Barry schools top and bottom of class

Barry And District News: DEFENDED: Barry Comprehensive School, which has been given a banding position of 5 DEFENDED: Barry Comprehensive School, which has been given a banding position of 5

A BARRY head teacher has defended his school after a controversial banding system rated it among the worst in Wales – despite inspectors rating it good.

Barry Comprehensive head teacher Gerard McNamara said governors and staff were “very disappointed with the banding position” of 5.

But the Vale Council, which saw the Barry-based welsh medium Ysgol Bro Morgannwg achieve a top band 1, making it one of only 20 in Wales this year – said Barry Comprehensive’s GCSE results had been “disappointing” this year.

Mr McNamara said: “Nationally girls achieve higher that boys therefore we do feel it is unfair that we are judged against mixed comprehensive schools where girls pull the average score up. Last year the national inspectorate, Estyn, judged Barry Comprehensive to be a good school.”

All-girl secondary school Bryn Hafren and Roman Catholic school St Richard Gwyn were both awarded a band 3 score.

Vale Council cabinet member for children's services Cllr Chris Elmore said Ysgol Bro Morgannwg’s band 1 reflected a very strong set of GCSE results in 2013 which represented a significant improvement on the previous year.

He said: "At Barry Comprehensive GCSE results in 2013 were disappointing and below the levels achieved in previous years in both English and mathematics. It is the first time a school in the Vale of Glamorgan has been placed in band 5. The cuncil is aware that boys’ schools have to work particularly hard to hit the benchmarks calculated predominantly for mixed schools. The school is committed to achieving higher results this summer and is being supported by the Central South Consortium School Improvement Service and the council to do so. We have agreed GCSE targets for the year ahead which we expect the school to achieve."

Vale MP Alun Cairns called for a wholesale review of the school grading and banding system in Wales.

The Welsh Government published the new bandings of schools across Wales and Mr Cairns said that the swings from high to low bands and vice versa suggested the measures weren’t fair and a rethink was needed.

He said Ysgol Bro Morgannwg had, over the last two years, swung from being in the top band to the bottom and back to the top and this made little sense as logic would dictate that the school didn’t perform poorly all of a sudden and then bounce back.

He said: “Why on earth we don’t focus on results, I don’t know. According to GCSE and A-levels the schools do pretty well. Naturally, exam results are not the whole story but at least they are objective and can be compared easily. Parents then need to think about wider factors.

“There is obviously always room for improvement – even amongst the best performing schools. The current system means that whoever is in band 1 this year, will find it almost impossible to stay there.

“Parents need to look beyond the bandings and consider what is important to them. We are blessed in Barry and the Vale to have good schools, but obviously, we need to focus our attention where further improvement is needed.”

Vale AM Jane Hutt said: “It is good news that two schools in the Vale (Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and Stanwell School, Penarth) have reached grade 1 banding which all our schools will be seeking to achieve, and delivering the best possible outcomes for our young people."

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