Friday, 27 May 2011

Those "crude" school league tables Leighton Andrews doesn't think you should have.

League tables comparing the academic results of secondary schools in Wales were abolished ten years ago in 2001 by Jane Davidson. Recently, in response to a number of FOI requests by BBC Wales, WAG has revealed the GCSE results of all Welsh schools in 2010 — however as Education Minister Leighton Andrews still believes that league tables are "crude" these results were banded into twenty "families" of 10 schools where pupils have similar levels of family income and special needs. Separately WAG has also released 'value added' scores for schools which show whether each pupil's GCSE results are better or worse than was predicted for them at the age of eleven — thus showing to what extent a secondary school has contributed to a pupil's progress either positively or negatively.

So, how did Ynys Môn's secondary schools perform? See below:

It appears that Menai Bridge's Ysgol David Hughes and Llangefni's Ysgol Gyfun deliver the best academic results on the Island, with pupils also passing crucial English/Welsh and Maths GCSEs – the key performance indicator for GCSEs. The results for the Amlwch and Holyhead schools are some way behind. Holyhead however has a very high Value Added score meaning that despite these poor results it is apparently delivering better results for its pupils than they were predicted to receive at age 11. With a value added score of -7 it appears that the opposite is true of Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones in Amlwch.

How do these results compare with the rest of Wales though? See below to see how each Ynys Môn school performed in terms of % pupils achieving a A*-C GCSE including English/Welsh and Maths against the average attainment in each Wales county:

% 5 A*-C GCSEs inc. English/Welsh and Maths
Ynys Môn schools (in black) compared to average results in each Welsh County
Click to enlarge

When put into context like this, it is clear that pupils in Menai Bridge and Llangefni are on average achieving some of the best results in Wales. However the performance of some of the other schools on Ynys Môn clearly demonstrate cause for considerable concern — even taking into account the fact that schools in poorer catchment areas tend to under-attain academically.

If interested, you can see the complete "crude" league table of the GCSE results of each of Wales's 222 schools used to generate the above chart here.

Of course these results are only a snapshot in time of just a single measure — performance in one set of exams. As these figures are not produced annually it is impossible to see if schools are on average improving or declining — as I noted at the beginning these figures were only obtained this time due to FOI requests from BBC Wales. However, thanks to the OECD's PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) programme which compares 10,000 15-year-old students worldwide in reading, maths and science, we are able to see how Welsh pupils compare internationally over time. Conducted every five years the 2009 results for Wales were the lowest in the United Kingdom and clearly shows that a considerable gap has opened up between the attainment of Welsh students and those from other regions in the UK, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland:

2009 Rankings in the PISA tests

As Education is one of the key functions of economic performance, the above poor PISA results show that we are just storing up further economic problems in the future for ourselves here in Wales. In order to compete as a small country on the periphery of Western Europe, educational levels are one of the most important tools in our armoury to attract new businesses here. Why would any company want to set up in a region which not only is further away from the major markets, has higher business rates than the rest of the UK, but also has lower average levels of educational attainment? Education is absolutely crucial to both Ynys Môn and Wales if we are to create and sustain better, well paying jobs in the future

My personal view is that our current education system needs to be radically overhauled in Wales — merely tinkering around the edges will not produce the vast improvements necessary to ensure future economic success. Our school system, throughout the UK, is one-size-fits-all and overly focussed on academic subjects and funnelling more and more students into a university education. The problem is that not all children are necessarily academically minded. In my view Wales would be far better served by introducing an education system more similar to that in Germany where pupils are streamed around ages 10-11 based on their aptitude into either academic-based schools (called Gymnasiums in Germany) which will prepare them for university, or into more vocational-based schools (Hauptschules and Realschules) which lead to full apprenticeships or further vocation training.

The German Education System

It is not by accident that Germany has the largest manufacturing base in Europe and is home to some of the largest and most successful engineering and manufacturing companies in the world. There is clearly a lot that we can learn from the German eduction system (amongst others) if we want to transform our future economy — but unfortunately that requires our Welsh Government to be bold...  But what is the point of devolution if we are merely going to continue doing the same as the rest of the UK?


The Red Flag said...

I have long been a fan iof the German system. It basically produces what German industry and the German economy need.

Personally, I am actually a strong believer in restoring grammar schools that concentrate on academia whilst the remainder concentrate on practical skills.

It is a shame that what happened with our 11+ system ended up being a class divide and children ended up in secondary moderns not because they were not academically gifted but because they lived in areas of low expectation with parents who were inward looking.

Perhaps an 11+ based not only on a one-off exam but testing over the prior 2 years would be an answer but whatever, we do not need 50% of our children as university graduates. The graduate-level jobs are not there and never will be. Whereas vocational schools could produce 16-17 year olds already part if not fully trained electricians, plumbers, etc etc

Anonymous said...

Then on the other side of the coin is this:-

Anonymous said...

I agree that 50% of people doing academic courses would be wrong. However, 50% going to Uni may, I say may be needed. Why? well Uni's have changed since 20yrs ago; the most popular course to do in 2010 was nursing. 20yrs ago, this would not be a Uni course. So we have to be careful about saying 50% figures or so.

As for the German system it would be ideal for Wales in my view. But maybe have the "Gymnasium" stage slightly later; with a full assessment= not like how the 11+ was (and is in N.I).

I agree that education needs a radical overhaul, particularly high school. I never understood why the WAG never introduces the international bac. But unfortunately NONE of our Parties are radical enough.

Groundhog said...

I rue the day when grammar schools were killed by the dumbing down option of comprehensive education. I was fortunate to be educated at YSTJ in Amlwch when it had two grammar streams. In those days it was not a requirement for teachers to be able to teach through the medium of Welsh as it is nowadays. We had teachers of the highest calibre holding degrees in their relative specialities not the all-embracing BEd that appears to be the only requirement these days. My science teachers all had science degrees, the English teachers likewise. On my return to Anglesey I could not believe how bad the schools had become. Like Red Flag, I still think there is a place for grammar schools. My children were fortunate to have been educated in Gloucestershire where grammar schools still exist and are in fact thriving and they have all achieved in life. Glos also has good comprehensive schools and there certainly is a place for these schools but the grammars attract the better teachers and this shows consistently in the tables regulalry published. I also lived in Berlin for 9 years and saw the German system at close hand with my many German friends' children. They even attended school every other Saturday, just imagine the reaction here if this were tried out! Seems to me that our socialist friends in the Senedd are more concerned that the primary school kids get their free breakfasts at the taxpayers' expense than in improving their education.

Anonymous said...

Glad your back Paul, I had this thought that you had gone to ground to lick your wounds after the election.

I just would like to add one important note, Paul, you are still a beacon here in Anglesey, please, don't think of giving up the blog that you have created.

Most of the fools wish you would go away and be forgotten, but, the real people who want more for the People of Anglesey need your continued political input, to keep those " elected" on their toes. Cheers Paul.

The Red Flag said...

I reckon KP wil be along in a bit. Wonder what he'll blame it on. ROFL

Les. Hayward said...

I am not at all surprised to read that the school at Llangefni came out well in this report.
I had occasion to attend there for a meeting one evening and was amazed at the excellent state the place was in. Neat and tidy and the toilets would put most hospitals to shame If the teaching is of the same standard, they deserve an award.

Anonymous said...

Extremely Naive Druid. Information about Welsh schools has been available to anyone interested for many years. I have the Core Data Sets for my child's secondary school which run to 62 pages for KS4 and a further 33 pages of contextual information. The data sets are infinitely more detailed than anything available to parents in England.

What the BBC did was show a one year snap shot. There are considerable problems with this, I'll point out just a few;

a. In Wales we collect GCSE figures for 15 year olds. Pupils held back a year (more common in deprived areas) never have their GCSE's recognised.
b. GCSE taken a year EARLY is credited when that child becomes 15.This results in stats, that vary markedly year to year,
c. Small schools (all but one on Anglesey) have erratic results because a small number of good or bad results have a disproportionate effect on percentages.
d. In Wales the difference in achievement between pupils on Free School Meals and Non FSM pupils is a huge 34% on CSI (Core Subject Indicator)The gap has grown in recent years.
e. Even so, a pupil on FSM in a school with only 6% on FSMs will do better than one in a school on 30% FSMs
f. Value added tries to take into account the relative deprivation of the school catchment; this fails in rural areas and examples like Caergybi where pupils receive free transport to Bodedern to follow Welsh Medium courses. Caergybi also exports significant numbers of more affluent pupils to Friars Bangor.
g. Value added scores vary from year to year for reasons stated above...this makes a nonsense of estimates of what is a "Good" school.
h. Value Added is only valid when the starting position and finishing position is equally objective and moderated. GCSE is extensively moderated and is objective, KS2, the baseline, is subjective and localised moderation is only now being brought in. Teachers and schools can "Big Themselves Up". The secondary school then attempts to add value...They never succeed to a great extent, which means either that they are failing or that the primary schools lied.

If You, Druid, had been more interested in Education before the election then you would know that llangefni, which you give a glowing report to, actually was low in the scores in 2008/2009;

45% A*-C Eng/Welsh, opposed to 56% 2009/2010.

As for your spurious table putting schools results against county results; I don't know where to start on that! Once more I will repeat....DEPRIVATION levels measured in FSM entitlement is key!

Ysgol David Hughes has 9% FSMs Caergybi 28%. Llangefni 14%.

Ysgol David Hughes and Llangefni are in Welsh medium famillies, Caergybi in an English medium family. Another statistical quirk makes it more difficult for EM schools to score as highly as WM schools on the measure that you choose.

That's the trouble with league tables; you need to know an awful lot to make an informed judgement on data.

Anonymous said...

anon 15;36. how do you explain this then:

Prometheuswrites said...

"Primary school heads have criticised new assessments of Wales' youngest pupils as "not fit for purpose".

Anonymous said...

Les Hayward.

You can't be serious! That view is not shared by most staff there.

On a side-note, but on the same subject (and maybe Druid will edit this out); some 5 years back there was a bit of a stink (pun not intended) regarding toilets.

WelshNewsNot said...

We've taken a look at the school league tables to, read our story at

Anonymous said...

Dear Druid: a comment on presentation rather than content: something on this page seems to be 1Mbyte or more?

For those not on high speed broadband (Anglesey notspots, or readers on mobiles?) it's unhelpful to have such huge pages.

Thanking you...