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Leanne Gomes - 30 June, 2021

Category : Blog

What does a School Data Manager do?

School Data Managers play a vital role in how schools run, yet they can sometimes get forgotten. Doing everything from resetting passwords, to churning out graphs and spreadsheets – it’s a really varied role. Often as one of the only members of staff with highly technical skills, it can sometimes seem like magic how Data

School Data Managers play a vital role in how schools run, yet they can sometimes get forgotten. Doing everything from resetting passwords, to churning out graphs and spreadsheets – it’s a really varied role.

Often as one of the only members of staff with highly technical skills, it can sometimes seem like magic how Data Managers are able to transform data into something understandable for other staff. But behind the scenes there’s a lot of (usually manual) work involved.

Arbor Key Account Manager, Leanne, who worked as a Data Manager for almost 12 years, mostly for large secondaries in London, shares her insights into what this important role involves day to day. 

“Being a Data Manager is a really rewarding role, especially in the right school and I am lucky to have worked in some of them. I loved my job, loved helping people and seeing small things I did have big ripple effects on the staff and students I worked with.”

The Data Manager’s responsibilities 

The role of Data Managers is varied and complex, with the results of their work driving a lot of the decisions made in schools. Depending on the school, the Data Manager will either be relatively specialised on data analysis or perform quite a generalist role, covering IT and systems admin. Some Data Managers are responsible for exams and timetabling, whilst some schools have separate Exams Officers and Timetablers. Schools also usually have a separate Attendance officer who handles attendance data. 

The general areas of oversight for a Data Manager are usually managing the core systems of the school, including the MIS (Management Information System), collecting data from Teachers, generating key reports for SLT and Heads of Department, and managing statutory reporting and census.

Data Managers are expected to be the expert on everything about all software in the school. A large part of the role is therefore training colleagues on how to use new systems, as well as supporting them on how to manipulate and learn from data. 

Other school responsibilities

In busy schools, staff roles often include lots of other responsibilities around school, and the Data Manager is no different. They will commonly have lunch or break duties, and will often help colleagues out with general daily tasks like  answering calls, covering reception, post, collecting students from classrooms and taking them to reception.

Data Managers often have to also respond to urgent queries or requests from colleagues that could come at any time, sometimes when they’re halfway through doing something else. The most time is usually taken up with working out exactly what the staff member is looking for, for instance what they want to use that piece of data or report for, before they can work out a solution. 

Daily tasks

System admin 

  • Creating user accounts for students and staff in the MIS and any other systems, such as FFT, ALPS, 4Matrix, SISRA
  • Resetting user passwords
  • Setting up the MIS for the new school year, including adding new students, classes and timetables 

Managing data

  • Keeping accurate records for students and staff
  • Tracking down historical information for students (e.g. through DfE websites or contacting their previous schools)
  • Tidying data to prepare for the the school census
  • Updating any changes to classes and groups
  • Updating Teacher timetables 
  • Searching through historical data for reference requests for ex-students
  • Sending leaver student files (CTFS) to students’ new schools

Data analysis and reporting

  • Meet with SLT, Headteachers and Assessment Leads (weekly or monthly) to understand their reporting requirements, to present analysis, feed into strategy, discuss the impact of any recent updates from the DfE and find what’s coming up to help plan workload
  • Carrying out behaviour analysis for SLT, Heads of Department and Pastoral Leads
  • Carrying out assessment analysis for SLT, Heads of Department and Pastoral Leads (the degree of this can vary by Data Manager; some use external analysis software, others write up headline figures, others present detailed analysis highlighting individual students and subjects where interventions were required) 
  • Carrying out assessment analysis for MAT Central Teams (they will want to see a different picture compared to school level staff)
  • Design and implement target setting policy
  • Create, print and split termly student reports into tutor groups ready to send out, and share digitally with parents and students

Statutory reporting and census

  • Keep up to date with DfE requirements and guidance on how schools should collect or use their data
  • Deal with census errors and queries

Data collection

  • Check and chase Teachers for any missing assessment data due for students’ reports
  • Design and create assessment marksheets for all relevant staff 

IT support

  • Run staff training on how to use school software 
  • Log any faults or issues with software and raise them with the provider
  • Teach yourself skills that will be useful to your role (e.g. Microsoft Power BI, SQL)

General admin 

  • Book rooms for staff (this might be done by the other Office Staff)
  • Design and build next year’s timetable (this usually starts at Easter and finishes in July) 
  • Line-manage your team (if you have one), which can include Data Assistants, Data Officers, Exams Officers/Invigilators

Top tips for School Data Managers

  • At the end of the day, make a note on your to-do list of anything that didn’t get done today for tomorrow (I used to do this in a different colour so it stood out), and any meetings or deadlines tomorrow 
  • It’s good to have a support network and camaraderie from fellow Data Managers, so link up with a group nearby and/or online 
  • The key to working well with other staff members is good communication. You might not understand at first what they’re asking for or needing from a report, so try and gauge how they best explain themselves – I once had a brilliant head of Sixth Form who would draw me rough sketches on post-it notes! 
  • Make sure you have a good relationship with your Attendance Officer who can provide data analysis to add into your wider analysis
  • Learn how to use systems inside out so you can best support colleagues (and have less chance of being caught out) 
  • …However, when your school introduces a new system, don’t jump into learning it in detail right away expecting to have to coach others – sometimes you’ll find that Leadership organise a whole school training session on it later on

What do Data Managers think of Arbor MIS? 

