National school banding Q&A. Background

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1 National school banding Q&A Background The previous Minister for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews AM, announced in February 2011, as part of wider set of actions aimed at improving standards, the introduction of a national banding system for schools. Banding forms part of a wider range of policy actions designed to give the Welsh Government a much clearer focus on the performance and progress of Welsh schools. Banding will also help to ensure that, in partnership with local authorities/consortia we direct our support and resources most effectively where needed. In December 2013 the third year of banding results will be published. Banding - general What is banding? Banding is a way of using national data on school performance in context to group schools according to where they are on their improvement journey relative to other schools in Wales. The introduction of a banding system is one of a suite of policy actions designed to give us a clearer focus on our performance and progress. The system groups secondary schools into bands reflecting their outcomes and progress, taking account of the challenge they face from socio-economic circumstances. Special schools will not be banded. Primary school grading has been delayed until Banding gives the School Standards and Workforce Group a starting point for discussion with consortia and local authorities about priorities for support and 1

2 challenge. In turn, it gives consortia and local authorities a starting point for discussion with schools. It provides a basis upon which to direct resources to where they are needed most to ensure we secure the improvements necessary in our school system. How does banding work? Banding uses the relative performance of schools across four sets of data to group them into one of five bands those in Band 1 show good overall performance and progress and those in Band 5 show weak performance and progress relative to other schools. Within each band relative performance is measured to take account of actual performance, progress over time and performance relative to context and cohort. Is banding just league tables by another name? No. You can have strong accountability without league tables. Banding is about grouping our schools according to a range of factors to identify priorities for differentiated support. Banding is also used to identify those from whom the sector as a whole can learn. Banding is simply a tool to help us be most effective in driving improvement across the board. We are not seeking to introduce competition between schools; rather, we want to drive up performance in all schools. How does banding and the work of the School Standards and Workforce Group fit with the inspection framework/all Wales Core Data Sets and families of schools? They are distinctly different and each has a different role to play in supporting school improvement: Estyn s role is to assess independently the quality of education delivery on a periodic basis. All Wales Core Data Sets and families of schools are self-evaluation tools that provide detailed comparative performance analyses that will help to: - consider your school s current results and performance trends over five years - identify particular strengths and areas for development - identify high performing but contextually similar schools which may be able to help your school to improve Banding is about grouping our schools according to a range of factors to: - identify priorities for differentiated support - identify those from whom the sector as a whole can learn - inform evidence based discussion The School Standards and Workforce Group has a lead role in facilitating improvements across the school system and sharpening the use of data and accountability. 2

3 Will banding apply to all schools? All secondary schools receive information about their band (based on validated data) in December. Primary grading has been delayed until There is no intention to band special schools at the moment we are working on developing more appropriate progress measures for special schools. Once these are established we will work with the sector to agree how best to use the measures to support continuous improvement. Will individual children be identifiable following the publication of banding data? No. Banding is about overall school performance and progress. Calculation of banding What data are used to band schools? The model for secondary schools uses a mix of data to reflect most recent outcomes, progress over time, contextual results and value added. What are the data currently used for? The Welsh Government already uses the data for research and statistical purposes to inform, influence and improve education policy and monitor the performance of the education service as a whole. We have published school level data via StatsWales ( Teachers) for some time now; banding simply presents the information in a more accessible way, to add to the picture for each school. The Welsh Government s Privacy Notice (issued by schools to inform pupils, parents/guardians about what the information collected on them is used for) is clear that results data are used to monitor performance in schools. Does banding require any additional data to be collected? No. We are analysing and presenting the data we already collect. Banding uses existing data to group schools according to their relative performance and progress to enable us to better target support and challenge and promote improvement. Why are Key Stage 3 results excluded from the banding model? The banding model for secondary schools is focussed on relative performance and progress of schools across the entire period of compulsory full-time secondary education. Performance is measured by reference to attainment at the end of Key Stage 4, through the external Key Stage 4 examination results, with progress measured by the value added by schools from the end of both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4. 3

4 Why are learners with additional learning needs (ALN) included in the banding calculation? The banding calculations for secondary schools do include outcomes for all relevant learners; learners are linked to the school on whose Pupil-Level Annual School Census (PLASC) return their data was submitted. This reflects the inclusive approach taken to ALN in Wales and our central concern for outcomes for all learners. On a practical level local authorities organise provision for learners with ALN in different ways and there are also differences in the criteria and definitions used by local authorities and schools for the different types of special educational need (SEN) and ALN. These differences make it impossible to establish a national approach to splitting of performance analyses. The Welsh Government recognises the impact that this may have on some schools outcomes but feel that this is an issue best handled as part of the discussion about what underpins performance data. How often will the school's position in the banding be reviewed? Annually we will provide updated banding to schools each autumn when the previous year s results are finalised and published. Banding information for 2011 was published on 8 December Banding information for 2012 was published on 18 December Banding information for 2013 will be available from Thursday 12 December Will the banding methodology or model on which bands are calculated change? The model used to calculate bands will be reviewed periodically. This will help ensure it continues to reflect the main priorities for education in Wales and is responsive to changes in education. There has been no change to the methodology since However, following the publication of the third year of results in December 2013, there will be a review of the measures that contribute to the banding score. Will there always be schools in Band 4 and 5? Yes. The secondary school banding model was developed to identify schools that are most in need of support. To meet this purpose a relative, norm-referencing, model of banding schools has been adopted, taking the context of schools into account and challenging schools even when raw performance is high. Adopting an absolute, criterion-referencing, model would lead to schools performance being judged against arbitrary thresholds. Why have you used the Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh First Language and Mathematics rather than the wider Level 2 threshold? The Level 2 threshold including English or Welsh First Language and Mathematics is the headline performance indicator for secondary schools in Wales. It aligns with the Minister for Education and Skills priorities in improving levels of literacy and numeracy with the need to offer our young people a broad and varied range of options. 4

