Whose data is it anyway?

by Louise Young
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Ofsted made an announcement recently which has stirred up all kinds of conversations. They have stated that inspectors will no longer spend time looking at a school’s internal data during an inspection. They will consider the external data from SATs, GCSEs, and so on, but will not use the in house data to make judgements. Instead they will gather evidence from looking at work, in books and speaking with children, to find out if progress is being made and if the school has a broad and balanced curriculum.

So what does that mean for schools who have for so long relied on having a good handle on their assessment data? Can they scrap everything? Work in new ways? What impact might this have on workload?

For many schools workload around assessment has become an uncontrollable beast over the years. Schools have been ticking off lists and lists of objectives for every pupil. A common misconception which drives this workload is the idea that you must assess in detail every single lesson you teach. So for teachers the Ofsted announcement has probably prompted a flurry of Champagne corks popping. However for a headteacher and senior leadership team, and indeed for governors and local authority staff, there is a secondary worry - how will they know that they are getting things right? How do we hold people accountable? How to we ensure we know what is going on when we cannot be in every classroom every day?

So data of some sort is still going to be used. As much as the assessment animal has been let out of the cage, and it has mostly bolted, there are elements of it that most schools will need to keep for their own internal use. It is vital to check interventions are working, for example, so that you can put extra funds into them if they are, or change what you are doing if not. It is important for leaders to see consistency between classes and teachers. It is important to know how vulnerable groups are doing. And all of that information helps to feed a confident narrative for Ofsted even if they won’t be looking at the actual graphs and pie charts. This is an argument for throwing out the muddy bath water but holding on tight to the baby.

Because actually what should assessment data do? Who should it be for? If it is no longer serving any purpose in the Ofsted folder then where do we keep it and can we stop being quite so precious about it?

What is the purpose of assessing?

Ideally the sole purpose of assessment is to impact on teaching and learning. So some element is always needed. This could be as frugal as a post-it note on a book, or could build into a massive system for the leaders and MAT head office. It could be questioning in class which leads to a rework of lesson plans. Which is all useful for teachers but doesn’t really engage the learner in the learning cycle and often keeps their parents in the dark until the parents evening or end of year report comes around.

Data comparisons are great for cohorts. They give schools vital information about how a class is doing, how a class compares to the cohort before, how a class compares to themselves a year ago, how different groups and sets are faring compared to each other. And can help schools to highlight staff training and mentoring needs by identifying common strengths and weaknesses.

However, a bunch of graphs for an individual pupil are less helpful. They can even dehumanise the learner in the midst of their achievements. They can make teachers and leaders and local authorities question minute dips in attainment when actually a messy path to learning is pretty standard.

Which is why, in Kinteract, you will find all the data and dashboards you need for cohorts but you will see quite a difference from traditional tracking systems when you look at an individual pupil. A timeline. A journey. A learning journey. A portfolio. Achievements, academic or not; Next Steps, including homework and home learning tasks; Observations, including videos and photos and verbal feedback files; and a journey from birth all they way to university if you wish.

You will also see interaction. The Kinteract learning journey does not belong in a folder. It is not confined to a sheet of A4. It is a living, breathing document. Assessment does not start and end with a class teacher. It may begin with a class observation or a test or a comment. Then the student can add in some more information. The parent can add a comment or a question. Assessment comes from the Latin for sitting beside. Kinteract allows everyone who works with or spends time with that child to sit beside them. Parents, carers, teachers, teaching assistants, and the student, can take ownership independently when required too.

Is it time for your school to look at assessment in a whole new light? Contact Kinteract to find out more.