Arbor’s built-in data dashboards give staff at all levels accessible data they can understand and act on day to day. In fact, 81% of Arbor users say Arbor has improved how they understand and analyse their data. 

Data Managers say this helps reduce their workload as staff can complete their routine reporting without having to go to their Data Manager for every small request. Instead, Data Managers have more time to get on with the deeper, more satisfying analysis that they love. Our Microsoft Power BI Connector, for example, makes it easy to explore Arbor data in the popular analytics tool, Power BI.

Read more about Arbor’s Microsoft Power BI Connector here. If you’re an Arbor school and you’d like to get started with our Microsoft Power BI Connector, get in touch with your Account Manager at account.management@arbor-education.com .

Discover 5 ways Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI today 

data-manager-quote-1

data-manager-quote-3 data-manager-quote-2Hear more from Kate Ferris, Data and Systems Analyst at Baxter College, about how using Arbor has transformed how she works with her colleagues. 

Want a demo of Arbor MIS?

If you’d like to find out how Arbor could transform the way you work, come along to our free webinars to see the system in action. You can also arrange a personalised demo here or get in touch with us at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 25 February, 2021

Category : Blog

5 ways School Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI

By School Improvement Consultant, Ed Cadwallader   Since I started my career as a School Data Manager nearly 20 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of EdTech come and go. In some areas there have been impressive advances – Arbor MIS, for example, has analytics features that are light years ahead of anything SIMS could

By School Improvement Consultant, Ed Cadwallader

 

Since I started my career as a School Data Manager nearly 20 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of EdTech come and go. In some areas there have been impressive advances – Arbor MIS, for example, has analytics features that are light years ahead of anything SIMS could offer. 

Luckily though, Management Information Systems (MIS) haven’t just been improving their in-built analysis tools, the best ones are also opening up secure data feeds to allow you to export your MIS data and analyse and share it exactly how you want to.

 

What is Power BI?

Arbor users can connect secure, customisable data feeds to visualisation tools including Excel, Google Data Studio or, my favourite, Microsoft Power BI. Power BI is enterprise grade business intelligence (BI) software that lets you combine and analyse data from multiple sources to create interactive dashboards and apps.

Of course, as a busy Data Manager or School Leader, you don’t have bags of free time to learn new software, so I’ve put together five of the top things you can do in Power BI so you can see if it’s for you.

 

Top 5 ways to use Power BI

 

1. Customise! (without the pitfalls of Excel)

As a Data Manager, I used to share screenshots of reports with SLT, but I would often get asked lots of basic questions, such as “who is this 20% of Year 9?” I would reply with a static student list that was accurate on that day but would soon be out of date.

You could solve this by using Excel, but this comes with a host of other problems, such as users typing over formulas, changing underlying data and sharing outdated versions.

Microsoft Power BI gives you all the benefits of Excel without the drawbacks. You can combine data from your MIS, online assessment tools and spreadsheets to produce the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that matter most right now. For example, if you’ve got an initiative around punctuality, you could add the start date onto a graph of lates to see if it made an impact.

attendance-Power-BI

Link your data analysis to your interventions

 

 

2. Focus on what matters

The best MIS systems or analysis tools give you an overview of the big picture while also allowing you to zero-in on the key data points and see the students behind the numbers.

Power BI lets you do just this. You can arrange multiple tables, KPI index cards and charts on a single page, then “drill down” into any of them to see the list of students behind the data. Hovering over a chart will also give you useful context, helping you take the best course of action.

If you spot a problem in a particular year or class group, clicking on that data point will filter the rest of the page by that group’s data. This would allow you to see, for example, if a spike in behaviour incidents within a year group has led to an uptick in exclusions.

 

tooltips-power-bi

Tooltips give additional information and context

 

3. Take action

Unlike Arbor, many MIS systems don’t allow you to take action directly from your analysis. This means you might be carrying out your analysis and communicating your plans via different channels which can lead to people misinterpreting information and a lack of shared purpose between staff.

Power BI’s web portal gives you a shared online space where your stakeholders can analyse, plan actions and carry out on-going reviews of interventions, all in one place. You can comment on specific pages and tag colleagues to bring data points to their attention.

Alternatively, you can share a dashboard in a Microsoft Teams chat so that a group of staff who are working towards a specific school improvement goal could use live data to inform their efforts.

 

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Make data informed decisions using Comments and Chat in Teams

 

4. Empower SLT to explore data themselves

Not everybody can work with a big table of unstructured data. But when you turn raw records into visuals, you might inadvertently present the problem in a biased way. For example, if your school has seen a spike in behaviour incidents, breaking the data down by either year group, subject or time of day might imply one of these factors is behind it.

