Tuesday 17 December 2013

School Bandings and Spin

First the good news - congratulations to both Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi in Llandysul and Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn in Newcastle Emlyn which have both jumped up the bandings tables from a 4 to a 2.

The bandings system is highly complex and can produce some strange results, but both schools have put in an enormous amount of effort to turn themselves round in the last couple of years, and so the improvement is not a statistical quirk. Slightly further afield congratulations also to Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron which has gone from Band 4 to Band 1.

You can see the bandings tables for yourselves here.

Overall, however, the results for Carmarthenshire are very disappointing. Not one of the county's secondary schools has made it to Band 1, and the results are especially poor for the schools which are or have been the focus of the council's flagship Modernising Education Programme. Queen Elizabeth High has at least gone from Band 5 to Band 4. Ysgol Gwendraeth is in Band 5; Ysgol Tre-gib in Llandeilo which is being merged with Ysgol Pantycelyn in Llandovery to create a controversial new super-school is in Band 4, while Ysgol Pantycelyn itself has slipped from Band 2 to Band 4, something which almost certainly reflects the unsettling effects of the impending closure of the school. Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, another beneficiary of the council's MEP, has slipped from Band 3 to Band 5.

This very lacklustre performance perhaps explains why the Carmarthen Journal and Llanelli Star chose (or more likely were instructed) to rehash and reheat some very old news about the council's Modernising Education Programme the week before last. "County's schools to get £120 million windfall", the headlines screamed, although you could have read the same story on the council's own website back in December 2011: "Carmarthenshire is celebrating today".

There is not much to celebrate now, however, and serious questions need to be asked about why our county's schools are in general performing so poorly compared with largely urban areas such as Neath Port Talbot, or largely rural ones such as Gwynedd. More to the point, why is it that the Modernising Education Programme seems to have such a negative effect on performance?

Not long before the latest bandings tables were published there was a great deal of soul searching about the relatively poor performance of Welsh children in the Pisa study, and the BBC dispatched a correspondent to Finland to try to find out why Finnish children were doing so much better. The conclusion was that there were many reasons, but a significant factor was that Finnish schools tend to be smaller.

Unfortunately for the children of Carmarthenshire, the main thrust of the council's policy is to shut down smaller schools and create large new campuses.

Here in Newcastle Emlyn we should perhaps be grateful that we are still light years away from deriving any benefit from the MEP.


There do not appear to be any reports in the Carmarthen Journal or Llanelli Star on this year's banding results, which you may think is an odd thing for local papers to overlook. The third Local World title, the South Wales Evening Post, does carry a very bare list of the bandings for Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea, but it is riddled with errors. Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn, for example, is shown as having dropped from Band 2 to Band 4.


Anonymous said...

I don't know what the front page of the journal will say this week. Possibly something about an amusing g granny or some pub landlord building a mountain about of beer cans or similar.

Meanwhile in the world of proper news the BBC are carrying the story about funding for the Scarlets.

Carms Council were clearly not able to pout this lid on this one !!

Anonymous said...

You bloggers are doing an outstanding job to inform the
Public about at the goings on in certain places.The media
Should be doing it,but they either do nothing or are miles
Behind the curve.
Thanks Very much.Diolch yn fawr.