Data Management Workload: Ask A Teacher!

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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If you wanted to help improve data management and reduce teacher workload, who would you ask?

In my last post, I said that ‘we do not want teachers to produce lesson plans for observers, OfSTED or for appraisal purposes.’ Last week, Nicky Morgan announced the chairs and members of 3 new workload review groups. These working parties will look at teacher-workload in 3 key areas; marking, planning and data-management.

This is the 3rd and final blog about this topic. You can read the others below;

  1. Marking Workload: Ask A Teacher!
  2. Planning Workload: Ask A Teacher!

I will state again, that from each of the working groups, I am keen to see each committee go beyond case-studies and exemplar documents, and actually change policy. I’m not sure if this process will actually change anything. Any proposals will be fruitless unless the DfE and OfSTED actually start placing less and less emphasis on progress over time, Progress 8, League Tables and PISA rankings!

Until we stop the frenzy with C/D borderline benchmarks, league tables and the sort, this will determine the pace set by senior leaders whose jobs are at risk, and if schools do not reach expected levels of progress. Does nobody else see this at the top?

The DfE determine our workload by insisting schools reach a certain level of progress. This is then judged by OfSTED in their inspections. The severity of this monitoring and judgement dictates that schools must monitor data and student predictions much more closely. Now, I am not saying that we should not monitor student data (or the like), nor avoid accountability, but this level of scrutiny from the DfE and OfSTED determines our workload; no matter what strategies we may put in place to minimise teacher workload.

As I write, I am due to complete class assessments and then report on student progress; a benchmark of how they have started off into the new academic year. This I will only be able to do, outside of my normal timetable/meetings. In my own time, where I can fully concentrate and ensure data is completed accurately and reported with rigour.

Data Management Review Group:

Nicky Morgan revealed;

… the 41 people she has chosen to form three working groups to reduce teachers’ workload. The 28 people who represent schools come from six of eight English regions. (Source)

Group Objectives:

Each of the 3 working parties are due to report back to the Secretary of State in late spring 2016; publishing useful case studies, written by serving teachers, showing what’s working well in other schools.

I do not want to regurgitate the details already shared by the DfE, but a brief summary will prove useful; the group will encourage schools to reduce the burden of data collection, building on the work of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels. The shocking news is, is that there are just 2 (TWO) full-time classrooms teachers on the review group.

The group’s aims are:

  • consider how and why data is collected to enable more efficient and effective practices
  • gather evidence on effective data management practices
  • develop a set of principles for data management in schools
  • make recommendations about data management practices and processes

I am not asking that I be on the panel, or that I am unhappy with those that are on the review group. However, I would like to question why there is a significant absence of classroom teachers on this panel and I would also like to question the transparency of how each steering group is curated. Knowing that I have been partial to a steering group or two, I do know that these groups tend to be designed on the basis of ‘who you know.’

The group will also call on the views of Daisy Christodoulou, Research and Development Manager at the charity Ark, to maintain links with the Commission on Assessment Without Levels. Christodoulou has not been in the classroom for a while and has probably not submitted any classroom data for a senior leadership team either. Can she really be the best-person placed to do this? To be fair, she has been working hard to reform the obsolete national curriculum levels, so there is a place for her views and expertise. But, it will be limited.

I ask again, please can we ask the DfE to publish how these groups are generated.

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Image: Shutterstock


Progress 8 is a step in the right direction, but it is still a tool for monitoring the performance of students against the quality of teaching and learning in a school. If we measure students, we will always need the data to be able to measure their progress. The recent reform of national curriculum levels and the debacle this has generated – and the apparent freedom for schools to do their own thing – has left many of us with even more work to do!

What are your suggestions? Leave a comment below.

It may be worth you and your senior leadership teams reading/sharing these blogs to help cut this workload nonsense; or better still, share this article with the DfE. If you have any solutions, email the working part here.

I will report back …


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