The Education Insider: Dos and Don’ts of December Data

In her seventh post for us, education expert Jodie Lopez shares her top tips on how to get the most out of the progress and attainment data you have to hand.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…soon. The nativity rehearsals are starting, the mince pies are tempting you, the tree is up, and the festive songs can be heard from anywhere vaguely near a shop. First, however, there is the small matter of December’s progress and attainment data to deal with. There may be a few people reading now thinking “we don’t do that anymore…no more termly data!” Well go and hang some baubles you lucky person…this advice is not for you!

For everyone else (and I suspect you are the majority), you will be collating data in one form or another over the next couple of weeks. I can’t stop it happening but here are a few of my top tips on how to deal with the numbers at hand to make it as fruitful an exercise as possible:

DON’T talk scores in Pupil Progress Meetings. Whatever you are calling your scores – Emerging, Developing, Working Towards etc – discussing them in Pupil Progress Meetings will not impact on pupil progress. So 60% of your class are At Expected are they? You might as well call them 2Bs again and be done with it for all the information that gives anyone. Look past the score and focus on your formative assessment…which areas of the curriculum are strongest across the class at this point? What are the weak areas? Need help teaching fractions in a Year 3 class? Which children are struggling particularly? What interventions do we have in place already? Have you thought about ways to tackle this next term? Step away from the pseudo-level and get some teaching and learning discussions happening.

DO use the scores for whole school discussions if you wish. If you want those scores to go somewhere then use them to pick up cohort trends and analyse them. Is one class in Year 3 seemingly doing much better in reading than the other? Is that really the case or do we not have a consistent understanding of our judgements? Do we need a moderation session? Have this discussion before the Pupil Progress meeting perhaps, so you can do a cross check with a few books while discussing the objective-level learning taking place in class.

DON’T focus on individual performance or report individual scores. The new curriculum is not linear like the old one was. If a child has not made the expected grade on 12th December, this does not mean they will not reach it on 17th December…or even the 12th January 2017. Maybe their teacher needs just one more lesson on a topic to suddenly click the pieces into the jigsaw. Look at trends by all means, and find out what support the teacher needs. But whisking a child off for intervention or telling them they are behind their peers at this stage is just a step backwards to the old levels.

DO look at where individuals are or are not making progress within set interventions. If an intervention is having no impact then how can we change it? Is there a better way? Will the child benefit from more targeted support, or maybe being in with the whole class will help? Now is the time of year to check interventions work before we just hope for new results in summer from the same old tricks.

DON’T label all SEND pupils as “Working Below.” This is a surprisingly common practice which has sprung up in life after levels. As we are supposedly having to see where every child is versus their age group, it can be inevitable that we accept all pupils with needs being classed as “below” standard every term. It doesn’t matter to the cohort data in one sense but what impact does it have on the class teacher? It creates simply a flat progress line with not much incentive to show progress in other ways. Find ways to celebrate the progress of these children and separate their data from the rest of the cohort for progress discussions (I.e. a SEND group not as individuals necessarily.) Yes at end of Key Stage they will be showing as below. But no need to show that every term. Moving from Year 2 Below to Year 2 Expected, even if they are in Year 6, is a major deal so let’s embrace that. This doesn’t mean low expectations but does mean credit where it is due!

DO take time to consider what is achieved by looking at the data and review in Spring term the impact made following any December data discussions. If any one of the discussions had no impact, think about how the discussion could be changed next time…or consider whether it was even needed. This life after levels lark is still a work in progress and we should all get the support and interventions we need to move forward with it!

Now go and warm up the mince pies…I have the clotted cream ready.

Jodie is an award winning ex-primary teacher who now works as a Freelance Edtech Consultant. Her interest in using technology in education has led to her working with a number of educational technology businesses since leaving the classroom. Most recently she has been Head of Education for an assessment system provider and has specialised in helping schools to transition to the new curriculum and leaving levels behind. Follow her on Twitter here.

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