Monthly Archives: January 2017

#teacher5aday #slowchat4 #data

If my SLT knew I was leading a chat on workload and data, they would laugh their heads off.

I hate data. I’m not very good at data. In fact this week, I spent an hour trying to teach myself how to get a column in excel to convert to percentages. It still doesn’t work and my poor data Deputy Head will have to help me at our line management meeting on Wednesday.

I think it stems back to my GCSE in maths. Boy, did I have to work really hard for that C grade and my only memory of the examination was my working out of a simultaneous equation which ran up the sides of the paper as I determined to do the sum. I’m just not so logical.

However, the chat I am leading on Thursday is about workload and data so in preparation for the chat, I have read the Workload Review Group’s report on ‘Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management.’ Here is my summary of that report:

The report begins by stating that data can have a profound impact but recognise that, too often, data collection has become an end to itself, divorced from the core purpose of improving outcomes and that all parts of the education system have contributed to excessive data collection (especially when Ofsted identify key groups).

The two main reasons why data management is a burden for teaching staff is

  • When the purpose of collecting data has not clearly identified how it will be used to improve outcomes
  • When the process of collecting data is inefficient

Therefore, the ideal is to ensure that every data collection has a clear purpose and that the process is as efficient as possible. Leaders and teachers need to determine what data will be useful and for what purpose and then collect the minimum amount of data required to help them evaluate how they are doing. The group recommend that leaders produce an assessment and data calendar to ensure transparency and clarity for staff. The key questions for teachers and leaders when thinking about data, therefore are:

  1. Am I clear on the purpose? Why is this data being collected, and how will it help improve the quality of provision?
  2. Is this the most efficient process? Have the workload implications been properly considered and is there a less burdensome way to collect, enter, analyse, interpret and present the information?
  3. Is the data valid? Does the data actually provide a reliable and defensible measure of educational attainment?

An emphasis in the report is on data collection reflecting pupil progress against the bigger ideas. Teachers need to know if pupils are on track to achieve end-of-year expectations, whether pupils are where they should be. Therefore, the workload group recommend that teachers should make professional judgements of pupil attainment against key performance indicators – the big ideas that tell us whether a pupil understands and has grasped what they have been taught. However, they suggest that these judgements are made through their professional knowledge without recourse to elaborate assessment, data generating and recording systems.

The workload review group also recommend that formative assessment should be used for the teachers’ own planning purposes and to inform professional dialogue only and should not be routinely collected at a school level because of the additional burden.

It is worth noting that the report notes Ofsted’s recent announcement: Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking data to be presented in a particular format. Such data should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in that school.

So to summarise the document suggests that the following common overarching principles should apply to all:

  1. Be streamlined: eliminate duplication – ‘collect once, use many times’
  2. Be ruthless: only collect what is needed to support outcomes for children. The amount of data collected should be proportionate to its usefulness. Always ask why the data is needed.
  3. Be prepared to stop activity: do not assume that collection or analysis must continue just because it always has
  4. Be aware of workload issues: consider not just how long it will take, but whether that time could be better spent on other tasks


On Thursday the 12th January, let’s consider the following questions:

Q1. Are you clear on the process of data collection within your school setting? (In terms of a calendar, the systems used to collect data and why the data is being collected etc) and do you feel the system in place is effective?

Q2. How has your school attempted to reduce or simplify data collection processes whilst still ensuring data is used in a meaningful way to support pupil progress?

Q3. How efficient do you feel your school’s approach to assessment without levels is? Has it increased or reduced workload?

Q4. How does your school approach formative assessment? Is formative assessment tracked?

Q5. What would you like to see put in place to ensure any unnecessary workload is eliminated with regard to data collection?


The report referenced to in this blog can be found here: