National categorisation guidance needs an overhaul

Annual National School Categorisations in Wales

By Elizabeth Williams, Senior Professional Officer (Wales)

I recently represented the education unions in Wales at a meeting to ensure the consistency of the categorisation of Welsh schools across the four regions.  The attendees held senior roles in each of the consortia regions in Wales – CSC (South Central), EAS (South East), GwE (North) and ERW (Mid and West) – in addition to attendees from the Welsh Government.

A lot of the detail of the meeting concerned comparisons of individual categorisation decisions but, through those discussions, it became clear to me that the national categorisation guidance is in serious need of an overhaul. 

  • The current guidance has no reference to the professional development of staff: surely an essential component of a well-run school. 
  • The whole ethos of categorisation – essentially a top-down judgement from the regional consortia – flies in the face of focusing on schools’ own accountability and self-evaluation, which will be the whole emphasis of Estyn’s new inspection regime. 
  • The aim of categorisation is good: to provide additional support to schools that need this support.  However, categorisation is often not couched in terms of support; rather, it is seen as a criticism of schools’ performance so that schools fight hard to achieve a green or yellow category even if they do need support. 
  • Categorisation cannot help but duplicate Estyn's findings, thus increasing pressure on senior leaders and the education workforce in schools.

Your views

Do let me know your thoughts, or comment below, on how your school’s given category affects staff morale and wellbeing.

30 January 2020

Updates, 31 January 2020:

Welsh Government:

National school categorisation system: support categories: 31 January 2020 Guidance Education and skills

National school categorisation system: guidance for parents and carers: 31 January 2020 Guidance Education and skills

Written Statement: Publication of National School Categorisation System Outcomes

BBC News:

"Education: More schools 'green' in Wales performance ratings"


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