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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Roe

Let the tech analyse, so teachers can evaluate



This piece is written by Jonathan Roe Thrive’s CEO, and is the fifth in a series that shines a light on the Thrive Teacher Workload Charter.  Along with our headteacher team, we have devised 11 statements that will help manage workload so that great teachers still have the energy to be great family members and great friends.


In April 2023 the DfE published the findings of the study Working Lives of Teachers (wave 1) (April 2023) reported that 53% of teachers said that they spent too much time on work to do with data.  In February this year the DfE published Working Lives of Teachers (wave 2) (February 2024) and the proportion of teachers unhappy with the data element of their workload had risen to 56%.  Meanwhile, Thrive teachers reported 19% (Summer 2022) and 22% (Summer 2023).  So our teachers generally feel better about the workload that arises from data recording, input and analysis.  Here’s my analysis!


The point of collecting all this data is evaluation


What we mean by recording, inputting and analysing is important.  This came up in a recent union meeting discussing 1265 calculations.  We agreed that recording and inputting were generally clerical jobs.  Analysis meant generating graphs, charts, tables, trends, and was best carried out by the data management system (put those pocket calculators away, be they tangible or on-screen).  We also agreed that sometimes teachers find it less of a workload burden if they input data themselves where their professional judgement is being used about a pupil’s attainment.  This avoids them recording data in one place (i.e. inputting it) into a spreadsheet, or on apiece of paper, to then have someone else input it or upload it into our data management system.  So by reducing the amount of time spent on the clerical and calculation end of things teachers can get on with the job of evaluating the data, finding out what went well, what didn’t, and what we are going to do differently next time. 


Have as few data management systems as possible - ideally one


If we can find one data solution to many problems let’s do it.  An example of this would be primary school colleagues using Arbor to record their termly summative assessment data.  We do ask teachers to record and input the data (one grade per child per subject), but Arbor does the analysis leaving time for teachers to do the evaluation.  Nesting data management inside the self same system for logging attendance and behaviour makes total sense and takes away the need to remember umpteen usernames and passwords.  Smart analyses of attainment (absolute and predicted), alongside trends in behaviour and attendance makes coherent sense.


Beyond your MIS - have a great data manager armed with PowerBI


Arbor is our MIS, but it can only go so far.  If we want to look at attendance over time, or attainment for pupils with SEND, or even the attainment of SEND pupils within a certain attendance banding, we are now relying on bespoke in house analysis via PowerBI driven by Arbor data.  We’ve been doing this for almost a year now and the analysis is smarter and smarter as a result.  Using PowerBI has been of incredible benefit from the point of view of leaders, attendance leads, admin staff and increasingly teachers.


Have 3 times a year data drops, and be aware of data rich year groups


If only the workload from data collection was consistent across all year groups, but it’s not, there are pinch points.  Reception class teachers have the nightmare start in September followed by an, in my view, overly complex curriculum that generates a kind of data necessity.  Then there are other moments where statutory data needs managing - phonics in Y1/2, Y6 and especially Y11 when mocks get involved.  Having 1265 conversations with union colleagues gets interesting around this issue, but there is always a way through it, mainly through giving data management time in directed time.


Survey staff - listen, act and feed back


There is a staff survey happening right now across all staff.  I am really hoping that the proportion of teachers responding to the data question shows that even fewer think there is too much of it.  If that happens I’ll be delighted.  But whether it does or it doesn’t, we will listen some more and seek new ways forward.


Summary:


  • Use one system that can deal with multiple disciplines wherever possible;

  • Data drop 3 times a year;

  • Ensure that teachers are focused on data evaluation.

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