Power BI’s “Decomposition Tree” is an elegant solution to this problem. This visual allows you to choose from a list of factors that might affect a measure (such as number of negative behaviour incidents). You can change the order and number of break-downs, either choosing a specific category or one that Power BI has calculated to have a large effect. If a line of investigation leads to a dead end, you can remove, rearrange and look at your data in a new way.

You can also cross-highlight; in the example below, where the user has chosen to break the data down by year, subject and Teacher, selecting “Mr M Parting” shows you that his incidents are resolved slightly faster than the overall average but that a far higher proportion of them are negative compared to the school as a whole (1:1 when the overall ratio is 1:4).

 

decomposition-tree-power-bi

Empower leaders to explore the data themselves with the decomposition tree

 

5. See your data in new ways

The flexibility of Power BI allows you to explore data from your MIS in different contexts. For example, using the map visual, you can plot your students by their home postcode to see if their location correlates with attendance or punctuality issues. You could also create a heat map showing days of the week and AM/PM sessions to see if particular times in the week see higher or lower attendance.

This is another way you can tailor your data analysis to your top priorities, which is more important than ever during Covid-19. With so much disruption to accountability measures because of missed exams, being able to bring in other data sources into your analysis allows you to stay flexible and self-sufficient when it comes to monitoring your school’s performance. 

demographics-power-bi

Analyse student locations and journeys with the map visual

 

 


Getting started with Microsoft Power BI

The most important thing to remember about Power BI is that it’s a tool not a solution. While licences are cheap at around £20 per year, the platform isn’t pre-programmed to cater to all of your data needs, you need to create your own data model and dashboards. This requires a considerable investment of time, both to learn the program and create the content. 

The good news is there’s a friendly and growing community of school-based BI developers on Twitter, free tutorials on YouTube and a dedicated blog, Power BI for Schools.

 

Seamless connection between Arbor and Power BI

Arbor gives you sophisticated out-of-the-box dashboards and easy custom reports at school and MAT level, designed to give staff at all levels a shared view of progress.

Arbor has also created a Power BI Connector and five report templates helping you to visualise Arbor data any way you want to.

To find out more, join me for a Power BI masterclass webinar during ArborFest – Arbor’s virtual conference exploring innovative ways of working 18-19th March.

Power BI Masterclass, 18th March, 2pm
Book your free spot 

power-bi-arborfest

blank Andrew Mackereth - 30 June, 2020

Category : Blog

5 easy steps to build a BI dashboard with your Arbor data

As you begin strategic planning for Autumn Term, you may want to dig into your data from the last three years in order to shape your new improvement plan. Arbor’s out-of-the-box dashboards make this easy, helping you quickly access meaningful data so you can make the best decisions. You can drill down into key attendance,

As you begin strategic planning for Autumn Term, you may want to dig into your data from the last three years in order to shape your new improvement plan. Arbor’s out-of-the-box dashboards make this easy, helping you quickly access meaningful data so you can make the best decisions. You can drill down into key attendance, behaviour and attainment metrics and easily spot useful patterns, all without the need for any special training (and no need for a complex setup process!). 

We’ve been working with schools and MATs recently who want to customise how they analyse and visualise their data even further using BI (Business Intelligence) tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Excel. We make it easy to export your Arbor data securely into BI tools if you want to, so you can dig even deeper into your student measures. 

Using BI tools are great for:

  • Driving strategic planning by bringing data from your MIS, HR, and finance systems all into one dashboard
  • Exploring contextual factors affecting your performance by bringing in other national and regional data sets, such as GIAS (Get Information about Schools), IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation) or crime statistics
  • Visualising your data in new ways – choose from lots of different chart and graph options

How to create a custom BI dashboard – an example 

So what does using BI look like in practice as a MAT? Andrew Mackereth, Arbor Senior Partnership Manager, caught up with Empower Trust in Shropshire about how they created a custom dashboard in Google Sheets using their Arbor data. Find out why they wanted to create it and how they built it in five easy steps below.

Google Sheets screenshot 2

3 things they wanted to achieve

1. Share information with the Board

As the Board of Trustees is accountable for the performance of the Multi-Academy Trust and its Academies, a key issue for Ian Nurser, Empower’s CEO, was to provide them with a breadth of accurate, timely information across a range of key performance indicators (KPIs). This would allow the Board to understand the trust’s strengths and development issues, assess progress and review future risks and priorities.

Pulling everything into a single live dashboard would give the Board a single source of truth. At each meeting, the data would automatically refresh, updating the current picture, or monthly/termly trends at the same time. 

2. Make sure everyone has the same information

It was important to Empower that the CEO, the Trust School Improvement Officers and local governing bodies (LGBs) had access to the same Academy-level information to allow them to question, support and appropriately challenge Academy leaders to build on their strengths and continually improve. 

3. Bring together a range of live data sources

Empower wanted to bring together real-time information across a broad range of KPIs including attainment and progress for all year groups, pupil attendance, exclusions, SEND, safeguarding and staff absence (as an indicator of staff wellbeing). Using Google Sheets would enable the reports to automatically update as each Academy entered data. 

