Caerphilly panel wants ‘wretched’ school banding scrapped

1:37pm Saturday 8th March 2014

SCHOOL banding is “wretched” and must be scrapped, according to Caerphilly councillors who launched a scathing attack on the system this week.

Members of the education scrutiny panel voted nine to one on Thursday night in favour of writing to the education minister Huw Lewis to say how unhappy they were that he had stuck with “a policy he inherited”.

The debate followed an update from the Education Achievement Service (EAS) which is tasked with driving up standards in Gwent’s schools.

Caerphilly is one of two Gwent authorities, along with Newport, whose education department is not in special measures, and the county has the smallest percentage of schools in the two most serious EAS categories in South East Wales.

But like the rest of Gwent, the authority has no schools in the top-rated band as dictated by the Welsh Government.

Cllr Gary Johnston, member for Newbridge, said of Caerphilly school banding scores: “Banding is misleading but parents look at this and this is what newspapers run. This is not good for parents to see. Newspapers only pick up on banding because the other stuff doesn’t sell papers or scaremonger.”

Cllr Derek Havard, member for Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen, said: “Trying to explain to parents what is a good and bad school is really irritating me. Get rid of this wretched system, it’s absolutely damaging for people like us trying to explain [it]. We need a simpler way of saying how well a school is doing. This is damaging for some schools. The sooner [they] get rid of it the better.”

Committee chairman Cllr Wynne David, member for St Cattwg, described the way schools bounce between bands as “very volatile” from year to year.

A Welsh Government spokesman said banding is here to stay. He said: “It has worked well, with significantly improved GCSE performance by schools in bands 4 and 5 and an overall increase in attendance,” he said. “It is at the heart of our school improvement agenda.

“We believe that through the banding process we have introduced a constructive evaluation process which leads to targeted support to improve performance in our schools.”

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