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Jeremy Miles - Minister for Education and Welsh Language - May 2021 portrait

New framework for school improvement to focus on learner progression

Fframwaith newydd ar gyfer gwella ysgolion i ganolbwyntio ar gynnydd dysgwyr

The Welsh Government has published a new school improvement framework, ensuring that learner progression and wellbeing is at the heart of all efforts to deliver high standards and aspirations.

This means that National Categorisation will finish and be replaced by a robust self-evaluation system where good practice can be shared and failure is urgently addressed.

Parents will now be able to access more up-to-date, detailed and informative information. By moving away from categorisation, a summary of each school’s improvement priorities and development plan will be made public and published.

Reviews have shown that pupil assessment and school accountability have too often been blurred, leading to unintended consequences in the classroom.

Assessment should be used in the best interest of pupils, enabling teachers to adjust teaching strategies to support their progress. While accountability, led by Estyn, drives improvement through better transparency and enabling judgement on performance. The framework published today distinctly separates the two.

There will also be more regular Estyn inspections.  From September, Estyn will inspect schools under their new framework with plans to increase the number of inspections from September 2024. 

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:

“By putting learner progression at the heart of our reforms, we will be supporting every learner to reach their full potential.

“Assessment and accountability are both critical to raising standards – but they each have a very different role to play – assessment is about understanding an individual pupil’s needs and accountability is about how the school’s overall performance is evaluated. But, the difference between the two has become blurred, which can have a detrimental effect on teaching and learning.

“By bringing national categorisation to an end we are doing two things. First, replacing it with a framework which sets out clear expectations so that every pupil is supported properly.

“And second, providing better, and more up to date information on each school’s improvement plans, so that the focus is on learner progression rather than on headline descriptions.   I’m confident that this framework will encourage more collaboration between schools, which will deliver high standards and aspirations for all our learners and support their wellbeing.”

Owen Evans, Chief Inspector at Estyn said: 

“We welcome the Welsh Government’s guidance on school improvement for providers across Wales and are fully aligned with this approach.

“Learner progression and wellbeing is at the heart of our work at Estyn and the move away from schools being evaluated with a disproportionate emphasis on a small number of performance measures is reflected in our new approach to inspection for schools and pupil referral units.

“We will continue to inspect schools and make judgements based on a wide range of evidence and information, covering the breadth of school activity. We are here to provide accountability across education providers in Wales and will continue to work rigorously to ensure all learners get the education and training they deserve – monitoring schools through follow up if standards aren’t high enough.

“We have made a number of changes to our inspection approach in schools and pupil referral units, including the presentation of inspection reports which will see the removal of summative gradings and the addition of a key overview of findings focussed on a school’s strengths and areas for development. We are confident that this approach will offer meaningful insights which will help providers to improve without shining the spotlight on a judgement.”

Notes to editors

Schools Improvement Guidance will be available soon - please contact us for an embargoed copy of the full guidance.

The national resource: evaluation and improvement - Hwb (

Robust self-evaluation

National Categorisation will be replaced with a robust self-evaluation system with schools identifying strengths as well as areas for improvement.

Schools’ self-evaluation will be the starting point for all evaluation and improvement work, with their self-evaluation supported by both the ‘National Resource: evaluation and improvement’ and their improvement partners. Schools are also encouraged to incorporate peer review into their self-evaluation to further develop a culture of partnership.  Regional consortia and local authorities will work with all schools to agree the level of support that schools need, and will confirm to schools’ governing bodies the support they will provide or broker.

International experts the OECD have identified a prominent role for self-evaluation as a feature of high-performing school systems. They have also previously described how replacing National Categorisation with a robust self-evaluation system will provide “a much more detailed overview of the actual strengths and areas for improvement of a school, compared to the colour coding [system]”.

Schools will be supported to complete self-evaluations by improvement advisers, with a suite of information and support available through the National Resource on Hwb. Schools will continue to receive flexible and tailored support which responds to their development plan.

Improved data and information

In line with the new curriculum and the ambition for all learners to achieve their aspirations, these changes will also see wider information being available to show learner progress beyond test results and qualifications.  A Direction to support a shared understanding of progression is also published today which will require schools to work together within and across clusters in Wales, to support learner progression. 

Together this is expected to lead to more collaboration and engagement between schools, parents and carers, as well as parents and carers receiving better information. Parents will continue to have access to up to date information on their school and will receive more detailed and informative information than was the case under categorisation through the publication of a summary of schools’ improvement priorities and development plan on their website.   

Accountability and inspections

Accountability within the school system will be maintained through effective school governance and more regular Estyn inspection of schools.  From September, Estyn will inspect schools under their new framework which supports the new Curriculum, with plans to increase the number of inspections from September 2024. 

The commitment to increase inspections will reduce the gap between reporting on individual schools, as well as ensuring that parents and learners have access to up-to-date independent information about their school.

Achieving the New Curriculum for Wales | en | OECD