What’s wrong with banding – Part III

3 Oct

I’ve posted in recent weeks two key problems with school banding. Firstly I examined the problem regarding the methodology by which school bandings are established. I then looked at the problems that arose from boiling the overall school banding indicators down into one final score. Today I am looking at the length of time between publishing the banding scores.

Aside from the obvious issues associated with the parental and media sensationalism associated with annual school bandings, and the impact that has on pupil enrolment and staff morale, there is also a significant issue with regards to how fair an annual assessment is to the perception of school performance.
Each year a school can have a very different set of pupils coming through its doors. Given the importance stressed on specific indicators such as GCSE passes in English, Welsh and Mathematics it would only take a few less or few more passes in either to make a significant difference. We saw with the way Ysgol Tryfan, formally the highest ranked school in the whole of Wales in the bandings of 2011, dropped to band 4 in 2012 just how volatile the system is.

If banding has taught us anything it’s that it is extremely difficult to make a fair judgement on the performance of any given school based on just one years’ data. There are so many variables that are easily distorted by just a small change in the nature and abilities of an individual cohort that an annual indicator is really no indicator at all.

What would be more meaningful is if the bandings were published on a longer cycle; every 3-5 years for example. This would at least provide a picture that was a reflection of a longer period of performance that could account for any particularly high or low performing cohorts. The bandings would then be more about the schools rather than about the one class of pupils travelling through them at any given time.

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