As one of the early adopters and pilot schools in the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Open Schools Data Project, powered by askEddi, Head Teacher Richard O’Regan reflects on how he came to join the pilot and his experience of using the askEddi platform to record and analyse attendance data for the entire school, and then compare that data in real time with other schools both locally and nationally.

“There are so many commercial software packages on the market that never quite do what you want; you feel as though you want to shout at the screen ‘but I just want to look at PP attendance across the last 3 years and compare it to national/local schools’! When ASCL invited us to be part of a pilot group looking at data in schools we were excited to take part.

“The opportunity as head teachers to design exactly what we want from a software package was one not to be missed.  We started to look at what we wanted from attendance as existing data management systems are just too clunky and not at all intuitive.  You can’t do any real analysis without printing off various reports and then compiling what you want manually.  It is very time consuming and inefficient and we should all be using our time more effectively.

“So, we (heads and other school leaders in the Open Schools Data Project pilot group) sat down and came up with what we wanted and the askEddi team went away and created it as part of their whole school improvement platform.  Seeing the Attendance Matters module in action for the first time was amazing.  Having pupil premium attendance data displayed in such a simple way on an intuitive dashboard, the way we wanted, not just because it is visually appealing, meant it actually became useful. 

“For example, we were able to use the askEddi platform compare attendance across a number of schools during a given time period who all noticed a drop in attendance on a particular day – Christmas jumper day – as disadvantaged children who couldn’t afford the jumpers were staying away.  This sort of analysis enables us to make decisions going forward. I’ve already decided we won’t be doing non uniform days like that again in my school because of the impact on those pupils’ attendance.

“There are many other useful features of this approach to attendance data which will not only make school leaders’ jobs easier and more effective but also benefit those poor staff who have to churn out data and number crunch to give us what we want!  The askEddi platform makes it easy to navigate and the data you want is available at the click of a button.  You are able to draw comparisons very quickly unlike SIMS which is frustrating and time consuming and, frankly, not that user friendly. I’m looking forward to developing this approach to tackle other things, particularly assessment.

“ASCL and askEddi have been instrumental in schools collaborating on the Open Schools Data Project.  It has enabled schools of different types across Local Authorities to talk to each other and for us to see how we can use the system to help each other.  Doing things in isolation is never a good thing and we have seen the benefits of collaborating in a way we have never done before.

“The potential for the Open Schools Data Project around Attendance is huge and, as ASCL is an organisation that school leaders trust, will be widely accepted.  We know ASCL’s agenda has been to take control back from the Government and drive improvement through a collaborative approach rather than suffer the negative impact of performance tables.  This is a refreshing approach and one which will drive improvement using collaboration as a force for good.”

Richard O’Regan, Head Teacher, Alder Community High School, Hyde, Cheshire

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