System measuring school performance scrapped in Wales

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System measuring school performance scrapped in Wales
ClassroomImage source, bowdenimages/
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The Welsh government calls the replacement "robust self-evaluation" but the Conservatives say it's "change for the sake of it"

A colour-coding system for measuring how schools in Wales perform is being scrapped.

The National School Categorisation System rated schools green, yellow, amber and red depending on how much help they need.

The Welsh government said it would be replaced by "a robust self-evaluation system" but the Welsh Conservatives called it "change for the sake of it."

Some head teachers and parents have welcomed the move.

Introduced in 2015, the process has been judged for labelling schools and encouraging competition.

However, it has been paused during the pandemic.

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said with the change, parents would get "better and more up to date information" from a summary of each school's improvement priorities and development plan, published on their websites.

'Useful way of tracking progress'

He said the focus would be on how pupils are progressing "rather than on headline descriptions".

Tories have argued the colour-coding system was "a very useful way of tracking the progress of a school", though said it could be improved.

"The problem has been how it's communicated as to why your school moves from green to red and red to green." the party's education spokeswoman Laura Anne Jones added.

"I think that the way that is communicated needs to change, but I think the system itself has been very, very good."

She said it not only provided useful information for parents but also for politicians and local government to help support schools.

"We need to make the system work rather than just scrapping it and replacing it with something new."

Ellis says her focus is on the quality of care children are receiving
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Ellis says her focus is on the quality of care children are receiving

At Amaze Playz play centre in Cardiff, most parents are just beginning to think about where their young children will go to school.

Ellis, mother to an 11-month-old daughter, said word of mouth, the quality of care and after school clubs will be more important to her than academic standards.

'Are the teachers nice?'

"Because I'm only looking at primary schools, I think league tables for how the kids do isn't quite on my mind yet because it's more 'is she going to be looked after?' and 'is she going to enjoy it?' and 'are the teachers nice?'," she said.

Former teacher Sam, who has a three-and-a-half-year-old son starting nursery in September, said: "I personally don't take loads of notice of all those sort of things [school ratings].

"I guess from being on the inside, being a teacher and I know how they work.

"It's often due to area and intake and all these sort of things and it doesn't always show how good the actual school is."

Sam says the colour coding system does not always truly reflect how a school is performing
Image caption,
Sam says the colour coding system does not always truly reflect how a school is performing

The new system comes alongside changes to the way Estyn inspects schools - with a move away from giving gradings of excellent, good, adequate and unsatisfactory to an overview of areas for development and strengths.

There will also be more frequent inspections from September 2024, the Welsh government said.

Ending categorisation has been welcomed by the head teacher of Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy secondary school in Llanrwst, Conwy county.

"Obviously seeing a school that was in a red category compared with amber or even green was certainly looked at as a negative impact on that school," said Owain Gethin Davies.

He felt it could affect parents' choice of school and the data could be misinterpreted. Parents also wanted to know how their school was doing but there should be a lot more emphasis on how a school promotes young people's wellbeing, he added.

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