Data management


If you ask a school head why they are using a data system such as a pupil tracker, they will say it is to improve pupil outcomes.

The ability to easily spot gaps in learning, or see a downward trend in literacy for pupils on free school meals appearing over time, allows teachers and school leaders to target strategies to support pupils quickly.

Occasionally however, the focus becomes the data itself and the end goal can get blurred. At this point entering school data becomes a bureaucratic burden.

Take the example of a school which is tracking outcomes using the national curriculum objectives in reading, writing, maths and science.

That’s a total of 218 learning objectives in the Year 6 curriculum.

With 32 pupils in the class, that would amount to over 20,000 assessment outcomes a year if you assume each child has to move through the three outcomes of ‘not understanding’ to ‘understood’ for each objective.

That represents 20,000 boxes to tick or data entry points. Time which would be better spent with children.

The mantra with data, therefore, has to be less is more. Record only meaningful progress information and reuse the same data many times.

There are some simple ways school leaders can achieve this and create more Child-Time for their teachers.

See also:

More Child-Time actions

What can I do today?

Book a meeting with your senior staff

If you feel the data entry burden may be too heavy in your school, your first step in reducing it is to book time in your next meeting with your senior teachers to discuss how your school uses data.

Prepare staff and ask them to think about these questions before the meeting:

  1. Who are we collecting assessment data for?
  2. What benefits do we want our teachers to gain from formative assessment?
  3. Which learning objectives need to be recorded in the pupil tracker?
  4. Is the current way we record data taking up too much of their time?
  5. Is the current way we record data having a positive impact on pupils?
  6. How often do we want teachers to record assessment data?

The sweet spot = High impact on pupils/Low impact on teacher timeIt’s a great opportunity to highlight practices which have little impact on pupil outcomes, and to find ways to get the insight you need in more productive ways by examining good practice that already takes place in the school.

Arranging this meeting is an important first step in the journey to releasing more Child-Time.

What shall I work on next term?

Hold the meeting and use the outcomes to refresh your data management policy

If your meeting reveals that the current approach isn’t having enough of an impact on pupil outcomes, or if too much teacher time is being taken up with low impact tasks, it’s time for a change.

There has to be a happy medium however, as no one wants a return to everything in a folder or filing cabinet and no central view of class or school progress.

Ask yourself exactly what level of data you will need to answer the following questions:

  • What can the children do?
  • What they need to learn?
  • Where the gaps are in learning?
  • How these gaps can be filled?

Strip back to the most important data and consider switching to a simpler Point-in-Time Assessment (or PITA model) which allows for fewer data entry points for tracking attainment and progress – maybe just three times a year.

Examine how you can use the same data for multiple uses. Can you make the same information work for:

  • Monitoring pupil progress
  • Curriculum and intervention planning
  • Reporting to parents
  • Reporting to governors and other stakeholders

This will help you shape a more effective approach to managing your pupil data which focuses on what is important, without taking up valuable time.

What shall I be working on for the rest of the year?

Review your tracking system

Once you have identified what you need from your pupil data, you should look at your current systems and ask whether they can provide it.

Here are some questions to use as a starting point:

  • How many different systems do we use?
  • Do we find ourselves re-keying the same information in different places?
  • Can we use one system to avoid duplication?

One key consideration is how well your pupil tracker aligns with your management information system (MIS). This will help you link a pupil’s progress with key details about that pupil, for example their family circumstances or educational needs, giving you’re a fuller picture of the child.

The Juniper Horizons MIS is one system that can help primary schools get the big picture of a pupil, class or cohort as it has been designed with a classroom first, rather than school office first approach in mind.

So this year, take steps to ensure your systems are right for your school:

  • Examine whether your current system can meet your needs
  • Contact your existing vendor and ask if you could be getting more from your system
  • Arrange a training session with your vendor for you and your colleagues

Expected results

A fresh approach to data management and the systems you use to support it will strengthen the impact on pupil progress, while reducing the workload for teachers.

You will find that the purpose of the data you collect becomes clearer and the information will be more relevant to the decisions you and your stakeholders make.

There will be increased accuracy in the data and greater clarity in what it is telling you. And if you link your assessment data to your MIS, you will gain a fuller picture of the pupils in your school.

By streamlining the way you collect, enter and monitor your data, you will reduce unnecessary work and sharpen the focus on what is important – improving pupils’ outcomes.

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