Crude league tables? No! Nuanced banding? Yes!

It's "not exactly news" tweets the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, that - as we report today - by the end of the year, parents of pupils in Welsh secondary schools will be able to log in, look up their child's school and find out how it's faring. I told you so back in July says Mr Andrews.

He did indeed make a statement in July in which he told us that "early in the autumn term each secondary school will receive details of the band into which they have been placed, the data on which the banding has been based and detailed guidance to help them interpret and understand the banding. We will also share the banding information with local authorities and support the implementation of the system with a suite of communication materials and activities to ensure as complete an understanding of the system and its purpose as possible".

Now we know a little bit more, which is that come December, the information won't just be shared with schools and local authorities but will be published nationally by the Welsh Government for all to see. It's not headmaster's study stuff. The style, I suppose, is more 'pinned-up-on-the-noticeboard'.

So a decade since league tables were scrapped here because they were regarded as blunt, bureaucratic and unfair, a decade since teaching unions in England apparently suggested "their members would flood across the borders to work in Wales", schools will be placed not in tables but in one of four or five bands designed to capture the sorts of challenges they face and given those challenges, how they're doing. It's about value added achievement. It's about a playing field that is being made as level as possible.

How pupils perform in exams will count for rather a lot, granted but how many children actually turn up every day, whether there are signs of progress - will also help decide where your school ends up near the top or towards the bottom of its band. I nearly said top, or bottom of the pile.

But stop! That, says unions such as NAHT Cymru, is exactly the sort of language to which these "banding judgements" will lead. Journalists won't be alone in subbing what is inevitably a complex, nuanced process down to "best" and "worst."

"To be fair" said the union's Anna Brychan this morning on Radio Wales, the government's making every effort to explain that it's not about "naming and shaming", not about who's at the top or the bottom of a pile. "That sort of language will have to be tackled" if this new system is to be an improvement.

If it's not about labelling, what is it about, then?

You'll have your own thoughts to share and will do it in your own language, I've no doubt. But I imagine it's about trying to boil down the entirety of what a school does for its pupils, comparing it as fairly as possible with other schools, then helping parents judge who's doing best, ok and badly. I can think of no other way of putting it.

The minister puts it like this: "Banding is NOT about labelling schools, naming and shaming or creating a divisive league table. It is about grouping our schools according to a range of factors to establish priorities for differentiated support and identifying those from whom the sector can learn".

What it ought to be about, say the NAHT, is sharing best practice, giving a pat on the back to those who are succeeding and ensuring that the capacity is there to help those schools that are not. If it isn't there - and theirs is one union concerned that the capacity to do something about struggling schools may well be lacking - then the whole rationale of banding is flawed.

What it might also be about is giving parents information that is "enticingly simple" says Anna Brychan but from which it's pretty tough to garner which individual school would be the best for your individual child.

If you're a parent, you'll know there's a danger in anything that is "enticingly simple". You'll know the caveats around these judgements but you'll still want to send your child to a school that makes it into the top of its band and if it isn't, you'll want to know why.

Nothing wrong with that, say the government. This is about sharing information with parents. Nothing wrong with parents complaining if their school is doing badly compared to others within the same group.

Nothing wrong with sharing information say the teaching unions, as long as parents understand what the information they're given is really telling them.

Nothing wrong with making sure you know that information will appear on the Welsh Government's website in the week starting 12 December.