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Not so fair banding?

(10 Posts)
SE13Mummy Sun 19-Mar-17 22:59:05

I've not had cause to post about school admissions for a while but something has come up locally and I'm hoping those in the know on here may be able to offer some insight...

As suggested by my username, I'm in SE13, Lewisham LA. Due to our location within the borough, the majority of children at my DCs' primary transfer to a Greenwich secondary. Until last year, both boroughs used Y5 QCA tests to divide children into five bands and allocated secondary places so 20% of the intake would be from each of the five bands. The idea behind this was to ensure comprehensive schools received a comprehensive intake.

Lewisham's 2016 intake for Y7 was the first for which banding was not part of the admissions policy for community schools. This was, in part, due to the QCA no longer producing the Y5 tests. Greenwich has continued with banding but is asking primary schools to identify children as belonging to one of three bands. Instead of an even distribution of places being available, 40% of places is made available to children 'exceeding expectations', 40% to those working 'at expectations' and 20% to those working 'towards expectations'.

Given that 2016 national data for the end of KS2 assessments shows 53% of Y6 children met the expected standard, and only 5% exceeded the expected standard in assessed subjects, it feels unfair that Greenwich's new banding will give schools an intake where 80% will be at/exceeding the expected standard. Even more unfair is that only 20% of the LA's places are available to children in band 3 (approx. 40% of 2016's Y6 children). Nationally, the KS2 results had a fairly normal distribution so I'd expect any banding system to follow something more along the lines of a 25%-50%-25% distribution.

It doesn't affect my own DCs but because of my job, I'm aware of at least three band 3 children, all with identified dyslexia, who've missed out on places at Greenwich schools that they could reasonably have expected to get into over the past 5 or so years. My feeling is that the removal of a standardised test, coupled with an uneven/unrepresentative distribution of places across the bands unreasonably disadvantages children in band 3.

Have I completely lost the plot or does this seem odd to anyone else?

EduCated Sun 19-Mar-17 23:32:40

I don't know the legalities of it, but it sounds very off, and selection by another name.

I'm yet to be convinced that fair banding ever achieves what it claims to set out to do (i.e. actually comprehensive), but at least the local school here that uses it claims to allocate bands according to the national profile (albeit not the local profile).

SE13Mummy Mon 20-Mar-17 16:59:26

Bumping for the tea time readers...

tiggytape Mon 20-Mar-17 17:18:28

I have coped and pasted below the Admissions Code (legally binding) rules on this:

1.25 Pupil ability banding is a permitted form of selection used by so me admission authorities to ensure that the intake for a school includes a proportionate spread of children of different abilities
Banding can be use d to produce an intake that is representative of:
a) the full range of ability of applicants for the school(s) ;
b) the range of ability of children in the local area; or
c) the national ability range.

1.26 Admission authorities’ entry requirements for banding must be fair, clear and objective. Banding arrangements which favour high ability children that have been continuously use d since the 1997/98school year may continue, but must not be introduced by any other school.

The admission authority must publish the admission requirements and the process for such banding and decisions, including details of any tests that will be use d to band children according to ability.

1.28 Where the school is oversubscribed:
a) looke d after children and previously looked after children must be given top priority in each band, and then any oversubscription criteria applied within each band, and
b) priority must not be given within bands according to the applicant’s performance in the test.

1.29 Schools that operate admission arrangements which include both banding and selection of up to 10% of pupils with reference to aptitude shall set out clearly in their admission arrangements how those two methods of selection will be applied.

1.30 Children with statements of special educational needs or Education, Health and Care Plans may be included in banding tests and allocated places in the appropriate bands but, regardless of any banding arrangements, they must be allocated a place
if their statement or Education, Health and Care Plan names the school.

I can see at least two clear flaws:
1. There is no transparent process of determining ability. One school's "high ability" might be another schools "middle ability" If they are using assessments then they must say which ones. If it is merely class teacher opinion on each child then it cannot easily be seen to carry weight across all schools in an area. And what about children applying from out of area from schools who have no idea how to band them?

2. The spread has been set to ensure a larger number of higher ability pupils. How is this justified in terms of a fair spread? Does it represent the proportions in the range of the applicants or in the children of the local area? If it is done purely because the school would prefer more high ability and fewer lower ability children, then that is not allowed.

prh47bridge Mon 20-Mar-17 17:23:00

That looks like a covert form of selection. It seems very odd. The only justification I can see is if schools were allocating children between the bands on a 40/40/20 basis even though that is unlikely to be reflected in actual outcomes. I am also rather dubious about the use of teacher assessment rather than a test. That strikes me as not being objective. Overall I think this arrangement could well be in breach of paragraph 1.26 of the Admissions Code. Please refer this to the Schools Adjudicator.

SE13Mummy Mon 20-Mar-17 18:00:01

Thank you Tiggytape and prh47bridge . You've both confirmed what I felt to be the case. Having checked the LA's KS2 data for last year, 64% of children are recorded as meeting the expected standard so reserving 80% of places for the top two bands isn't reasonable (10% were assessed as exceeding the standard but Greenwich allocates 40% of places to this band).

I will look into how to refer this to the Schools Adjudicator.

SE13Mummy Mon 20-Mar-17 22:26:24

prh47bridge I've had a look at how to refer this to the Schools Adjudicator and it seems to be set up primarily to contest individual schools' admissions policies, rather than a borough-wide one. Would your advice be to refer each of the schools I know to be using the 40-40-20 distribution?

Also, am I right in thinking that a child who has missed out on a school place due to maladministration should be given a place without needing to go to appeal? I appreciate that the LA may force the appeal so as to distance itself from the ensuing chaos of having to recalculate Y7 places for an entire cohort, but wondered if the parents were to make contact before submitting appeal paperwork, if that might result in a place being offered immediately (ish).

prh47bridge Mon 20-Mar-17 23:53:42

Yes, the form does rather assume that you are only complaining about one school. Some of the schools involved are academies so you would have to complain about them individually anyway as an academy is its own admission authority. So yes, I think you should refer each of the schools individually.

In theory yes, a child who has missed out due to maladministration should be awarded a place without needing an appeal. However, I doubt that will happen here. The LA is likely to dig in and defend its admission arrangements. If the Schools Adjudicator agrees that these arrangements are in breach of the Admissions Code they will have to change the criteria for next year's admissions but fixing it for this year will be a huge problem. They can't take away places that have already been offered so some schools will probably end up with far more people who have missed out than they can handle so they won't be able to offer places to everyone. I'm afraid I think it will need an appeal panel to sort it out.

SE13Mummy Thu 23-Mar-17 01:05:10

First referral to the Schools Adjudicator has gone in. Another eight to go...

user1486398396 Mon 04-Sep-17 13:23:46

I, Simone Aspis work with the Alliance for Inclusive Education - I am looking into how "inclusive" the fair banding system is for disabled pupils. I was very interested in your posting - I am trying to understand how the system works and whether disabled pupils face any specific barriers can we have a chat please. I wonder whether parents of disabled pupils with profound LDs will just not apply for a m/s school place knowing that the child would be placed under undue stress.

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