Primary school performance bands delayed until 2014

The introduction of performance bands for primary schools has been delayed until 2014 by the Welsh government.

The delay will allow time for the introduction of new reading and numeracy tests, says Education Minister Leighton Andrews.

But he denied that the announcement was a U-turn.

Primaries were first told to expect provisional bands at Easter, with final rankings by summer. Secondary schools were put into five bands in December.

'Robust data'

Banding is a key part of an attempt by the Welsh government to drive up standards in education. It has rejected claims by teaching unions that it amounts to naming and shaming schools.

Mr Andrews pointed to findings by the schools inspectorate Estyn, which has highlighted difficulties with the way children are assessed, so-called teacher assessment.

He said: "On the basis of all this evidence I do not feel we currently have sufficiently robust data to be used in the calculation of bands for primary schools.

"We need to wait until we have data which are based on more consistently standardised, and therefore, more robust data."

The tests will be in place on a statutory basis from next year.

"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," Mr Andrews said.

But he stressed there was no intention of ditching the banding policy - a Welsh Labour manifesto commitment.

Wales has relied on teacher assessments to measure the progress of primary school children since the abolition of Sats in 2004.

Secondary schools bands are based on GCSE exam performance, but also take into account other factors such as attendance and the number of children receiving free school meals.

'Wise and brave'

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said the announcement was a victory for common sense.

NUT Wales secretary David Evans said: "As a union we continue to be opposed to any form of primary banding, but if it is to be introduced at some point, the minister has at least now given stakeholders the opportunity to work together in addressing any problems."

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the ATL Cymru union, applauded a "wise and brave decision" to postpone bands.

"It shows that he has listened to the measured and reasonable case put forward by ATL and others, and shows once and for all that he is man who is open to reasoned and balanced argument. In this he is a complete contrast to Michael Gove, the English education minister."

NAHT director Anna Brychan praised the minister for listening to teachers.

Elaine Edwards, UCAC's general secretary, said: "We very much hope that the planned literacy and numeracy tests provide the national consistency of data that the minister seeks, and that they'll be a valuable tool without being over-bureaucratic."

Conservative Angela Burns welcomed Mr Andrews' decision, claiming his policy was "hastily cobbled together without sufficient engagement with teachers and parents".

Plaid Cymru education spokesman Simon Thomas said the government had been forced into an "embarrassing climbdown".

The Liberal Democrats said the move was a U-turn. "To go ahead with banding based on flawed assessments would have been detrimental to both schools and individual pupils," their education spokesman Aled Roberts said.

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