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Is Your School’s Monitoring and Assessment Data Actually Useful?

October 29, 2018, 14:22 GMT+1
Read in 4 minutes
  • Schools are now awash with monitoring, testing and performance data – but are your staff able to access the details they need to see in a way that’s intelligible?
Is Your School’s Monitoring and Assessment Data Actually Useful?

I like ownership. It means that something is yours, and that gives you control. And yet what often see in schools is that the tracking and monitoring of progress, attainment and performance seems to be done for someone else.

The SLT need it, the inspectorate want it, the LA require it – all reasons I’ve heard for inputting data into a system and pressing ‘send’.

Of course, there may well be some legitimacy in that reasoning – but I’d argue that tracking and monitoring in this way only gives ownership of the data to others, when what I’d like to see is ownership of the data resting firmly with teachers.

When the teachers own data, it becomes more meaningful and ultimately more useful to them. As schools become increasingly data rich, how that data’s being used is much more important than the fact it’s being collected in the first place. And who better than to make use of it than teachers and learners? Ownership, you see, is vital.

System design

Systems for tracking and monitoring must be simple to use, easy to make sense of and not overly cumbersome. There’s nothing more frustrating, or pointless, than tracking systems which encourage duplication or fail to give teachers the information they value most. We’ve worked hard at my schools to devise systems which highlight at a glance the global issues for a class and specific matters relating to individual children.

In my schools we also encourage our teachers to react to their data – to track and monitor the data for themselves, so that it’s able to inform their planning and provision. Half-termly pupil progress reviews help to unpack the information collected and ensure that no child is missed. Our senior leaders expect the teachers to take the lead at these meetings – they’re not grand inquisitions, so much as opportunities for reflection and forward thinking.

I was once introduced to an impressive chair of governors who bore all the traits of a leader who knew what mattered most about their school. Not the numbers or pie-charts churned out to demonstrate impact, nor the paperwork or inevitable meetings – what mattered was that the children were seen as people.

Learning conversations

Influenced by this encounter, I introduced a running log of ‘learning conversations’ at my school. I’d previously noticed how often teachers would discuss pupils in their own time, over a coffee in the staffroom or in the corridor after the end of the school day. I now encourage senior leaders who have had such conversations to electronically log them after the event, briefly describing the nature of the discussion and any outcomes. The log aims to capture the essence of learning conversations in all their forms, be it a structured meeting or a quick catch-up over coffee.

It’s akin to a real-time representation of the dialogue that’s constantly happening across the school, which all staff can access via a secure log in and use as a basis for professional judgments on how far they’ve moved learning forward. In essence, I want to help them access the monitoring details they need to see most, in a way that makes sense.

Maxim Kelly is the executive headteacher of two schools in the Isle of Man, Dhoon School and Laxey School, which form the Laxey / Dhoon Federation; follow him at @maximjkelly.

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