As well as providing real-time information, they wanted to increase efficiency and save leadership time by compiling the content for their termly CEO and Headteacher reports to Trustees and LGBs automatically. They also wanted this information to be available to other groups of Trust and Academy staff such as SENCos and EWOs, so they could better monitor SEND, attendance, staff wellbeing, etc.

How they built their custom dashboard

Empower took the following steps to plan and build their Google Sheets dashboard:

1. Agree the data they want it to show
2. Find the sources of the data
3. Plan the structure of the dashboard
4. Export the data they want from Arbor
5. The dashboard is ready and will refresh automatically!

The main process involved in creating a dashboard in Google Sheets is exporting data sets from Arbor using “Live Feeds”. Empower pulled the majority of their data from the data tables in Arbor and the other information (such as the number of days of absence caused by holiday) using Arbor’s unique Custom Report Writer. 

For each data set (table) they wanted to export from Arbor, they created a “Live Feed” for it, then inserted it into their custom dashboard using the Google Sheets add-on. Then they selected the graph type they wanted to use to illustrate the data (like the bar chart below). 

Google Sheets screenshot 1

Ensuring the data is secure

It’s important to be confident that your data is safe when you export it out of your MIS. That’s why in Arbor you can add authentication to your “Live Feeds”. This means that anyone accessing your new custom dashboard (whichever BI tool you create it in) must enter a password. You can also track when each Feed was last accessed. Read more about how Arbor keeps your data secure here.

Google Sheets Google Sheets screenshot 3screenshot 3

Visualise your data however you want to with Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is becoming a popular tool with School Data Managers for creating custom visualisations of their MIS data.

This year, we launched a brand new Microsoft Power BI Connector which pre-loads your key Arbor data into Power BI, allowing you to explore it further in creative new ways.

We’ve also created five ready-to-go template dashboards which will save you hours of manual set-up, and allow you to dig into key factors behind your school or MAT’s performance. Plus, they’re fully customisable, giving you the freedom to present your data how you need to.

Check out the top five ways to use Microsoft Power BI as a Data Manager from expert Ed Cadwallader.

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Want to find out more about Arbor MIS?

If you’d like to find out all the ways Arbor could transform how your school or MAT works, join one of our free webinars this term to see the system in action. Looking forward to meeting you online!

blank Maddie Kilminster - 4 June, 2020

Category : Blog

Announcing the new Understanding Your MAT Report – out now!

See your trust in a new light with our new free report Often serving a broad range of pupils from different backgrounds, and sometimes varying geographical areas, a big priority for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) is ensuring their spread of provision gives every pupil an equal chance of success.  There are lots of factors that play

See your trust in a new light with our new free report

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Often serving a broad range of pupils from different backgrounds, and sometimes varying geographical areas, a big priority for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) is ensuring their spread of provision gives every pupil an equal chance of success. 

There are lots of factors that play a part in how pupils perform, such as where they live, whether they’re eligible for free school meals (FSM), or have special educational needs (SEN). As a DfE official warns that the attainment gap for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds could widen by 75% as a result of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever for trusts to look at their school performance in context. The problem is, it’s not always easy to gather all this data in one place without trawling online data tables or waiting on spreadsheets.

That’s why we’ve launched a brand new free report for MAT leaders – the “Understanding Your MAT Report”. Created for every MAT in the country, the report helps you understand your unique make-up in a national context, so you can shape smart strategy going forwards.

Designed in partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth, the Understanding Your MAT Report brings together your schools’ key performance measures, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand your unique set of strengths and challenges. What’s more, the report shows you how your MAT compares to other trusts nationally for the first time.

Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your free Arbor Group Insight portal (our benchmarking tool for MATs)! If you don’t have an account yet, sign up here for free.

What can you do with the new Understanding Your MAT Report? 

  • Get a clear picture of student performance across your trust, how you compare in a national context 
  • Compare your size, growth, pupil characteristics and socio-economic factors with other trusts
  • Shape smart strategy by looking at the relationship between deprivation and attainment across your trust 

Let’s break that down…

1. Get a clear picture of student performance across your trust, how you compare in a national context 

We use your schools’ latest validated 2019 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data to show you your spread of performance in key measures at KS4, 2 and 1, such as Progress 8, Achieving Expected Standard: Reading, Writing and Maths, and Working at the Expected Standard: Year 1 Phonics

Then we compare your results against three key benchmarks: Trust average (the weighted average of all your schools’ results), National average (weighted average of all state schools in England) and National MAT average (weighted average of all academies in England) to help you see what makes your MAT distinctive.

Plus, you can use your report as a companion to your free Arbor Group Insight portal, where you can dig further into any data set to see pupil level figures.

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Image 1 – KS4 Progress 8 score, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020

 

2. Compare your size, growth, pupil characteristics and socio-economic factors with other trusts

You might be wondering “Is my MAT growing at the same pace as other trusts?” Or “Is our proportion of students eligible for Free School Meals higher or lower than other trusts?” The Understanding Your MAT Report will help you answer all these questions and more, showing you how your unique make-up compares to other trusts in the country.

