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Written Statement - Publication of National School Categorisation System categories - year two.

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

As announced last year, working with our regional education consortia we saw the introduction of the National School Categorisation System.  This resulted in the publication of the colour coded support category of each school at the end of January 2015 for the first time.

Today we are publishing the support categories for both primary and secondary schools for the second year.  This follows a rigorous regional and national moderation and verification process.

It is important to remember that the National School Categorisation System was developed collectively with regional education consortia and Welsh Government.  We worked jointly to develop the system and have worked further this year to continue to advance the system and to make some adjustments to the data metrics used and as such direct comparison with last year’s results is difficult. These new metrics were discussed with local authorities, regional consortia, head teachers and unions.  

The primary purpose of categorisation is to identify the level of support schools require and in doing so direct our support and resources most effectively to secure the improvements necessary in our school system; and as a result, raise standards and performance in Wales. 

Categorisation 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 are the factors that contribute to their progress and achievement or what are the 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 provided by the Welsh Government.  
  • 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 the combination of the two judgements that will lead to a colour-coded support category for the school which will trigger a tailored programme of support, challenge and intervention. This is agreed between the local authority and regional education consortium.

It is worth reminding Assembly Members that the data model used in generating step one is an absolute model for 2015 and for 2016, this means that all schools in Wales have the opportunity to improve their standards group; as the relevant benchmarks are fixed over a period of time.  

Although direct comparisons should not be made to last year’s outcomes due to adjustments to the data matrix and the strengthening of criteria used at step two, we do find that 79.5% of primary and 57% of secondary schools are in the green and yellow category.  These schools will have a key role to play in supporting other schools, sharing their skills, expertise, good practice and will be making a vital contribution to driving forward improvements in the whole school system in Wales.

In relation to secondary schools, as part of the process I have made it clear that any school performing below the agreed minimum standard for performance of free schools meals pupils (eFSM pupils) will automatically be placed in standards group 3.  If other indicators are good, and correlate with a strong consortia assessment at Step two, 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 30% (three year weighted average) for its free school meals pupils in 2015.

The category of support for each school will trigger a bespoke programme of support which is agreed with each individual school.  

The categorisation for all schools will be published today on the My Local School website, a full list of outcomes will also be available on the Welsh Government National School Categorisation webpages.  Full guidance for schools, local authorities, consortia, governors, as well as a guide for parents has been published and can be found on the Welsh Government webpages for National School Categorisation.