CARDIFF schools have improved according to new Welsh Government ratings, but Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams says meaningful comparisons are difficult because of changes in how schools are assessed.
“I’m pleased to see more schools are in the green and yellow categories, which continues the upward trend we have seen over the past few years,” said Ms Williams.
“These schools have a key role to play in supporting other schools to improve by sharing their expertise, skills and good practice.
“Last September, I announced that to further raise schools standards we would make changes to the school categorisation system following advice from the OECD.”
But questions remain as to whether the 9% increase in green and yellow graded schools reflects a true increase in the quality of education in the capital.
Martin Hulland, headteacher of Cardiff West Community High School, said its red rating was an anomaly.
He argues that as Cardiff West is a new school its rating is largely based on performances predating its creation.
“With the support of the local authority and the Central South Consortium, we are seeing a lot of improvement at the school. For example, In just 80 working days, we have seen exclusions halved and our attendance has increased by 2 per cent. First choice admissions are up by 25 percent compared to applications for a place at the federation last year,” said Mr Hulland.
“Given the progress made so far, I am confident that we will continue to see standards improving all the time, and for this to be reflected in future assessments of our school.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Llyr Gruffydd, said: “A common framework should be applied across the board to help parents, teachers and policy-makers better understand what is really taking place in our schools.”
In 2018, 58 of Cardiff’s 114 primary and secondary schools achieved the top grade of green, with the Welsh Government deeming them highly effective.
Nine schools were graded as amber with a further three receiving the lowest grade red, meaning the government believes these schools need improvement.
Primary schools saw a 5% increase in green and yellow ratings but two schools are still graded as red in the city.
Secondary schools saw a 32 per cent increase in green and yellow ratings alongside a 32 per cent decrease in amber and yellow ratings.
This was despite a reduction of green graded schools in the city.
How does the system work
Schools are ranked using a three-step system which takes into account the quality of leadership, teaching, learning and data.
A key point is whether the school achieved the minimum standard of 32 per cent of A* to C or better in GCSEs or vocational qualifications.
Other factors such as exam and assessment results, and the number of free school meals the school distributes are also taken into account.
What’s changed this year
From this year the government assesses a range of issues within schools such as the quality of teaching and learning as well as wider issues such as wellbeing.
Ms Williams said: “As well as taking into account a much broader range of factors about a school’s ability to improve, categorisation now places more of an emphasis on discussions about how the school could improve – leading to a tailored programme of support, challenge and intervention.”
“I’m confident that the changes we have made to the categorisation process are in the best interests of pupils and will help ensure schools are given the right support at the right time.”