You’ll get an overview of your MAT’s size, growth, blend of phases, pupil characteristics (% of FSM, SEN and EAL pupils), as well as the “Area Type” your schools are in, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) area classifications. The report also shows you the demographic factors associated with the areas your schools are in (such as the level of education and the unemployment rate) which helps you understand your pupils’ socio-economic background.

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Image 2 – Area Type Blend, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020


3. Shape smart strategy by looking at the relationship between deprivation and attainment across your trust

By bringing together your demographics, pupil context and school attainment, your Understanding Your MAT Report will help you understand all the factors impacting achievement at your MAT. As you’ll see from the report’s leading article “Breaking the link: Attainment, poverty and rural schools” (preview here), the relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England, so it’s important for trusts to understand how this plays out across their mix of schools.

Use this analysis to drive decision making at your next strategy meeting, and find new ways to improve results for staff and pupils. 

 

Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your Arbor Group Insight portal – we’ve also sent the link to you by email. If you’re not registered, don’t worry, you can sign up for free here

If you have any questions about your report, or if you’d like one of our team to show you around Group Insight, get in touch at insight@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 1 June, 2020

Category : Blog

Breaking the link between deprivation and attainment in schools – article by Loic Menzies

Preview of the new Understanding Your MAT Report – special article  In partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we’ve created a new free report for MATs across the country – the Understanding Your MAT Report – to help you see your trust in a new light. Built especially for your trust, your

Preview of the new Understanding Your MAT Report – special article 

In partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we’ve created a new free report for MATs across the country – the Understanding Your MAT Report – to help you see your trust in a new light.

Built especially for your trust, your report brings together key measures like your schools’ ASP performance statistics, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand the unique makeup of your trust compared to others in England. 

The report is out soon but you can sign up to our waiting list to get early access to your report now!

As a preview, we wanted to share with you the leading article from the report, written by Loic Menzies, CEO of The CfEY. The article introduces you to the contextual analysis the report gives you and the kinds of conversations your report might bring up in your next strategy meeting.

Breaking the Link? Attainment, poverty and rural schools

by Loic Menzies

The relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England. Combining datasets shows that poverty has a particularly pernicious effect on educational attainment in some area-types, particularly the rural areas shown in green, below.

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Free School Meals aren’t the only ingredient

In recent years there has been increasing recognition that the relationship between deprivation and educational achievement is not as simple as we once thought. Researchers like Simon Burgess have shown that the interaction between disadvantage and ethnicity / migration status, for example, is often underestimated.

At LKMco we’ve had a longstanding interest in ONS area classifIcations (see “The Two Kingstons – what FSM does and doesn’t tell us” and “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner”). These classifications combine a range of characteristics of different areas, including industrial and employment data; demographics and qualification levels.

Combining these classifications with school data reveals striking differences between patterns of school performance in different area types.

Affluent England and London in the lead (surprise, surprise)

At the most basic level, we see that area types differ considerably in their attainment and deprivation levels.

Areas described as “Affluent England” achieve most highly, but “London Cosmopolitan” and “Ethnically Diverse Cosmopolitan” areas are not far behind – despite having two or three times the same level of deprivation.

However, once we plot FSM levels against attainment, the results get considerably more interesting – and the worrying situation in rural schools is revealed.

A variable picture

Firstly, notice how, apart from a small cluster of very-low-deprivation, very-high-attainment schools on the far left, pink dots dominate the top of the distribution. These represent “ethnically diverse cosmopolitan” areas (most of which are in Greater London). This shows that regardless of their deprivation levels, pupils tend to do best in these areas. Meanwhile, red dots are concentrated in the top right-hand corner. These represent high-achieving, high-deprivation central-London schools.

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How strong is the link between deprivation and attainment…? It depends on the area

Switching our attention to the trend lines and R-squared values (representing the strength of the relationship between poverty and attainment), we see that the angle of the lines differs considerably – as does the strength of the correlation, even though all eight correlations are significant.

Notably, in rural areas, the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes is particularly strong. So although pupils in rural schools with low deprivation attain highly, schools in deprived areas are really struggling.

It seems that rural schools have particular difficulty breaking the link between poverty and low pupil attainment.

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What about pupil progress?

Switching the measure to pupil progress paints an even starker picture of pupil outcomes in disadvantaged rural schools.

In general, the relationship between FSM and Progress is much weaker than when looking at attainment (r squared values of <0.2 in most area types).

This is unsurprising, since how well pupils achieve at KS2 (which is taken into account in Progress 8), already depends a lot on their deprivation level.

However, in rural schools, we find that a moderate relationship returns. It, therefore, seems that low attainment in rural, high-deprivation secondary schools is not just about pupils having low starting points. Instead, there is an important link between school deprivation level and progress rates.

Why is pupil progress in disadvantaged secondary schools worse in rural schools than in other parts of the country?

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Implications

When considering how to break the link between poverty and education outcomes, it is crucial to take a nuanced view of poverty. Geography, demographics and community/economic context plays a critical role in moderating the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes.

Studies of the factors affecting schools in different area types are therefore urgently needed since these would help schools understand how best to respond to their circumstances.

