Banding Abandoned

26 Sep

Anyone who has read this blog will know that I have never been a big fan of school banding.  It has caused a great deal of problems for schools; has added little in terms of genuine accountability and has put huge barriers between parents and schools while simultaneously reducing the collaboration that goes on in our sector.  When I wrote my ‘6 hopes for Welsh education’ at the start of the year reforming banding was at number one.

It was not only me of course that had a real hang up with this system.  It had lost all credibility with the public and was an embarrassment to the Welsh Government.  It has been hard to find anyone that truly believes that it was a system that was working.  In their report on Welsh education the OECD were very critical arguing that banding needed an overhaul to make it more transparent; more coherent and with more mutually agreed criteria.

Given the above I’m sure no one will be surprised that I am very pleased the Welsh Government have taken the decision to finally do away with this policy.  At one point it did appear as if we were going to see the new ‘categorisation’ model brought in alongside banding.  Yet another performance indicator creating an even more confusing picture for parents while the discredited banding model limped on.  I’m very thankful that this is not the case.

We will of course have to hold our judgement on banding’s successor.  After seeing just how badly devised and implemented school banding was it is understandable that the education sector will have a fair amount of scepticism that the Welsh Government have got it right this time around.  It will be important that teachers on the ground have the confidence that if there are negative impacts as a result of categorisation, or unintended consequences, they can raise this with the Government and it will be looked at.  Equally, if there are any flaws in how the system comes together or is working the Welsh Government, in a way that they were not for banding, are open to working with the profession to resolve them.

On the face of it, while I am not convinced that any ranking system is really a positive thing, categorisation has at least looked at resolving one of the main issues with banding.  Under the banding system schools could only show improvement and move up the bands if another were to fall down.  It placed schools in direct competition with one another which ultimately has hindered the collaboration agenda.  By creating a new system in which all schools may be in the highest green zone or the lowest red zone it at least leads to a situation where school performance, as it is perceived by this model at least, is not dependent on illogical comparisons elsewhere.  This has the potential to start repairing the damage banding did to school-to-school support.  No doubt I will revisit categorisation as the system is presented in depth in future.

Of course what we really need, the holy grail of performance evaluation if you will, is a system that charts the progress at individual level, where recognition is given to how far a child develops their personal potential.  This would be a system that reflects not just where a child has ended up but the distance they have gone from where they started.  We live in hope on that one.



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