It is certainly no secret that I have no time whatsoever for Leighton Andrews - the man's arrogance knows no bounds. He is always right in his eyes, and no matter how high the level of outcry against him he, like good old Maggie T, is not for turning.
His newly introduced banding system has met with criticism from all sides, even the teaching unions, who normally shy away from criticising Labour Ministers, have come out against him. My thoughts on the Secondary school bands when they initially appeared were published in the local press and certainly favourably received by our Headteacher and at least some of my fellow Governors (Labour Councillors were not as forthcoming with praise). The letter is repeated below.
Yesterday the BBC published the response to an FOI request which gave the 'scores on the doors' for all schools in Wales. It only served to reinforce my previous opinion, that the banding bears little relation to how schools actually perform at their real function - educating our children.
Pontypridd High School recently underwent an Estyn inspection and performed very well - it is given a Band 5 rating. Cynon Valley schools by and large do not perform as well as they should - that was much of the reasoning behind the Labour Party's plans to close all sixth forms in RCT.
Now he is to press ahead with his crazy system in Primary schools too. Again there has been widespread critcism, but boys and girls Leighton knows best. Even though, as the BBC reports, "many schools - around a third across Wales - will be exempt from banding on the grounds of their small size and other factors."
This surely makes a complete mockery of the whole system.
LETTER TO PRESS
The school banding system is a complete disgrace and will achieve nothing except the further demoralisation of our teaching staff in RCT and indeed across Wales.
It appears that there is only one person who thinks this is a good idea and that is Leighton Andrews. Even the unions who are usually reluctant to criticise any Labour plans have come out strongly against it.
These tables by and large tell you nothing about how well a school is performing with regard to its core function which is to educate children and ensure that each pupil performs to the best of his / her ability. They are weighted according to things such as the number of free school meals pupils and very heavily weighted according to attendance.
The explanatory guidance which accompanied the banding report is about as clear as mud, and I have been involved in education for some considerable time, and as a political employee at the Assembly am used to deciphering Government gobbledegook.
The bands bear no relation in many instances to what is already published information such as Estyn reports and GCSE / A level results. They take no account of the community aspects of many schools.
They do take account of attendance, and as Vice Chair of Governors at a Secondary School I find this very galling. We, like many other schools, have done all we can to increase attendance, including employing our own welfare officer. Short of picking every pupil up and dragging them to school each day there is little else that we can do. Yet we will be 'punished' for this by being placed in band 4.
Yes there are problems in schools, yes some are not achieving the best they could for their pupils, yes we can all always improve - but the time of the Education Minister would be better spent on looking at ways to support schools rather than this.