Key factors to explore could include:

  • Local labour markets and their history
  • Attitudes to education linked to the above and to their contrasting ethnic make up
  • Proximity to other schools
  • School size
  • Teacher labour market
  • The range of, and actual wealth levels, both in the school and the community (FSM is a binary which hides huge variation in deprivation levels)
  • The effect of school funding levels

Find out more about this analysis in Schools Week.

Loic Menzies is Director of The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY). He specialises in education policy and research, youth development and social enterprise. He was previously a tutor for Canterbury Christ Church’s Faculty of Education, an Associate Senior Manager and Head of History and Social Sciences at St. George’s R.C. School in North West London and a youth worker. He has authored numerous high profile reports and works with policy makers to communicate the implications of research, for example presenting to the Education Select Committee on White Working Class Underachievement or presenting to civil servants on teacher recruitment, retention and development. He is currently editing CfEY’s first book with Routledge entitled ‘Young People on the Margins’.

Methodology notes

  • Thank you to Alice Luetchford for support with analysis
  • All data is from 2017-18
  • Calculations are based on three fields in DfE data: “PTFSMCLA” (This refers to ever 6 FSM and Looked after children) and ATT8SCR (Average attainment 8 for the school) and P8MEA (Progress 8 measure after adjustment for extreme scores)
  • Details of the area level classification can be found here
  • Schools without available data were excluded from the analysis, as were special school where attainment, progress and deprivation follow different patterns. This means that since PTFSMCLA is suppressed for schools with very low numbers of eligible pupils, schools with very low levels of disadvantage are not included in this analysis
  • Calculated averages are based on school rather than pupil level data

    For descriptions of all the area types in England, as defined by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), take a look at the ONS website.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 4 February, 2020

Category : Blog

How Arbor keeps your data safe

At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting school and MAT data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail.  1) We

At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting school and MAT data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail. 

1) We have full data security accreditation

  • ISO 27001  –  We are accredited by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) – an independent, non-governmental international organisation that ensures the quality and safety of software like Arbor around the world. We are accredited under ISO27001 – the international benchmark for data security
  • GDPR  –  We meet and exceed the requirements of GDPR, protecting the data we store with a comprehensive Information Security Management System. Arbor MIS gives you enterprise provisioning secure logins (e.g. via Google SSO and 2FA), allows you to retrieve all the data you need for Subject Access Requests (SAR), and helps you monitor and delete data through “out-of-the-box” data retention dashboards
  • Cyber Essentials  –  We are certified with Cyber Essentials and are audited annually. This means our IT systems are security approved by an accreditation body selected by the NCSC and we have technical defences in place against cyber threats
  • ICO  –  We are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for data protection, the UK’s independent authority that upholds public information rights and controls organisations use of staff or customer data

2) Our digital security

  • Protected by the cloud  –  Your school data is stored on our central, cloud-based system, rather than any individual device, which means if there’s a security breach at your school your data is less likely to be lost or compromised. Your data is only accessible with a secure login and the system automatically logs out after a period of inactivity, meaning there’s less chance of it getting into the wrong hands
  • Only you can see your data  –  Our database uses bank-grade, end-to-end, 256bit SSL encryption for transmitting data, and AES-256 bit encryption for all stored data, which means only you can see your data. Student data is never shared with third parties without your schools’ consent
  • Analyse data securely  –  With our built-in BI analysis, you can go deep into the detail of your data within Arbor MIS. But if you do want to pull data out, you can download it as a file or as a secure “Live Feed” which can be password protected. You can keep central control access to this data and cut the link if necessary
  • Your data is secure because our data is secure  –  At Arbor HQ, our data is hosted by Amazon Web Services’ London data centre. Arbor is approved by the DfE list for cloud suppliers and registered on the UK government’s G-Cloud V11 framework, which audits the security of cloud-based providers
  • We lock down access to our databases to specific individuals, and only allow access through strict gateways requiring two-factor authentication login and public/private key identification. All logins to Arbor are logged and tracked, and strict policies are enforced which create alerts if breached. Staff passwords are also changed regularly and, since data is kept on our central system, permissions can easily be revoked if needed

3)  Our physical security 

The security of every Arbor office is maintained by formal security inspections and risk assessments. Access to our offices is restricted with secure keys, CCTV, 24/7 security personnel and secure perimeter doors.

Security top tips !

When protecting data at your school, it’s important that you follow data security best practice to make sure data does not fall into the wrong hands. Here are some key things you can keep in mind: 

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If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your secondary school works, contact us

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Category : Blog

What is BI and how can it help my trust?

You might have heard of Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Tableau. But what is Business Intelligence (BI) and what does it mean for schools and MATs? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate all things BI. What is BI? BI stands for “Business Intelligence”. In simple terms, this means the

You might have heard of Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Tableau. But what is Business Intelligence (BI) and what does it mean for schools and MATs? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate all things BI.

What is BI?

