Sta­tis­tics come and go as pupils’ tests data chang­ing

Western Mail - - NEWS - AB­BIE WIGHTWICK Ed­u­ca­tion ed­i­tor news­[email protected]­line.co.uk

PER­FOR­MANCE data on schools in Wales is chang­ing. Some has been cut, or made harder to find to the ex­tent that some com­men­ta­tors say there is now a lack of trans­parency.

Par­ents and oth­ers look­ing for com­par­a­tive data and re­sults will find what was pub­lished in the past is now ei­ther harder to find or un­avail­able, but other in­for­ma­tion is avail­able or be­ing phased in.

Ar­gu­ment has raged about whether school league ta­bles of re­sults are help­ful or not.

Crit­ics say league ta­bles of re­sults don’t show how good a school re­ally is be­cause on their own they are a snap­shot not show­ing what point pupils started out from and not com­par­ing like with like.

There are also con­cerns that too many tests dis­tort teach­ing and put need­less pres­sure on young chil­dren.

On the other hand, aca­demic re­sults can be a use­ful guide to pro- gress or flag prob­lems. Many par­ents and schools will look at GCSE, A-level and other exam re­sults their chil­dren get and com­pare them with those around them.

Politi­cians in Wales have aban­doned and in­tro­duced sta­tis­tics on schools since de­vo­lu­tion. Here is some of the data that has come and gone:

■ Na­tional School Tests

The tests, taken by pupils aged seven to 14 in years two to nine, were in­tro­duced in 2013. They are now be­ing aban­doned and re­placed with on­line Per­sonal As­sess­ments in read­ing, pro­ce­dural nu­mer­acy and nu­mer­i­cal rea­son­ing (prob­lem solv­ing) to be sat at a time of schools’ choos­ing rather than a set date.

Pro­ce­dural nu­mer­acy will go on­line per­sonal this sum­mer, while the other two will trans­fer across by 2021. Yearly as­sess­ments of pupils will con­tinue.

Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Kirsty Wil­liams said: “By mov­ing on­line, we’re tak­ing ad­van­tage of the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to raise stan­dards in our schools. Teach­ers, learn­ers and par­ents will re­ceive more and bet­ter in­for­ma­tion than ever be­fore on their chil­dren’s skills and progress.” ■ Get­ting five GCSE grades A* to C

From Au­gust, schools will no longer be judged by Welsh Gov­ern­ment on how many pupils get five GCSE grades A* to C in­clud­ing maths and ei­ther Welsh or English lan­guage. In­stead, sec­ondary school per­for­mance will be mea­sured on a “capped nine points score”.

This looks at a pupil’s scores for their nine best sub­jects at GCSE, or GCSE equiv­a­lent vo­ca­tional qual­fi­ca­tions, which must also in­clude out­comes in literacy, nu­mer­acy and sci­ence.

The score for grades starts with 58 for an A* and goes down in in­cre-

ments of six as far as G grade, which has 16 points.

The Welsh Gov­ern­ment will pub­lish lim­ited data on this. From Oc­to­ber, it will pub­lish the av­er­age “capped nine points score” for ev­ery school in Wales.

The change will see bet­ter teach­ing and higher grades, ac­cord­ing to head teach­ers and unions.

Marc Belli, head teacher of one of Cardiff’s high­est-per­form­ing schools, Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High, was among those wel­com­ing the change when it was an­nounced last year.

He said: “I am par­tic­u­larly im­pressed that Welsh Gov­ern­ment and, the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary, has worked closely with pro­fes­sion­als to es­tab­lish a set of mea­sures which ap­pear to be fairer for all schools. This en­sures that the per­for­mance of ev­ery grade for each child mat­ters.” ■ Colour cat­e­gori­sa­tion

Ev­ery year schools in Wales are given a colour-coded rat­ing. This green, yel­low, amber and red cat­e­gori­sa­tion shows how much help a school needs to im­prove. But cat­e­gories have changed.

Last year the sys­tem al­tered so that rather than just per­for­mance mea­sures such as key GCSE re­sults, the sys­tem now looks at how schools are do­ing and the qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing.

Un­der the new sys­tem an im­prove­ment in school per­for­mance was re­ported in Fe­bru­ary 2018. The lat­est rank­ing is due to be pub­lished this month.

■ My Lo­cal School web­site

For­mer Wales ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary Leighton An­drews launched the web­site, which con­tained a va­ri­ety of sta­tis­tics, some of which have now been re­moved and dis­con­tin­ued.

Fol­low­ing a consultation last Jan­uary and a writ­ten state­ment by the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary in July re­gard­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of teacher as­sess­ments data for Foun­da­tion Phase, Key Stage 2 and 3, this will no longer be pub­lished at a school, lo­cal au­thor­ity or con­sor­tia level. This data has also now been re­moved from the web­site.

The Welsh Gov­ern­ment will still have data which has been re­moved, as well as break­downs of GCSE, ASand A-level grades, which mem­bers of the pub­lic can re­quest.

■ Tests for seven-year-olds Wales scrapped tests for sev­enyear-olds and school league ta­bles un­der Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Jane Davidson in 2001

■ Sats

Wales aban­doned Sats tests taken by pupils at age 11 and 14 in 2004.

While pupils in Eng­land con­tin­ued to take na­tional tests in English, maths and sci­ence at seven, 11 and 14, pupils in Wales sat a new skills test at 10, backed up by teacher as­sess­ments un­til Na­tional School Tests (which are now be­ing re­placed with on­line as­sess­ments) were in­tro­duced fol­low­ing poor in­ter­na­tional Pisa test re­sults. ■ Pisa tests

In 2006 Wales first took part as a na­tion in in­ter­na­tional Pisa tests run by the Paris-based Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment to com­pare per­for­mance of 15-year-olds in par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions.

Since then Wales has trailed other UK na­tions in Pisa tests. In the lat­est re­sults in 2016 Wales’ schools sys­tem ranked worst in the UK.

Re­sults from tests taken in 2015 and pub­lished in 2016 showed we were adrift of the global and UK av­er­age in read­ing, maths and sci­ence. Re­sults from tests taken by 15year-olds in Wales in au­tumn 2018 will be pub­lished at the end of this year.

In 2017 the Welsh Gov­ern­ment ditched its im­prove­ment tar­get in the Pisa test rank­ings. Ms Wil­liams ad­mit­ted that rather than pit it­self against bet­ter-per­form­ing na­tions with a spe­cific tar­get to be av­er­age, the aim now is for Wales to sim­ply im­prove its poor scores.

■ GCSEs

Wales, along with other UK na­tions, has re­formed GCSEs, which are now so dif­fer­ent from those across the bor­der in Eng­land, Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land that they can’t use­fully be com­pared, ac­cord­ing to some com­men­ta­tors. Oth­ers say re­sults for in­di­vid­ual sub­jects can be com­pared and are equal in value, de­spite the changes.

To add to this Wales still uses the let­ter grades A* to E, while Eng­land has in­tro­duced grades num­bered one to nine, with nine be­ing the high­est.

■ Estyn in­spec­tions

School in­spec­tions by ed­u­ca­tion watch­dog Estyn may be halted for a time while the new cur­ricu­lum is in­tro­duced. Ms Wil­liams is due to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on this.

A Welsh Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “My Lo­cal School con­tin­ues to make avail­able a wealth of data.

“It is com­pletely free and open to all par­ents and cit­i­zens.”

> There are con­cerns that too many tests put need­less pres­sure on young chil­dren

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