Good data requires a good person more than a good process

I’m speaking for a few minutes at WeTweetEd #5 at BETT on Thursday. The subject is on data, and I’m essentially going to say three things:

  1. Processes on data are only any good if they have an impact on teaching and learning.

  2. Efficient data analysis that takes the minimum amount of time helps everyone.

  3. Moderation should be treated as data’s beautiful bride, and not its jilted lover.

However, for now I’m going muse on this thought: it is more important to have a person in your school who is a good with data, than a good process for handling data.

The reason for this is that the amount of data we have to process each year increases. RAISEOnline gets larger and the emphasis on what kind of data is important changes.

Recent changes to curricula – EYFS, National Curriculm; and also to Special Educational Needs, means that new systems have had to be developed on an almost yearly basis. Yet the core process remains pretty constant:

  1. teachers assess where their children are at;

  2. we give these assessments numbers;

  3. we use maths to analyse the numbers so we can maintain a big picture of what is going on

  4. we target school resources appropriately, both at a classroom and a whole school level.

However because of almost yearly changes to the context of most school schools, the numbers change. And the contextual data changes. So a person is needed to manage these changes and make them work for each school.

I’ll give you an example:

In our last Ofsted we knew our school was good and we had the data to prove it. Even better, the teaching in the classrooms was so good it was almost irrefutable.

Almost.

The Ofsted inspector was looking for numbers that we didn’t quite have. Instead of in-year numbers, he wanted numbers that showed progress of the last year (i.e. from February to February instead of September to July).

It took me 6 hours and quite a bit of jiggering around with formulae to make the spreadsheet do what I wanted it to: the 363 calculations that would generate the 363 numbers the Ofsted inspector required. I learnt a lot about ‘countif’ functions that night. Without that spreadsheet, though, it would have taken a lot longer, probably 3 days, and we wouldn’t have got the data done in time.

Now Ofsted is an extreme example, but with changes and more changes to how we assess things, the tweaks that are needed to keep data processes working in a school could grind a school to a halt without the right person in place.

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