BI stands for “Business Intelligence”. In simple terms, this means the technology used by companies (or schools and trusts!) to analyse their data. BI tools are used to do these things: 

  • Collect and store data 
  • Manipulate and process data
  • Represent data in a visual, easy-to-understand way 
  • Take action based on data

How is BI used in schools and MATs?

Schools are swimming in data. But data is only helpful when you can learn from it. Without a way to understand their data so they can turn it into actions, schools can find themselves “drowning in data” (Education Technology). This is where Business Intelligence tools come in – they help SLT monitor the health and progress of their schools (e.g. Which of my schools is performing most highly?), inform strategic decisions (e.g. Which subject should we invest in more next year?) and report to governors, parents and trustees. 

Why are schools using external BI tools?

Schools and MATs are turning to external BI tools more and more in order to analyse their data. This is usually because their management information system (MIS) doesn’t give them an easy way of visualising their data in the way they need. BI tools free schools from having to manually build reports in spreadsheets which is time-consuming and doesn’t present an overall picture. For multi-academy trusts especially, BI dashboards allow them to see a “single source of truth” in order to monitor and assess the performance of all their schools, rather than having to piece together and compare the data themselves. 

The size of your trust will affect the type of data analytics and BI tooling that’s right for you. Larger MATs may have the resources to employ data and software professionals to create a bespoke BI solution. We’ve put together a diagram below showing how the size, degree of centralisation, existing systems and data strategy of a MAT might affect what they need from BI.

MATBI

The problem schools are facing with external BI products is they’re expensive, complex and require setup by trained staff. Many tools don’t work with schools’ existing management information systems, which means it takes a long time for staff to take actions on the data. Plus, as most tools are not suited to groups of schools, MATs have to rely on products such as Microsoft Power BI to bring all their data together. 

Arbor’s BI solution 

At Arbor, we have built “out of the box” Business Intelligence solutions into the fabric of our MIS through clear, detailed and relevant dashboards. This means there’s no need for configuration or setupeveryone working at your school can see and manipulate the data they need in a few clicks. Plus, you can go deep into the detail of your data and take actions without needing to be a data expert or to hire one!

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What makes Arbor different?

Whilst Arbor provides detailed, powerful, “out of the box” analysis for schools, we also know that you sometimes need to analyse data outside of your MIS. That’s why Arbor MIS supports all major BI providers, giving you the freedom and flexibility to choose and define your own BI approach for your group. It’s easy – using Arbor “Live Feeds”, you can export live data from Arbor MIS into your external BI tool.

We’ve built powerful yet simple Business Intelligence into Arbor MIS, Group MIS and Arbor Insight. You can book a demo today or come and chat to us at BETT – we’re at stand NM30. We’re also hosting lunch (on us!) at Tapa Tapa restaurant (on the DLR walkway outside the ExCel centre) – sign up for your free spot here.

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Category : Blog

KS1 & KS2 data for your MAT is now available in Group Insight!

We’re excited to let you know that all your KS1, KS2 and Phonics Analyse School Performance (ASP) data has been added to your Group Insight portal. We’ve crunched your schools’ 2019 data ahead of the DfE and used it to build free, interactive dashboards which you can use to explore aggregated statistics for all your

We’re excited to let you know that all your KS1, KS2 and Phonics Analyse School Performance (ASP) data has been added to your Group Insight portal. We’ve crunched your schools’ 2019 data ahead of the DfE and used it to build free, interactive dashboards which you can use to explore aggregated statistics for all your schools. Keep reading to find out more about Group Insight and how you can use it to plan your MAT’s improvement approach for next year. 

What is Group Insight? 

Group Insight is a free performance analysis tool for MATs to help you analyse your schools’ latest Analyse School Performance (ASP) data. We automatically analyse your MAT’s latest school performance data and present it back to you in easy-to-understand PDF reports and personalised dashboards, so you don’t have to spend hours aggregating and analysing the raw data yourself. 

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Fig 1.: A screenshot of a Group Insight dashboard displaying KS2 data across a MAT

How do you present my schools’ KS1 & KS2 data? 

Your dashboards are great for helping you spot trends over the past three years, identifying which schools are driving over (or under) performance, and benchmarking your academies against national and top quintile averages. You can also use them to view each of your schools’ outcomes side by side, drill down into individual school outcomes and show impact over time when reporting to trustees.

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Fig 2.: A screenshot of a Group Insight comparing a MATs school results by cluster 

We’ve also updated our popular pre-paid PDF reports analysing your schools’ attainment and progress, highlighting areas to close the gap, and exploring patterns between your trust’s outcomes and the context of your unique demographic intake in our new Understanding Your School Report, which you can download via your portal. 

Click here to log in & access your 2019 reports and dashboards: https://login.arbor.sc 

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Fig 3.: A screenshot of a Group Insight comparing a MATs results by demographic 

“Clear, saves us time, available sooner than DfE MAT data, and is extremely well presented, making reporting to Trustees very straight forward” 

– Paul James, Chief Executive Officer at River Learning Trust 

How do I sign up?

Click here to sign up to your MAT’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/group-register

When will you add KS4 data to my portal?

We expect to receive your 2018/2019 KS4 data from the DfE very soon – so watch this space! If you’re already signed up, we’ll email you automatically to let you know when this happens.

