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What are the characteristics of a good data system?

Created on 21 May 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 08 April 2013 by ncetm_administrator


What does data tell me about children's learning?

There are many people that will be interested in the data generated from the results of statutory assessments:

  • parents and guardians of current and prospective pupils;
  • the Leadership Team within the school;
  • your Local Authority and other external agencies;
  • Ofsted inspectors and so on.

As Mathematics Subject Leader you will want to set up a system for collecting and analysing statutory and other data that does more than report the levels attained in National Tests.

From this table pick 5-10 characteristics of a system of data-collection and analysis, and put them in order of priority for your system in your school.

Think about the choices that you have made. Most of the above ideas are important but, above all, the system must be manageable and accessible to all teachers.

Most data collection systems will be used to collect data about English and Science as well as Mathematics. It will work best if the teachers can fill in and analyse their own data so that they can see how well their own children are progressing and take steps themselves to fill in any gaps. 

Discuss the mathematics data that you can find with a colleague:

  • what questions does it raise?
  • are there areas that you know need attention in mathematics that do not seem to be revealed by the data that you already have?
  • does the data that you have available tell you what you want to know?

You may be asked to analyse the data and possibly present a report to the governors stating where there are strengths in teaching mathematics and where any weaknesses seem to be. The data can tell you where the strengths and weaknesses seem to be but cannot tell you why or what to do about it. This is where your skill as a professional comes in. The data raises the questions - it is up to you to find the answers. 

How can I use tracking to support children’s learning?

Tracking is an important system which can help leaders in school ensure that all children make appropriate progress throughout their school career. A good tracking system will alert teachers and leaders to ‘blips’ in children’s progress which they can investigate and provide appropriate personalised support.

Setting up a tracking system will involve obtaining data that is reliable, data that you are sure accurately reflects the children’s current attainment, a number of times each year. Some schools opt for twice a year, others three times.  Collecting data more than this can feel as though teachers are assessing the children all the time and leaving no time for teaching.

It is important that the data is an accurate reflection of the children’s actual current attainment. This is most likely to come from a standardised and moderated application of something like the APP process. Such a process asks teachers to consider many of the aspects of the way that children demonstrate what they know, understand and can do. Sometimes schools use tests to obtain data, others may ask children to engage with particular activities designed to enable them to show how well they can use mathematical ideas. Tests can help schools know how well their children may perform in the National Tests at Key Stage 2 but they do not give the complete picture that accurately reflects the children’s attainment that is required to inform teachers about their progress.

Tracking systems need to be accessible to all teachers in the school so that they can enter their data, or if there is administrative help available to do this, they can check the data and the progress of their own pupils. The data entered should be monitored so that all teachers are confident that their judgements are consistent within the school, and where possible, between schools. The mathematics subject leader will need to take a central role in this monitoring process, discussing expectations and looking at the kind of work that may lead a teacher to make one judgement rather than another. This does not have to be onerous.  All judgements for all classes do not have to be monitored - a few from each class will normally do unless there are big discrepancies. However arriving at consistent, reliable judgements about current attainment and progress should be an on-going part of the discussions in school.

How is tracking currently used in your school? What improvements do you feel could be made in how data is generated and in how the tracking system can be used to make sure that all children progress as well as possible?

Record your thoughts in your Personal Learning Space. 






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