Panel Discussion: How Data-Driven Collaboration Supports Assessment Best Practice and School Improvement
Following the recent launch of the KS4 MAT Dashboard, Juniper Education brought together a panel of experts from across the education sector to discuss ‘How data-driven collaboration supports assessment best practice and school improvement’.
The latest panel discussion, which was live at the time of recording, focused on some important topics teachers and professionals in education are talking about right now, this includes:
- The challenges and risks when collating and reporting on assessments.
- How effective data analysis can have a positive impact on teaching and learning.
- Why schools should use assessment data to compare and collaborate.
Our guest speakers drew on knowledge acquired from a combined 40+ years in education and helped dissect some of the intricacies surrounding data management in schools and Trusts.
Before we dive into summarising the discussion, let’s first meet our panel:
Matt O’Brien, Product Owner, Juniper Education
Matt has been working in education for more years than he can remember. Driving whole school improvements using data-driven solutions is second nature to Matt. With extensive experience working with schools as a Data Manager, Matt has first-hand knowledge of supporting assessment best practise and helping schools gain insights that drive performance.
Sandra Barclay, Data Consultant, Juniper Education
One of a team of six consultants who specialise in data and analytics here at Juniper Education, Sandra has been working with schools and Trusts for over 13 years, supporting them with effective assessment data management.
Sam Gray, Trust Data Manager, Greenwood Academies Trust
Sam Gray started her career in education and never left. Having been a Data Manager for over 11 years, Sam has hands-on knowledge and extensive experience when it comes to data analysis in secondary schools and Trusts and has been using the Juniper Education Sisra Analytics platform for around 10 years.
Now we’ve introduced our panel; let’s see what they said about the questions posed by our mediator Alex Cook, Product Marketing Manager, Juniper Education.
How does comparing key stage four attainment progress across a Trust and nationally support school improvement?
The panel stressed that it is important to look at your school as a whole Trust, as opposed to a stand-alone establishment. Looking at best practices, comparing headline measures, and sharing knowledge across the Trust are key to success. This level of evaluation will give schools a good benchmark as to where they currently rank within a Trust, where they are ‘supposed’ to be and help them compare their current whole school attainment on a national level.
According to the panel, the impact of sharing best practice is huge, it helps schools to see where they need to improve and how schools can try to “beat those league tables” year on year.
Although comparing your school against others within the Trust can be hard, it is a very useful and necessary exercise. Within her own Trust, Sam uses national data as a benchmark against her own reports and progress, but also to highlight opportunities that drive improvement.
This question sparked a cord with our live audience and bought forward the following question:
Should schools be comparing their data against the 2019 or 2022 national DfE estimates?
The panel’s consensus was that although 2019 was the last ‘normal’ year in terms of exam results before the effects of the global pandemic, we are all still working to a ‘new normal’. So, the comparison will still be a little out of context and slightly inaccurate due to the change in how KS2 prior attainment is measured. The panel agreed that using the latest figures from 2022 is probably the right approach; however, this is not a hard and fast rule and people’s opinions still differ on the matter.
What are the challenges and risks of collating and reporting on assessment data across a MAT?
One of the biggest challenges schools and Trusts are facing right now is how time-consuming manual reporting is. The most significant risk is the data’s accuracy, as manual reporting is prone to error. A secondary challenge also surrounds data cleansing, yet another time-consuming but necessary task.
Sandra also noted that having the confidence and knowledge surrounding data and understanding the Trust and board requirements can also be a challenge. Sandra went on to say that “many of the challenges and risks discussed just now can be alleviated with Sisra Analytics, the data management platform from Juniper Education that now feeds the new KS4 MAT Dashboard”.
How important is it for Trust academies to have a standardised approach to assessment best practice, timings and reporting methods?
It is important to ensure that a standardised approach offers an accurate representation of each school, which can be hard to achieve given the different profiles, geographical locations, and dynamics of some Trusts.
Many Trusts offer autonomy for their members and are keen to focus on predictions to mitigate the disparities between schools regarding grading periods and data collection timelines for example. The panel agreed that predictions are preferable because, according to Matt, “they’re very comparable against targets for the end of the key stage and also against national data”.
The panel concluded that although a standardised method is an optimum way to approach assessment practice, timings and reporting, schools need to take small steps to adapt to change and to get used to working collaboratively.
How can effective data analysis have a positive impact on teaching and learning?
Data-driven collaboration has been proven to have a positive impact on learning outcomes. Sharing best practice, knowledge and “championing schools”, including individual departments that excel, is key.
Sam, who is currently using Sisra Analytics across her Trust, agrees that effective data analysis is a key driver for positively impacting teaching and learning.
“Information is available at our fingertips. We can look at areas of weakness and areas of strength so that we can get that support brokered across the Trust to ensure that everyone’s giving each other a helping hand to make progress. The data drives the actions that need to take place in the classroom. The powerful information that is provided is great.
We use the Sisra Analytics tool, which allows us to look at performance very effectively. When you get up to MAT level, we have subject-based reports and SPI analysis which will pull together all of the data across any subject within the Trust. Sisra Analytics helps to simplify and standardise the collection and reporting of assessment data across a Trust.”
How Sisra Analytics applies to real-life school situations:
- Subject analysis
- SPI analysis
- Individual progress checks
- Data-driven actions
What is SPI analysis and how is it used in Sisra Analytics?
Sisra Analytics offers Data Collaboration where participating schools benefit from early indications of Attainment 8 and Value Added estimates many weeks in advance of DfE publication. Anonymised KS2 and KS4 results, gender, disadvantaged and SEND status from over 1400 schools and almost 260,000 student provides insightful student and subject level analysis of how students compare with peers nationally. SPI is the subject progress index functionality released with the Data Collaboration features that allows you to look at student progress against others with the same Scaled Score result in the same qualification area, aggregated to class and, powerfully, subject level. This allows schools to understand overall performance compared to national across the key gender, disadvantaged and SEN pupil groups and instantaneous comparison of subject and pupil performance against national attainment.
How does having a good understanding of your school population, the demographics and the cohorts benefit the trust?
Many Trusts include academies with different demographics, in a range of geographical locations and areas of deprivation and with high levels of pupil premium. It is, therefore, essential to consider data according to context.
Sam gave a real-life example of how she manages her data, given the complexities of the schools that make up her Trust:
“When I present any data set, for example, to our trustees or any audience, I always produce a cover sheet containing demographical analysis so that they can see the makeup of the population, which can lead to further lines of enquiries. If anyone’s doing a deep dive into the data, they see some of the issues each academy might be facing.”
It is apparent that our panel of experts feel that sharing best practices and data collaboration between schools can empower improvement and help teachers improve their subject awareness. Insights can also help senior leadership teams identify areas for improvement allowing quick and relevant intervention which in turn will improve learning outcomes.
Trust data management is time-consuming; however, platforms and software solutions such as Sisra Analytics can streamline and expedite the whole process. It is important to generate accurate data, which can be relied upon, to make whole school decisions that are driven by data and correctly demonstrate the school’s performance.