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If your preferred school uses fair banding ...

(17 Posts)
PanelChair Tue 24-May-16 17:48:29

Please ensure that your child actually sits the test.

This may sound obvious, but I'm just back from another day of chairing admissions appeals. In several of them, the point at issue was that the child did not sit the fair banding test and was therefore placed in the "after all the others" band used for the children without a test score. Places are allocated first to the children in the main bands and, when any other places come up, those places too are filled from the waiting list for the relevant band. Children in the "after all the others" band are therefore right at the bottom of the waiting list.

There is very little that an appeal panel can do here. Panels look for (amongst other things) maladministration, but failing to attend the test isn't maladministration on the part of the admissions authority. Schools (and appeal panels) can't just 'slot in' children who haven't taken the test.

So, for anyone already thinking about 2017 admissions, do check whether your preferred school(s) uses a fair banding test and make sure you return the supplementary information form that triggers the invitation to the test.

catslife Tue 24-May-16 19:11:04

Panelchair I think your advice is good, but am aware of a school in my LEA that has a fair banding system system where the tests are taken before the 31st October (which is the LEA deadline for secondary school admissions). Parents have to send a supplementary application form to the school at an earlier date than applications for other schools.
In this case I think this could be unfair to families moving to the area e.g. buying a house and moving in before 31st October only to find they have missed the deadline and the tests for this school.

kitkat1968 Tue 24-May-16 20:10:39

what is fair banding?

PanelChair Tue 24-May-16 21:48:50

Fair banding is a system whereby the children sit a test and on the basis of that are placed in (usually) five ability bands. The school then takes roughly equal numbers from each band.

You're right, catslife, that the deadline for submitting the SIF may be before the general deadline for applications. I think that reinforces my point. If (as many do) parents have a clear idea of which secondary school they'd prefer their child to attend, they need to check out its admissions criteria - is there a fair banding test? do you need to submit a SIF? etc - and then comply with all relevant deadlines.

There will always, I suspect, be some issues where families move into an area after the test date (or too late to register for the test). Frankly, I can't easily see what the answer is. Our LEA does run the test a second time, but there comes a point where they need to place the children in their bands and start allocating places within those bands, so it's difficult to see how they could offer still more test dates and slot more children into the bands late in the process. Anyway, for appeal panels the immediate problem is that, if there is no maladministration and the admissions arrangements have been followed correctly, there's very little they can do. Having failed to do the banding test is unlikely to be the basis of a winning appeal unless there are other features there.

kitkat1968 Wed 25-May-16 07:55:31

Thanks for the explanation.I cannot think of a more expensive and pointless way of determining admissions.
My own lead is,an 11+ area and they are always banging on about the cost of administering the test, but at least there is a point to it. How on earth is it beneficial for a school to have the widest spread of a ability possible? And why not just have a lottery ?

Traalaa Wed 25-May-16 08:41:59

kitkat, if all schools in a LA have to take all abilities/ adhere to the banding system, then no school can cream off just the top ability. Also there's less chance of similar at the other end, so a sink school where all the kids with lower ability get pushed. It levels the playing field and is fairer. We're in a banding area and the schools are all set up for it, so set for differing ability groups and work disparity that way. It works really well. We have some of the best state schools in terms of results/ value added, in the country.

BeckyWithTheMediocreHair Wed 25-May-16 21:21:06

How on earth is it beneficial for a school to have the widest spread of a ability possible?


This is the fundamental nature of comprehensive education.

Noodledoodledoo Wed 25-May-16 21:59:11

Will stop what lots of comprehensives do on selling themselves (or do around us where the majority are now academies) and make out that one school is far superior in providing for SN's. This has happened in a minor way to my school.

The outcome - our results will look poorer when compared to similar schools in the area - makes selling us to More Able students a bigger challenge.

