Sharing Information about Local Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the My Local School website?

My Local School is a website that provides statistical information on school education in Wales. It provides an accessible, valuable information portal for parents and carers and those interested in school education statistics in Wales. The site will allow users to view a range of statistical information about a particular school including:

  • contextual information such as the type of school, school population, how many teachers.
  • performance information at foundation phase, key stage 2 and 3, GCSE and A level. Banding and underpinning data.
  • financial information such as expenditure per school
  • a link to the most recent Estyn report
It also allows parents to make comparisons with local authority and Wales averages.

Why was the My Local School site developed?

In response to the Minister for Education and Skills’ action to raise standards in schools, the Welsh Government developed My Local School to make education statistics more accessible to all.

‘The Structure of Education Services in Wales - Independent Task and Finish Group Report March 2011’ recommended that DfES ‘takes the lead in developing a single national IT data platform. This platform should hold information about the performance of schools, FE colleges, local authorities, regional consortia and other providers. The information should be accessible and understandable, and available to all with an interest, including parents. This would complement the reports published by Estyn following periodic inspection’.

The Welsh Government’s ‘Delivering a Better Wales’ report also outlines that we will make more public and government services digital so they are easier to access and become more efficient and convenient.

What are the benefits of the My Local School site to parents and carers?

We know that parents are eager for information about school performance. In the age of Freedom of Information data of this kind is becoming more and more available. The site gives parents and our partners a clearer picture of how schools in Wales are performing.

Improving openness and transparency of school statistics will also allow parents to have a better discussion in terms of driving up standards in schools. We want to encourage parents to engage in the school improvement debate and are providing them with the information to do so.

Has the information on the site always been in the public domain?

Yes, the statistics available on the site have always been in the public domain. The Welsh Government has a responsibility to make this information more accessible, easy to understand and user friendly.

Have parents been consulted on the development of ‘My Local School’?

Yes, the site has been tested with parents through focus groups asking them for feedback on the usability and terminology used on the site. Lessons learnt from the focus groups have been used in the development of the site.

Why is some data missing for my school?

Missing data may be the result of different reasons. For example if a school has recently opened or merged there may be no data or missing data for some years.

A more likely reason for data being missing from My Local School is the application of disclosure requirements. The increased accessibility of data in recent years has translated into higher risk of identifying individuals from published statistics. Therefore, it is essential that the disclosure control measures used to protect the confidentiality of individuals contributing to official statistics are adequate and robust. In general if a cohort has less than 5 pupils it is unlikely that the data can be published.

Where is my independent school?

No information is provided on independent schools. We will review what information can be made available in the future.

Where can I get more detailed data?

My Local School provides very detailed information. It is likely that more detailed data would not be available in many cases due to the need meet data protection requirements. We are considering what data might be added in the future. Further information at a school level is also available through StatsWales: www.statswales.wales.gov.uk or on request to school.stats@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Why use Free School Meals (FSM)?

There are a number of ways to identify social deprivation, but the most widely accepted is by using free school meals (FSM) data. Broadly speaking when the levels of pupils with free school meals rise, the levels of performance fall, although this is not a definitive relationship and some schools consistently outperform others with similar or lower levels of FSM.

What is benchmarking?

National data consistently shows a link between the percentage of pupils eligible for FSM within schools and performance outcomes. In general, attainment falls with increasing FSM eligibility. It would be unfair to compare schools that have very low FSM figures with those with very high figures. To overcome this, schools have been placed in 5 benchmarking groups based on the percentage of pupils eligible for FSM. Schools are compared within their FSM group and placed into quarters depending on their performance.

What is the National School Categorisation System?

The National School Categorisation System aims to provide a clear structure to review how well a school is performing for all its pupils, taking into consideration how effectively it is led and managed, the quality of teaching and learning, and the level of support and challenge it needs to do even better.

Each primary and secondary school is placed into one of four colour-coded support categories which trigger a tailored support package.

The system helps identify the schools that need the most help, support and guidance to improve. It also identifies those that are doing well but could be doing better and those that are highly effective and can help and support others to do better.

Detailed guidance and a parents guide is available on the Welsh Government website.

Why are there no Welsh comparisons of school budgets?

The Department for Education and Skills does not fund schools directly. Local authorities are allocated money for schools via a block grant which includes provision for schools and other services that are provided by local authorities (such as social services and roads etc.) Information has been provided on My Local School on a budget per pupil basis. This reflects the money delegated from local authorities to individuals schools. Additional central provision is provided by local authorities (often for functions such as provision of school transport etc.), but this is not included in the budget per pupil data. Since the level of central provision differs across local authorities it would be misleading to compare the delegated school budget per pupil in one authority with a Wales average.

What are Families of schools?

Families of schools are groups of schools facing a broadly equivalent level of challenge who can work together for school improvement. Families have been created by initially grouping schools based on size (for primary schools) and linguistic delivery and then within each high level grouping, schools are ordered according to the values of an index of ‘challenge’. The index is calculated on the basis of the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals, levels of deprivation, pupils with Special Education Needs and pupils acquiring English as an Additional Language.

Why don't we compare with other countries?

There has been an increasing divergence of the education systems since devolution and comparisons are becoming more difficult even at a Welsh level. These differences can be divergent curriculums (Wales has Foundation Phase whilst England has Key Stage 1), different ways of including qualifications in the measures and different ways of assessing pupils (England uses standard assessment tests and Wales has used teacher assessments). Furthermore, comparison of school budgets in Wales and England have not been possible in recent years (see here)

The Welsh Government also only holds information for Welsh schools. There are other data sites aimed at parents for other parts of the UK that provide similar data to My Local School. There are international comparisons available at a country level via the PISA results that are published by OECD.

Why can't I compare schools?

It is possible to look individually at all primary and secondary schools in Wales however My Local School was designed as a guide to understand more about the performance of an individual school set against contextual factors rather than ranking schools against a performance league table for schools.

Is the information reliable?

We believe that the data is accurate because it has been built up in most cases from data that has been collected in the first instance at an individual pupil level. Most of the data comes directly from schools and has been checked for accuracy. The majority of data falls under the banner of National Statistics. Certain data sets such as Key Stage 4 examination results are very complex data sets which are built up from the results of many awarding bodies and include a range of different qualifications such as GCSEs and vocational qualifications. This data has additional checks by schools to ensure it is correct before it is published. Other data sets such as how many pupils or teachers are in the school comes from an annual census of schools. There are other sources of data. The finance data for example comes from local authority returns.

Why is there no performance data for Nursery and Special Schools?

Currently no assessment data is collected for Nursery Schools. Assessment data for Special Schools, using the National Curriculum levels does not necessarily provide a useful picture of the impact that these schools have on the progress of many of their learners, especially for those with severe or complex needs. Contextual data is still available for both Nursery and Special Schools.

Why is Welsh (First language) key stage 4 data not shown for my school?

Where the data is available it is shown. In some English medium schools, this subject may still be taken, however, cohorts less than 5 are suppressed and so in such instances the data is not shown.

What effect do small cohorts have on the data?

Small numbers in a cohort mean that each pupil carries a high percentage weighting. Individual pupils within these cohorts are likely to vary in gender, age and ability. In addition, there may be no boys, girls or even pupils for some cohorts. The combination of these factors can distort cohort outcomes and school trends. Consequently, it may not be possible to draw conclusions from analysis based on very small groups of pupils.