Helping MATs make sense of their data

James Pembroke is the founder of the school data company, Sig+, and he’s written this very handy article to help Multi Academy Trusts make sense of their data.  

What are the benefits and risks of data collection in MATs?

Due to the nature of MATs, there’s a wide range of expertise that can be utilised to develop effective, common approaches to assessment. Decision makers are more well informed, so they can direct resources to where they’re most needed, and large numbers of pupils mean more reliable, meaningful data. The risk of data collection, though, is that it might lead to a top down, accountability-focused system of assessment that increases workload but doesn’t have much of an impact on learning. So, how can we make sense of all this data, and put it to good use?

Ofsted’s approach to measuring progress

Ofsted does not expect schools to predict progress scores – this is because they are aware that this information will not be possible to produce, due to the way that progress measures at both KS2 and KS4 are calculated.

The Ofsted Handbook states that “Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils in that school.”

How can school leaders support the effective use of data to promote learning above tracking?

6 golden rules of tracking:

  1. Do not recreate levels

  2. Ensure that your tracking system is a tool for teaching and learning, not accountability

  3. Separate teacher assessment from performance management

  4. Do not compromise to fit the rules of a system

  5. Use systems to reduce workload, not increase it

  6. Measure progress, but don’t obsess over it

Reviewing workload

The performance of MATs is monitored, and senior leaders need to know how schools in the trust are doing. So that MAT leaders can spot areas of weakness and effectively direct resources, they must track attainment and progress of pupils, groups and cohorts in core subjects. To do so, they need quick access to robust data without increasing workload.

  • Be ruthless: only collect what is needed to support outcomes for children. Always ask why data is needed
  • The recent removal of ‘levels’ should be a positive step in terms of data management; schools should not feel any pressure to create elaborate tracking systems

In light of this article, what are the benefits of standardised tests?

Remember that Standardised scores are not the same as scaled scores.

  • Question level analysis
  • Benchmark against other pupils nationally
  • Validate teacher assessment
  • Provide a more robust progress measure
  • Give an idea of VA in advance
  • Test practice
  • Compare standards within and between schools
  • Reveal attainment gaps between groups

What should my trust level reporting system do?

  • Aggregate standardised test scores (and comparative judgement data)
  • Show progress of cohorts and key groups year-on-year
  • Track attainment gaps between groups, particularly disadvantaged/non-disadvantaged pupils
  • Compare schools within the trust
  • Provide changes in percentile rank (i.e. IDSR-style measures)
  • Take advantage of MAT numbers to calculate statistically significant shifts in data
  • Standardise non-standardised test data

What 3 questions should I ask before collecting data?

  • Who is it for and why is it needed?
  • What impact will it have on learning (and workload)?
  • Is it reliable and comparable?


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assessment, data, data collection, James Pembroke, key stage 1, key stage 2, ks1, ks2, MAT, MATs, ofsted, Primary, Sig+, SigPlus, standardised tests

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