The Welsh Assembly Government has delayed plans to give primary schools a formal ranking until 2014.
Speaking to the Senedd, Education Minister Leighton Andrews, announced the delay, saying it would allow time for new literacy and numeracy plans to be introduced. The delay will be viewed by many opponents as a policy u-turn, as it was one of the party’s key manifesto committments in their efforts to drive up education standards.
The proposed scheme would have provisionally placed schools in one of five bands before Easter, with a final band due to be assigned during the summer term. Schools would have been assessed on a range of factors including exam performance, improvement and attendance, with the final ranking calculated across these categories.
Mr Andrews said: “We need to wait until we have data which are based on more consistently standardised, and therefore, more robust data. We are in the process of introducing new reading and numeracy tests. These will all be in place in all schools on a statutory basis from 2013.
“These tests will be subject to a more stringent level of quality assurance and standardisation and will therefore provide data which is more reliable for the calculation of bands. I shall therefore be delaying the introduction of bands for primary schools until September 2014, when we can use the data from the new tests."
The bandings are intended to give parents an external measure of how the school is performing in relation to others across the country. Since SATs were abolished in 2004, children have only been subject to internal assessment.
The decision to delay the plans has been welcomed by teaching unions, who have praised the government for listening to what they were being told. A spokesman for the NUT said while they supported the delay, they would still like to see the banding system scrapped completely at both primary and secondary level.
NUT Wales Secretary David Evans said:
“This is excellent news for teachers who have been contacting us with concerns relating to the introduction of a primary banding system. Clearly, there has been a great deal of difficulty in finding a system that would work for the primary sector and the Minister should be praised for taking the action that he has.
“We have criticised the Education Minister in the past on areas where we have found disagreement, but today’s announcement certainly deserves praise and shows that he has been willing to listen to the arguments, and take a decision that is in the best interests of children in Wales. He should be applauded for that.”