year but will still cover a 3-year period.

For new schools, year 2 of operation will generate a published Step 1 based on 2 years of performance.

The pilot phase of primary school categorisation will now be part of the National School Categorisation System.

Finally, we have also agreed with the consortia a number of revisions to Steps 2 and 3 in order to ensure consistency across Wales along with the establishment of a robust national verification process. Furthermore, we have agreed to refine the colour category definitions to reflect the generic level and type of support a school can expect.

Consortia will provide primary and secondary schools with their provisional school categorisation in October. Final categories will be published on the My Local School website towards the end of December 2015.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.