Statistics come and go as pupils’ tests data changing
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
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.
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