5 What is capped points score and why have you used it in the model? Capped points score is an average of the total points awarded per pupil in GCSE and equivalent qualifications. All grades and all types of qualifications at GCSE and equivalent level count. It is capped in that the points for a total amount of learning equivalent to 8 GCSEs are counted - the best 8 only are used. This means that the comparison is fair between schools regardless of the average number of qualifications taken. 5

6 Why have you also included extra measures for English/Welsh First Language and Mathematics? Does this double count these subjects? In a way it double counts but the extra measures not only underline the importance of these core skills but encourage a focus on ensuring that, where appropriate, we are pushing our more able young people to get the higher grades they want to achieve. Does the data include re-sit information? No. Only qualifications awarded up to the 31 August are included. The data include any exam re-grades, rescinds and missing qualifications where evidence was provided from schools within the allotted time period or was provided automatically by the awarding organisations during the validation period of Key Stage 4 data. Why include attendance information? The need to improve attendance and behaviour is a national priority. If learners are not in school they cannot learn. Why is attendance weighted at half of the other indicators? Where attendance is high but results are low, the impact on banding can be slightly out of line with our priorities; we need learners to be in school but also need them to achieve when they are there. On the other hand, if achievement is high, but attendance relatively poor we do not want to penalise schools but also need them to focus attention on improving attendance. The weighting allows us to balance these views. Why are the scores in banding different from the Free School Meal (FSM) benchmark quarters? The two are measuring different things in different ways. The banding score is based on ranking performance of all schools in Wales and attributing a score based on whether the score is in the top 25%/50% or lower 50%/25%. FSM benchmarking is based on quartiles within groups of schools based on similar FSM levels. My banding score for English/Welsh First Language or Mathematics does not align with my Level 2 performance for these subjects. The measures for English/Welsh First Language and Mathematics are based on average points scores for these subjects set against free school meals levels. All Wales Core Data Sets analyses for these subjects look at the proportion of learners achieving a Level 1 or 2 threshold so it is quite possible that the two could give different views. Will there be any special dispensation for schools affected by the outbreak of measles earlier in the year? No. We are aware of the possible effect the measles outbreak earlier in the year may have had on attendance data for some affected schools. However this is also the case for other localised outbreaks therefore there will be no special dispensation for those schools affected. Validated data from the Welsh Government s Pupils Attendance Record will be used in the banding calculations. 6

7 What happens next on the basis of the banding? How will banding be used? Banding helps inform the deployment of local authority/consortia differentiated strategies for intervention and support. Each local authority/consortium will have different approaches there is no national requirement for specific action in relation to schools in different bands. Even within a band the overall performance of schools will vary and the specific areas of strength and weakness will differ. We expect local authorities and consortia to work with Band 4 and 5 schools to draw up an improvement action plan which they will submit to their regional consortia. In order to be approved these improvement plans will need to identify clearly the actions each school will undertake to raise standards in the Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh First Language and Mathematics and the expected outcomes from these actions. In particular schools must indicate how they will work to maximise the number of students gaining both English/Welsh first language and mathematics. Has banding led to any improvements? We have already welcomed the improvements shown in the examination results, particularly in the Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh First Language and Mathematics and capped points score. The results have shown that schools and local authorities have focussed on driving school improvements 61 out of the 79 Band 4 and 5 schools in 2011 saw improvements in the percentage of pupils achieving the Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh First Language between 2011 and The school s band in 2013 is different to its band in Is the school therefore better/worse compared to last year? As the secondary banding model is a relative model, it cannot be used to monitor change over time. This is because it is not known whether a change in band for a school is due to changes in performance in that school itself, or to other schools moving up or down the bands, changing its position without actual change in performance in the school. However, the detailed data published alongside the bands will allow users to compare the individual indicators that are used to calculate the bands against previous data. Why are the school bands volatile? Around three quarters of schools (168 schools) stayed in the same band or moved up/down by one band between 2011 and All the changes can be explained by changes in performance and schools which change by a few bands have marked changes in performance. The changes highlight the need for less fluctuation in schools performance from year to year. What happens to schools once they have been placed in a band? Performance and progress of all schools will be reviewed regularly during the academic year as part of the ongoing programme of stocktakes undertaken by the 7

