by Davika Sunand
The colour-coding system was brought into effect by the Welsh Government in 2014 with the aim of improving the performance of schools across Wales. On January 31, 2020, the latest colour-coded results for all the primary and secondary schools across the country were published.
The system categorises schools into four colours. The four different colour codes used to rank or classify schools are: Green which represents schools which are “highly effective” and have a track record of raising standards and have the capacity to support other schools to do better; Yellow which represents “effective schools” already doing well and knows the areas needed to improve; Amber which represents “schools in need of improvement which needs help to identify the steps to improve to make changes more quickly”; and finally, Red which signals “schools in need of greatest improvement and will receive immediate intensive support.”
The report showed that 609 primary schools, that is almost 49% of the schools in Wales, were classified as green whereas 20 primaries were classified as red. Moreover, the number of secondary schools classified as red was 24, that is more than 10% of secondaries, while 72 secondary schools were ranked green. The report stated that 70 secondaries were yellow and 39 secondaries were amber.
Overall this demonstrates an improvement of four percentage points in the performance of Welsh secondary schools compared to last year.
The councils of Ceredigion, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr, Monmouthshire, Swansea, Vale of Glamorgan, Wrexham had no red schools. Newport saw an increase in the number of green schools by 10%.
The latest colour classification classified 59 of Cardiff’s schools as the top green category, 30 are yellow and two are amber and seven are red.
In a written statement by the Minister for Education in the Welsh Assembly, Kirsty Williams expresses her concern over the proportion of red schools which continue to require the highest level of support, especially in the secondary sector. The schools are given one of the four colours to show the levels of support they need to improve. This is determined by a range of factors including exam results, attendance, leadership and assessment by the school improvement consortia. Schools in the red category will receive up to 25 days of support.
While the system has received mixed reviews, the Welsh Government claims that it is not a league table of the best schools. The head of the Association of School and College Leaders’ Cymru dismissed colour categorization and termed it as “simplistic and blunt.” David Evans, Wales Secretary for the National Education Union Cymru claimed that the categorisation scheme is flawed. He goes on to explain that the classification system which was actually intended for determining the level of support required for each school was misinterpreted to be a form of the ranking system followed by the inherently flawed colour-coding system.
Other forms of criticism it faced were from the teaching unions and school leaders’ representatives who claimed that the colour-coding does very less to improve the standard of the schools. Critics also claim that the students are overloaded with the pressure to perform better. Today’s traffic light classification as they call it has also resulted in the increase in Estyn inspections, local improvement consortia and, school tests and external exams; putting more pressure on school staff and pupils themselves.