What’s wrong with banding – Part II

9 Sep

Following the post I did examining the problems with the criteria by which school bandings are established I thought I’d return to look at a further problem. In this post I’m looking at the impact of boiling the banding scores down into one single figure.

School bandings are established by collating a series of scores across numerous indicators. These include Level 2 threshold including English/Welsh and Mathematics; Attendance; English/Welsh and Mathematics etc. with relative performance to previous years and free school meals playing a significant role.
Schools are then given scores based on performances in these categories. Where a fundamental flaw in the process takes place, which is creating a lot of tension for teachers and confusion for parents, is the point at which all these results are boiled down to give just one final result to determine the banding of a school. This often gives a misleading perception of a schools performance. A parent may for instance think a school is struggling to deliver high standards in their English and Maths departments because they are in band 4 or 5. The reality of course could be that they have excellent results but not when FSM or previous years, and cohorts, are factored in. However, having that single score indicator, which will be the only detail the vast majority of parents will understandably look at, does not scratch the surface of the work that is actually going on behind the school gates.

What is most frustrating about the decision to opt for a final figure tally is that there already exists a format by which parents can access the information that makes up school banding. The Welsh Government produced My Local School website allows anyone to look up the data that makes up school banding, and more. Here, parents can have the transparency and accountability to know how any school is performing but without the added complication of deciphering what a cobbled together banding figure means. It really begs the question why come up with an open resource like the My Local School website only to undermine it with the flawed final banding scores.

No one who argues against banding is against accountability in schools. Indeed, I would say that this is something professionals expect and encourage. However we must ensure that the accountability is provided in terms that make sense to parents and that are a fair reflection of the hard work we see in classrooms. You have to ask if stamping a single score to cover all aspects of school performance achieves that ambition?

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