Avoiding a data deluge in schools

By Graham Cooper, head of education, SIMS Independent

Most schools record and store data on pupils’ progress and behaviour to inform decisions about how best to support teaching and learning excellence. But the decisions you make for your pupils are only as good as the information that’s available to you.

So, how can schools ensure they record the information they need and avoid ending up with so much data that they can’t see the wood for the trees?

Here are three steps taken by schools that have mastered the art of good data management.

1) Understand what data your school uses

What information does your school store and where? How often is it used? And how long does it take to record or find it? Knowing the answers to these questions is the first step to ensuring data is used effectively in your school.

Start by conducting a comprehensive audit of the data that is being recorded and stored across your school. Include everything – individual staff note pads, departmental spreadsheets and at the whole school level. This will give you a clear picture of your school’s information, so you can put an end to duplication and save time by ensuring your school gathers only the data that’s needed.

2) Place data at the heart of your school’s future vision

Just because you’ve always kept a record of pupils’ favourite sandwiches doesn’t mean you should. I’m being flippant here, but the mantra is data needs to add value. Review your data management policy regularly to ensure the information you are gathering supports the school’s key objectives and helps it move forward.

If increasing the number of girls excelling in STEM subjects is a key aim, for example, being able to analyse historical achievement data in maths and science might reveal a slide in girls’ grades from Year 7. Knowing this will help you plan appropriate interventions – a fresh marketing campaign for the after-school chemistry club or a new teaching strategy – to attract more girls and keep them engaged with the subject.

3) Make data management simple

It’s essential to make the task of gathering and sharing information easy for staff across your school. If a teacher can pull up their pupils’ historical achievement data with a couple of swipes on a tablet, they are much more likely to use this information to raise maths attainment in Year 5 or boost the achievement of gifted and talented children.

Make sure your school’s management information system (MIS) is used to its full capability too as this is a great way to cut unnecessary administration. There is no need for a teacher to send a paper note on a child’s achievement during a history lesson to the school office to be keyed in. With the right MIS, they can add notes directly onto the system from an app in the classroom and so data management becomes a simple task.

There is much more to a child than the data in their school’s computer system. But when used well, this information can back up teachers’ professional judgements and give schools the insight they need to unlock barriers to greater achievement.

If you’d like to know how your school could use data more effectively, call 01285 647 459, email info@capita-independent.co.uk or visit www.capita-independent.co.uk.


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