If there was an even split comparisons would be fairer.

errorofjudgement Wed 25-May-16 22:43:22

I thought there was still an issue that schools who operate Banding find that it's only committed parents who apply and get their DC to the test, so although you stand a fair chance of getting a place, it's filled with the DC if the "sharp elbowed" middle class.
Also, isn't the banding based on the results from the test, so if very few lower ability DC take the test then even the bottom 20% will be relatively high compared to the general population?

prh47bridge Thu 26-May-16 00:47:41

isn't the banding based on the results from the test

It depends. Some schools just split children equally between the bands. Some determine the band boundaries based on the general population, so if there are very few lower ability children there will be very few children in the bottom band.

sashh Thu 26-May-16 05:31:22

My own lead is,an 11+ area and they are always banging on about the cost of administering the test, but at least there is a point to it. How on earth is it beneficial for a school to have the widest spread of a ability possible? And why not just have a lottery ?

I think Thomas Telford were the first to do this, certainly one of the first.

Their GCSE results are 100% for 5 A*-C, in fact they are 100% for 12 A* - C grades. What are the pass rates at your local grammar?

BeckyWithTheMediocreHair Thu 26-May-16 08:52:06

Certainly when I worked in Lewisham schools which operated fair banding, we simply went further to fill the bands. So in an affluent area, we would fill bands A and B within a few hundred metres, but we might have to go to 1 mile+ to fill the lower bands.

Traalaa Thu 26-May-16 15:27:01

errorof, where we live all year 6 kids do the tests in their primary schools on the same day and kids out of borough who want to apply have to take the tests too. You can't apply unless you have.

Coffeeismycupoftea Thu 26-May-16 20:08:38

It has to be borough wide, though, don't you think Traalaa? Otherwise it can be a way of cherry-picking pupils. In my area, the vast majority of schools don't do it. But two within a couple of miles do: a very sought-after girls school but bases the bands on the cohort that takes the test. Who tend to be far higher ability than average (people move next door to the school, rent, musical aptitude places etc). This way they ended up with higher ability than they would have done as is borne out by their stats (50% high ability or something).

A less sought-after, very high FSM boys' school does fair banding based on national averages. This way they got more higher above average ability children than they would have got otherwise (area of high deprivation, transient etc). The top quarter band catchment historically was miles further than the lowest.

So both schools get to pick the method which gets them the highest ability students that they are able to get. The boys' school is outstanding and is becoming increasingly appealing to posher kids - it wouldn't surprise me if they then decided to change to the other method.

Blu Thu 26-May-16 21:42:30

In our area the primary schools are very pro active in ensuring that all kids get there to take the test.

I suspect The effect of Fair Banding, and whether it is worth it, depends where you live. It does ensure a genuinely comprehensive intake: an equal spread of children across a full range of abilities. With resources, curriculum and expertise to match. It means that parents of high achieving kids know there will be a cohort of similar in the top sets, and that kids who need a slower learning pace and more support are also representative and supported and not a minority interest. In densely populated areas it stops the polarization of schools. Based on my observations where I live.

If you want to take a more cynical view, it is, like music scholarships etc, a way to get middle class parents to consider a school that needs a hoik up the league tables.

Sitting a Fair Banding test in an area where your nearest school does it is not like sitting an 11+ in a non 11+ area. All the kids go, the parents talk about it, the primary schools make an effort with chaotic parents, and in London where catchments are tiny, everyone just walks down the road.

Traalaa Fri 27-May-16 15:06:25

Coffee, yes that's what I meant, so it only really works if it's borough wide, which it is where I live. Blu's right as it's not like 11+ at all. You can't revise for the tests and nobody seems to stress about them. Nobody finds out what band their child is until admissions day and most parents don't even notice or care as by then their kid has a place allocated in a school. In my experience it's about as fair as these things can be.

nickEcave Fri 27-May-16 15:52:01

The problem in London is that kids end up having to sit loads of these tests. We live on the boundary of 4 boroughs and will be applying to schools in all these boroughs. My child is in a Wandsworth school, so will take the Wandsworth test in her primary school but will have to go and take 3 other tests at different schools. As we are not particularly close to any school we can't be sure which one (if any) she will actually be allocated.

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