So, you’ve faced up to the fact that neither running nor hiding is going to help. In the second of our series of blogs on school data we look at where to start when getting to grips with it. A little reminder as to why this is on your agenda:
“The intelligent use of data affects the work of all professionals involved in education. There can be no going back to the days when decisions were made on hunches and anecdotal information. But we have to present and explain data in ways which inspire trust and confidence, and lead to appropriate choices and judgements being made.” Christine Gilbert, HMCI, 2008
Almost before you even start to tackle your school data you need to make some decisions around:
- what you have available already through your MIS
- what you want to record
- how often
- in what manner
Then ask yourself the following questions:
- What measure are you going to use - APS or NC sub levels?
- How do you want to set targets?
- How often will you input data? Some schools have a ‘data afternoon’ half-termly, others prefer doing it termly.
- How will you train and motivate staff? Can you build in an element of competition, like which year has the most house points or fewest behaviour points?
- What about your stakeholders, including governors, Ofsted and parents – what do you want to be able to show them? What will your outputs look like?
Data tools and software
Once you have an idea of the type of data profile you want to achieve, you can consider your software and reporting options. A bunch of spreadsheets simply isn’t going to give you the level of insight you need and being able to export data into graphs and charts makes everything much quicker and easier to understand and share. Your ultimate goal should be a paperless system which can be accessed anytime, anywhere by anyone.
Websites like RAISEonline, FFTLive and TheSchoolBus, as well as the Ofsted school data dashboard, offer a range of data tools that can help deliver greater insight into your data. There are also products like RM Intelligence which integrates with your MIS to enable you to export and manipulate data with a few simple clicks. When it comes to reporting, it’s worth looking at Microsoft Office Reporting Tools, Classroom Monitor and Pupil Reward Points. Again it depends on what you need to share with whom. There’s no one-size fits all solution and exploring the various options will give you some ideas.
Although it can feel like a mountain to climb, once you’re at the top of ‘Mount Data’, the reward is a clear view of your school’s achievements that you can easily share with others. You’ll be able to see things you never knew were there giving you a whole new context. You’ll be able to share information quickly and easily, prove what you thought might be true and have a clear vision of where to go next. You’ll be able to demonstrate your achievements and make a clear case for your decisions. So, while getting to grips with your school data is a challenge you’re going to have to face, at least it’s one with real rewards at the end!