The Need for Pupil Data – Updated

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Updated Friday 15th January 2021.

A few weeks ago, April 2020 and cancelled national curriculum assessments seemed like a distant memory, yet here we are months later in the same position. It feels a bit like ground-hog day and we are asking the same questions.

I talk to schools and MATs every single day and the feedback is overwhelming, national data is valued, not so we can get a feel of where schools rank or apply judgement but so we can self-evaluate effectively, share best practice and in the current climate so we know we are not alone.

I’d also stress that many of the schools I talk to have welcomed the Juniper National Dataset as it reinforces the point made above, they are not alone. During this pandemic children have been home schooled and at times online and distanced learning has been the norm, both of which present a challenge in relation to teacher assessments and it is reassuring to know that others are encountering similar challenges. It seems pertinent to revisit the blog I wrote at the time of the announcement in April 2020 as many of the points are still relevant now….

Has the world of pupil data ground to a halt?

It has been over a month since the Secretary of State for Education announced that the 2019/20 national curriculum assessments will not take place this year. For primary schools, this means that the following assessments planned between now and the end of the academic year are cancelled:

  • End of key stage 1 and key stage 2 assessments (including tests and teacher assessment)
  • Phonics screening check
  • Multiplication tables check
  • Science sampling tests
  • All statutory trialling

Couple the above with a year of Ofsted no longer taking schools’ internal tracking into account and some will start to ask if the world of pupil data is grinding to a halt?

The short answer is no

Let’s take a look at some of the questions that may also be asked and the reasons why data is still alive and kicking for schools.

Now that Ofsted no longer look at internal data, should we stop tracking?

I often get asked this question and I always answer it in the same way, which is; I wouldn’t recommend any school abandon internal data altogether, but if the main purpose of your internal data is to service Ofsted inspections then it is time to look at what you do and ask the big question, why?

Even if the focus of your pupil data is not to support Ofsted or inspection then the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in has also presented us with an opportunity to review what we do, why we do it? What is the purpose? Where do we see impact? And who does it benefit?

Now is a great time to look at our internal models and processes and see if they make a difference in the classroom, do they impact positively on teacher workload, do they make a difference to pupil outcomes and are they suited to remote working or working from home.

What should I do with my End of Year data now?

We were recently asked by a school for thoughts on whether it was worthwhile uploading results to any third-party software to try and replicate the data they would normally receive from the DfE and my response was very similar the previous question, Why?

If you ask yourself a similar series of questions as suggested above and the answers you arrive at mean you aren’t creating additional work and the data is meaningful and impacts on the classroom, then it may be worthwhile, if not then why?

One thought would be to ask your tracking provider if they can provide you with end of year report packs* as this will save you time and reduce the workload burden on teachers, while also ensuring you receive the information needed to start planning for the next year.*See the following:

What do I report to parents?

This question needs to be split into two areas, as follows:

  1. Current parents
  2. Prospective parents

For current parents, there is a statutory responsibility for schools to report on achievements, general progress and attendance. For pupils at the end of KS1 and KS2 the guidance states that schools should cover aspects that have been cancelled this year.

The feedback we have received from school is that they are simply reporting what they can in a format that parents understand, as with the previous comments, take some time and make sure that what you decide to do ticks the right boxes and impacts positively on staff, pupils and the wider school community.

For prospective parents’ schools must publish certain criteria on their websites. The pupil data that must be published is based on the schools most recent published key stage 2 results, which we now know will be 2018/19 and therefore any schools that have already met the requirement will be fine.

So, why is data alive and kicking?

If we look at any industry or workplace in the world, they use data to improve. Take Formula One for example, the teams take lap times, weights, angles on wings etc and then they adjust them based on data to find an extra 0.01 seconds. In factories they use data to improve production lines.

Why should education be any different? So long as the focus of the data is to improve pupil outcomes and life chances and to balance or improve teacher workload, then that is a good thing.

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