Ahead of his workshop at the SSAT National Conference 2015, Minsthorpe Community College’s Peter Atherton is joined by SSAT’s Colin Logan to explore the school’s outstanding data tracking and monitoring system – described by Ofsted as ‘the best example of a data system with widespread classroom use we have ever seen.’
Data plays a fundamental role in the life of our schools, writes Colin Logan. To varying degrees, the lives and work of students, parents, teachers, school leaders, governors and Ofsted inspectors are punctuated by the collection, analysis and discussion of performance and other data.
Stakeholders have become much more data-savvy over the years. Professionals can generally talk with relative ease about value-added progress, estimates and targets and the key indicators highlighted in the annual performance tables.
All that might be about to change, however, as we move into a world without national curriculum levels, where there are new tests and examinations in both primary and secondary schools and a new raft of accountability measures to go with them.
Raising student achievement has to be informed by the judicious use of appropriate data gathered and tracked across all year groups, not just at the end of a key stage. The school data manager has a key role to play in ensuring that data is the servant rather than the master of school improvement.
The school data manager has a key role to play in ensuring that data is the servant rather than the master of school improvement
Data at the heart of the classroom
In 2012 Minsthorpe Community College embarked on a whole-school data strategy to put classroom practitioners at the forefront, writes Peter Atherton, the college’s data manager.
The college had consulted teachers to find exactly what information they required – on a daily basis and over the school year. Resounding messages came back: the college needed to help enable its staff at all levels to become more proactive in their use of data.
There was also a need for greater consistency; and for the data analysis to be engaging, visually appealing and to have a more intelligent application.
The outcome of this exercise was to review current practice and move towards easy-to-use and effective data analysis at classroom level that was fair and equitable to all staff.
The college gave me the freedom to evaluate existing processes and where appropriate to create and embed new ideas. These ideas were then developed into analysis tools over which all staff could feel ownership.
The college also improved and embedded the existing ‘intelligent accountability’ process into these new analysis tools – with a direct link between the data and where action points are recorded.
The data analysis cycle now supports self-evaluation and the whole-school drive for improvement from the classroom up.
The four main data analysis strands are visual and any particular item prints to a single sheet of A4 paper. They all benchmark against data from the national transition matrices and are driven by dropdown menus that are intuitive to use and navigate.
New teaching staff and visitors to the college are impressed by the simplicity and power of these tools, and the fact that they are so well used, in the classroom and beyond.
The tool can automatically pull in a raft of contextual and prior attainment information about each student in a class to facilitate appropriate strategies for them.
It can also now show the proportions of students who would typically make 3 and 4+ levels of progress in a similar class nationally. An inbuilt seating planner enables teachers to plan strategies for groups of students and seat them appropriately.
Alongside the Class Profile are systems enabling review of data and accountability. The assessment point analysis (APA) tools have progress (transition) matrices at their heart, but also the ability to filter down to classes, pupil groups and interventions.
An inbuilt seating planner enables teachers to plan strategies for groups of students and seat them appropriately
This is all done on a single page, which all staff can access. The built-in accountability process allows staff to make comments on their classes, which are then discussed with line management.
The final piece of the jigsaw was to create physical folders called student and class information files (SCIF), which teachers populate with their class profiles, seating plans and other relevant information. This enables teachers to gain an idea of the class dynamics and to identify targeted students easily and discreetly.
Ofsted inspectors described Minsthorpe’s data analysis systems as ‘the best example of a data system with widespread classroom use we have ever seen.’
The most important hurdle to overcome was the initial shift in mindset towards staff becoming proactive with using data at all levels. This was brought about by making the analysis as user friendly as possible, without losing the ability to use the data to ask essential questions.
Staff were no longer required to remember passwords and sets of instructions on how to actually get to the reports, the burden of researching information was greatly reduced and the benefits of using the data was much more evident.
Staff were no longer required to remember passwords and sets of instructions on how to actually get to the reports
Finally there was a transparency and a consistency across all departments and a real sense of data ownership prevailed. In turn, this enabled staff to work proactively with the data, crucially being able to link their professional judgements in the classroom and the starker quantitative view of data linked together, and greater immediacy and impact.
Minsthorpe’s experience suggests that schools can benefit from developing their own in-house skills so that they can adequately measure in the way they want, so as to follow their curriculum ideals.
By building a platform of skillsets within their support staff schools can be better prepared to cope with shifting goalposts and enable themselves to take any direction of travel they wish.
- Evaluate your data strategy and facilitate the use of data at all levels.
- Don’t commit to any one strategy or system for too long. Stay flexible.
- Reduce data analysis and reporting that you feel has minimal impact/use.
- Invest further in the skills of your data and IT support staff.
- Ask yourselves what you want to have, not what you can currently have.
- Design analysis for impact in the classroom, not just the boardroom.
Hear more about Minsthorpe’s outstanding data tracking and monitoring system in Peter’s workshop on day 1 of the conference at 15.55.
Follow Minsthorpe on Twitter: @MinsthorpeCC
Follow SSAT on Twitter: @SSAT
Get involved in the pre-conference chat via #SSATNC15.