8 Welsh Government s School Standards and Workforce Group, working closely with the regional consortia. As part of this process, the banding information will be reviewed and updated annually each autumn to reflect new data. Are schools ranked by performance within individual bands? Schools can see where they are in relation to the band boundaries but this is not a ranked league table. Within a band there will of course be variation in terms of both overall strengths and in relation to the different patterns of strength and weakness of schools. Can a school appeal if it considers itself to be in the wrong band? No. It is important to remember that the banding is designed to place schools into broad groups who may need similar levels of support in order to progress. Banding will be reviewed annually using the most recent data. Banding is one way of grouping and representing the data and we should not lose sight of its purpose: as a tool to help support and improve schools and learner outcomes. As a parent what should I do if my child s school is in a lower band than I expected? The Welsh Government encourages all parents to take an active interest in the performance and progress of the schools their children attend and to support the school on its improvement journey. The headteacher and chair of governors are the first points of contact for parents. Parents should look at the Annual Governors Report to parents, published by every school each autumn and on the My Local School website ( The annual meeting with Governors would be a good place to have a constructive conversation about the school s aspirations and improvement plans. Remember though that the banding is not about apportioning blame it is about identifying and prioritising issues and tackling them effectively. It is not what band a school is in that matters so much as what is in place and planned to improve the outcomes for learners; and that s true of schools in all bands. Will banding outcomes influence decisions to close individual schools? No. School banding will not have a direct impact on school reorganisation decisions. School reorganisation is the responsibility of local authorities. However banding data, released in December, will be one part of the broad range of contextual information they might choose to consider in deciding whether to bring forward proposals for closures. Will banding be used in performance management of headteachers? There will NOT be a direct relationship between the school s banding and the outcomes of performance management reviews. The banding information, alongside other evidence and self-evaluation findings will inform discussion about the priorities 8

9 for the school s improvement or development plan. Current performance management guidance makes clear that the objectives for the head teacher should be aligned to the priorities for their school s improvement. So, support offered to facilitate the improvements required to deliver the school improvement plan will also contribute to the head teacher s achievement of their own objectives and could form part of performance management discussions with the headteacher. 9

10 Will Welsh medium schools be compared with other Welsh medium schools? Banding looks at relative performance across all secondary schools in Wales. English and Welsh First Language contribute equally to the key measures. The Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh First Language and Mathematics takes into account the best grade obtained in English or Welsh First Language for each pupil. Where a pupil has not entered Welsh First Language, the best English grade is used. Where a pupil has taken both GCSEs the better of the two counts towards the calculation of the indicator. Overall performance is not an issue of language of delivery. My school s results are as good as can be expected given the socio economics of my intake. The Welsh Government acknowledges that socio economics will present different challenges for schools in different areas but, as the banding shows, there are schools that deliver extremely good outcomes regardless of the challenges they face. The banding model deliberately takes account of socio economic context in a number of the measures. There is always room for improvement and all schools should aspire to delivering better outcomes for all learners. Publication of banding information Why is the Welsh Government publishing the information on its website? Like all public bodies we are subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and so would be required to release the information on receipt of a request. Feedback from our partners indicates support for the release of banding data to be managed centrally, with supporting information to provide a clear understanding of how and why the national school banding system has been developed. There is also no reason not to be transparent about the outcome of banding it is not about naming and shaming. Rather, it is a tool to help us drive improvement for all pupils more effectively. Why are you only publishing banding information for secondary schools? Work focussed initially on the development of a secondary school banding model. Preliminary work on developing a model for primary schools identified difficulties in adapting the secondary model to primary schools. On this basis, the decision was made to postpone primary grading until Who will know what band a school is in? Schools will be informed of the banding outcome for their school. Local authorities will be informed of the banding outcome for each of the schools they maintain on Tuesday 10 December

11 On Thursday 12 December 2013 the final secondary school banding information will be available on the Welsh Government website and on the My Local School website ( Were schools informed about banding outcomes directly? All secondary schools receive a link to the information via an automated from the DEWi secure transfer system. Schools will also be notified of this via the Dysg enewsletter published week commencing 9 December. Should the banding information be shared? There is no reason why we should not be transparent about the outcome of banding. It is important that those involved in supporting schools on their improvement journey teachers, governors and parents in particular - understand which band their school is in, what it means in terms of support and challenge and for priorities for improvement. In addition to this Q&A a guide to banding has been produced and is available for schools to share with parents What is the relationship between school banding and school inspection (Estyn) reports? Estyn inspections are independent and cover a far broader range of considerations than the banding model takes into account. Estyn will consider the banding data alongside other information as part of their pre inspection work but banding will NOT directly inform any part of the inspection outcome. It is reasonable to expect that banding and inspection outcomes will generally show similar trends but they will not align as such. On what legal basis does the Welsh Government collect and publish school banding information? The appropriate powers are contained in the Education Act 1996 section 537A and the Education (Information about Individual Pupils) (Wales) Regulations 2007 made under that power. This allows the Welsh Government to require the governing body of every maintained school, special school and independent school to provide information relating to and identifying pupils, or former pupils whether obtained through these powers or otherwise. The Welsh Government already collects data on schools via PLASC and on pupil performance in end of Key Stage assessments and public examinations through these powers. School Standards and Workforce Group December

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