Putting Students At The Heart Of Data

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Holly Gardner

Holly Gardner is TT Editor, as well as a Freelance Publisher. She has been working with @TeacherToolkit for over 6 years - since she published his first book in her role as Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Since then, she left her day job,...
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How can you get the most from your data?

Schools in the UK have never been more accountable for maintaining and processing data. The last decade has seen a shift to online centralisation of comparative data about outcomes (attainment, progress and attendance) and the range and depth of data in the public domain has never been greater.

Monitoring strengths

Individual schools and multi-academy chains (MATs) are held to account by Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE) through a rigorous inspection framework that is heavily reliant on ‘outcomes’ data. In most cases, headteachers and senior leaders would describe data as being central to the inspection process and the judgments made by school inspectors.

Schools therefore invest considerable time and resources into ensuring they have data systems that not only support the retrospective analysis of student performance data, but also enable them to proactively identify and monitor strengths and weaknesses in a range of areas across the school.

So what does ‘progress’ actually mean?

The most important element of outcomes data relates to the progress made by students. The concept of progress is complex (and sometimes controversial) but hinges on the comparison of actual attainment by a student to the attainment expected of them based on previous outcomes.

For example, in secondary schools, the government’s headline measure for judging school performance is Progress 8, which essentially uses a student’s performance at the end of Key Stage 2 (primary school) as a benchmark for assigning expected outcomes in GCSE exams.

It is essential that schools identify the relative progress being made by individual students in all year groups to allow them to intervene and support them where appropriate.

How is progress measured?

Schools run regular reporting cycles designed to capture information about students’ attainment and progress in each subject, report to parents and monitor key groups.This typically takes place three to six times per academic year, with some form of action or ‘intervention’ following each ‘data drop’.

Increasingly, schools require teachers to record additional information, such as strategies for improvement or action plans for individual pupils, between these periods but most typically it would involve teachers recording attainment grades and data relating to attitude or behaviour. With students in secondary schools studying an average of nine to ten subjects in each year group, the volume of data collected during a data drop can be significant and thus challenging to work with in the short timescales available.

How can you make the data useful?

With such high-stakes in data accountability, the last five years has seen rapid expansion in tailored data management solutions produced by third parties. Schools (especially in the secondary sector) can choose from a range of systems designed to assist with the capture, maintenance and timely analysis of student performance data and recognise them as necessities.

Whilst these systems are very powerful and effective at what they do (most schools would regard them as indispensable), they all share the same limitation: they often overwhelm the user with data and can be quite inaccessible. For school leaders, access to such detail is essential, but it can often create a ‘disconnection’ between the data and the student which does not enable visualisation and identification of groups, nor provoke the same level of student focused discussion.

Zegami for Schools is a powerful data visualisation tool that harnesses the power of spreadsheets but presents data in the form of student images. It enables teachers to select and group pupils based on any variables they choose and to refine the way these groups are displayed based on chosen criteria.

Most importantly, it provokes conversation and professional dialogue in a way no spreadsheet ever could. The applications of Zegami for School are endless, limited only by the creativity of the user.

Zegami brings data to life in a way that makes analysis empowering, even enjoyable. It allows teachers to quickly identify groups for intervention and support, or reward and monitoring. It also highlights patterns, trends and correlations that may not have been seen before and can be invaluable for planning.

  • Impact – image based visualisation puts your students first – a simple but powerful means of provoking discussion. Seeing your students displayed in this way, the quality and depth of discussion and analysis is amplified beyond anything created by a spreadsheet.
  • Accessibility – the system is intuitive and easy to use, making it less daunting than other data systems so more time can be spent discussing issues and less time trying to find them.
  • Flexibility – most schools have developed their own language around data to suit their context. Zegami for Schools is unique in the flexibility it provides to fit the software your school, creating a bespoke solution with an ‘off-the-shelf’ product.

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Zegami for Schools, places the student front and centre. It is not intended to replace systems currently in use but rather seeks to compliment them, facilitating rapid identification of key groups and trends and enabling school leaders at all levels to ensure appropriate support strategies are in place for students. The product does not perform many of the functions of existing systems, nor does it need to

Find out more information about Zegami on their website and sign up for a free 30 day trial.

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