A Guest Blog written by Mark Bocker – a Head Teacher with over 30 years experience and now a consultant to MAT’s and local education authorities.

Christmas is coming (sigh) …. So if I can have one thing this would be top of my list!                                My Christmas Wish List ….. No.1 – School Data that actually makes my school better!

As a Headteacher, I feel data is a huge pain in the bum! Everybody moans but let me give you my ideas about what I think the opportunity is and why it’s too good to miss.

Before I begin, I’ll admit to not being the most proficient in my understanding and the skill sets around the ‘data god’. I readily admit that alongside my deficits also lies a deep annoyance at the importance being given to data, especially when you consider the dubious nature of some of it and the application of injudicious statistical inexactitudes and measurements by some ideologues and bureaucrats.

My cynicism is fuelled by those occasions in education when data is the main driver of discourse, instead of a focus on young people, their talents, dreams, desire to learn, their teaching environment or a multitude of other facets of their lives.

So, what lies at the root of my problem?

There is no doubt that we need evidence of educational impact and accurate data is undoubtedly an excellent driver for school improvement. Observation of patterns and trends can point us to where we need to take action or indeed celebration.

The inaccuracy of some data riles me and the continual personal interpretations of that incorrect data only adds to the vexation. Sitting alongside this is the way it’s used as an implicit, or in some cases, an explicit tool to threaten certain consequences in too many scenarios.

However, my biggest gripe is the loss of time.

Time is the most precious commodity in any school, so whose time do I refer? First and foremost, teachers.

As a Head Teacher, I don’t want to see my team with heads deep in spreadsheets interpreting data that is put together by their line manager, who was given a bigger version by their line manager, who in turn received theirs from myself or a MAT leadership team.

We are wasting eons of time looking at data in the 21st century. Technology is meant to be doing this stuff for us!

But, until now it’s not!

We still have to interpret the damn stuff after the machines and software have chucked it back in very pretty little graphs, telling us exactly what we already knew. As a profession, we cannot afford to continue with this wasting of time.

Headteachers need to be building strong sustainable and strategic solutions for better interventions and they can ill afford to be losing time in carrying poor short term alternatives.

The whole process is exacerbated by the fact that even more time is wasted by having to collect data, analyse it and disseminate the analysis. I would hate to hazard a guess at how much time cumulatively is spent on data instead of children.

So, Santa on the top of my wish list, I want to change the whole experience of using data in schools. I have a vision in which all a teacher should have to do is input the results of assessments, attendance and any other information and let the machines do the rest.

Instead of spending so much time struggling to gain expertise about complex data, I want the data to inform the teacher and for the data to be contextualised and humanised so that, when I see a data report, I see a particular student not a number, class, subject, year or a school.

We should be interrogating the data for patterns in real-time, like we’ve seen the in futuristic movies – so we can simply ask questions like:

● “Show me year 10 boys Geography attainment”

● “How are year 8 boys doing in relation to girls?”

● “Are PP kids doing as well as non-PP?”

● “Which subjects’ attainment performance has improved the most this term?”.

In short, instead of seeing data as a burden, it would become an incredibly powerful and proactive tool. I want teachers to feel like they will be mentored by leaders who see the same data they do and that their data informs them about how to improve.

Imagine how much time there would be saved if the analysis of data was done for you and not by you. Consider the potential of having clear and accurate data available to teachers, heads and MAT’s always at the touch of a button?

What if this insight was available to all teachers and open to interrogation at all times? Just imagine.

Consider the potential of adding access to a child’s data for parents.

We might realistically want to reconsider the need for parents’ evenings!

As every student and every parent would know exactly how close that young person is to achieving their full potential on a daily basis.

If this platform could integrate all of our current systems and host data into one, orin a series of dashboards, so that all the data on any student regarding attendance, behaviour, homework, coursework and maybe even including their emotional health and wellbeing, I ask you what else would we need? Everything you need to know would be in one place!

What could any future spin-off’s look like?

● Student-teacher communication and feedback – I want students to be able to reflect upon learning, understanding and an opportunity to directly feedback this to teachers – no need for analysis of understanding plus the ability to follow up

● Teachers being able to see the full ‘story’ on every child whenever they want it, leading to proactive planning of lessons for an agile teacher not a stressed one.

● Leaders and managers having fingertip access to the bigger picture – why do they need department reports anymore? It would be ‘live’, proactive and nuanced – not delayed, biased and reactive.

● Headteachers would see and be able to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies targeted in SIP’s – Milestones would be flexible and deadlines too!

● Governors could experience more informative (and shorter!) meetings! MAT Leaders would see the best practice across their schools and match up for coaching, CPD and improvement planning.

I realise it’s a big ask but all of this would make my Christmas a very happy one…oh and a good bottle of Scotch wouldn’t go a miss either!!

Thanks Santa!