Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
BBC Wales has published figures on the performance of individual secondary schools in Wales. This publication was based on data they had requested and received under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI).
Officials provided the information to BBC in line with our legal obligations under FOI. Details of the request and our response can be seen on the Welsh Government FOI disclosure log.
We took steps to ensure that those who work in and with schools were alerted to the release of data in advance of its publication by the media.
The BBC have chosen to use the data released to them to generate a simplistic league table, ranking schools based on a single performance indicator.
I remain absolutely committed to the belief that there is no role for league tables in the improvement agenda for Wales. They can be divisive and misleading and do not in themselves promote improvement. If league tables were the key to high performing schools then England would be at the top of the PISA scores. But it is not – by some distance.
In my statement on 2 February I emphasised the importance of using robust data to drive improvement within schools and across the system. Robust self-evaluation and target-setting using performance data plays a vital role in promoting continuous improvement. For this reason, we have provided all maintained primary and secondary schools with the all-Wales core data set. This provides key information about school performance in a consistent, transparent and accessible format.
One of the best-performing countries according to a range of education measures is Finland where they do not have league tables. Like Finland we need to focus on using data effectively to look at school performance and comparator schools, schools with similar socio-demographics and learning from the data.
To strengthen accountability of the system I am working with officials to introduce a national system for banding schools. This is not a return to league tables based on crude measures of pupil performance in public examinations. The school banding system will allow learners, their parents and carers, education professionals, governors and local authorities to understand a school’s performance in context.
I have established the School Standards Unit, lead by Dr Brett Pugh, to act as a catalyst to generate ambition in the sector and improve outcomes for our children and young people. The unit is working in partnership with the four local authority consortia and with officials from across my department to maximise the capacity for school improvement throughout Wales. It will draw on expertise from across the school system to ensure there is a sharp focus on implementation.
Let us not forget that year on year in Wales our young people’s levels of attainment continue to rise. The construction of league tables by the media must not be a distraction from our shared goal of securing long term, sustainable improvements that deliver the world class education our young people deserve and need.