Do you offer training on how my schools can use their Arbor Insight portal?

Yes! We run a free Arbor Insight Roadshow each Autumn Term offering free, in-person training to help your schools’ central teams to get the most out of Arbor Insight. Click here to sign up

Where can I hear more about Group Insight? 

You can hear our CRO, Phillippa De’Ath, talk about how you can use your ASP data to drive school improvement across your MAT at the Schools & Academies Show in Birmingham. She’ll be speaking in the Business & Finance Theatre from 10:10-10:30 on 14th November 2019. 

Can I use Group Insight alongside the DfE’s ASP service?

Yes! Arbor is an accredited supplier of ASP data, which means we receive secure, early access to all your school performance data from the DfE as soon as it’s released. So far over 10,000 schools have signed up to use us. Lots of schools and MATs use us instead of the DfE’s ASP service, but you can also use our reports and dashboards as a companion to the DfE’s analysis.

You haven’t answered my questions! Can I contact you for help?

Absolutely. You can reach the Arbor team at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or by calling us on 020 8050 1028.

This November, we’re also holding another of our popular MAT Conferences in Manchester. Over 80 MAT leaders from over 50 MATs have already signed up! Click here to book your free place before they sell out

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Category : Blog

How to reduce data entry at your school

Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be

Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – keep reading to see how you can transform the way your school deals with data entry. 

Making data work

In November 2018, the Teacher Workload Advisory Group released a report called “Making Data Work”. The report reveals that teachers consider unnecessary tasks around recording, monitoring and analysing data to be notably time-consuming, with data entry highlighted as the biggest problem. The Teacher Workload Advisory Group set out a number of suggestions for the DfE to consider. These included:

  • Making sure schools are using cloud-based products which help to minimise workload by allowing teachers to access the MIS from anywhere at any time – the same isn’t possible from a desktop computer 
  • Promoting the use of education technology to “improve the collection, monitoring and analysis of attainment data” 
  • Encouraging parental engagement through the use of technology – for example, the Arbor App keeps parents up to date with school trips and parents evenings, meaning teachers spend less time chasing up on emails 

So what’s the best way to reduce data entry at your school? Try following these simple steps:

Part 1: Streamline your systems

Before you do anything else, you need to ask yourself if all the third-party systems you’re currently using still work for your school. Are they up to date? Do you need all of them? Do staff engage with them regularly? 

Find out by running a systems audit. It’s easy to do – just follow the instructions in our blog on how to audit your school or MAT’s IT systems. By running a systems audit, you can reduce the number of places you have to enter data. Goodbye, multiple logins! Your staff will have fewer systems and apps to keep track of, which will considerably reduce their administrative workload. 

An IT systems audit

Image 1: How we encourage schools to approach an IT systems audit

Part 2: Make sure any extra systems you’re using are integrated with your MIS

Over the years, your school has probably invested in lots of different systems that were useful at the time, but which don’t integrate with your current MIS. This can make everyday tasks like following up with detentions and creating meal plans much more complicated and time-consuming than they need to be, as you have to visit external apps in order to properly record all of the data. Using systems that integrate with your MIS can make admin a lot simpler. For example, Arbor’s integrations with apps like CPOMS and Inventry means that you only have to enter student data once and it will update automatically in these apps. 

The “Making Data Work” report also advises that schools should “minimise or eliminate the number of pieces of information teachers are expected to compile.” Ensuring your systems integrate with your MIS will mean that you can access all your data in one place, which means you won’t have to spend time transferring it from one system to another. 

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Image 2: How parents can view all payments and invoices from Arbor’s Parent Portal 

Part 3: Set up a system to suit your school

It’s important to think about how your MIS can best serve your school. For example, the report advises that schools should have simple systems that allow behaviour incidents to be logged during lesson time, rather than at break or lunch. In Arbor, you can set up incident workflows that track negative and positive behaviour (e.g. a Level 2 incident could automatically create a lunchtime detention). Automating workflows in this way means that teachers don’t have to add this information manually, which will save them a significant amount of time. 

Your MIS can also help to reduce data with quick group selection. For example, in Arbor you can select absentees from your register and instantly send emails to their primary guardians with the help of our mail merge tool. You can even use a pre-made message template so you won’t have to type a single word! 

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Image 3: How you can follow up on students registered absent in Arbor

Not only will reducing data entry help to improve workloads, it will make your staff happier too. So – streamline your systems, make sure they integrate with your MIS, and set it all up to suit your school. If you’d like to hear more about how Arbor could help you reduce data entry at your school, why not drop us a message here?

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Category : Blog

A data manager’s guide to analysing your Key Stage 4 data

The educational landscape is constantly changing, not least the way in which student and school performance is measured. While working in my previous role as a secondary school data manager we still had Levels, GCSEs graded A* to G and RAISEonline. Now we have Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as the headline measures used to

The educational landscape is constantly changing, not least the way in which student and school performance is measured.

While working in my previous role as a secondary school data manager we still had Levels, GCSEs graded A* to G and RAISEonline. Now we have Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as the headline measures used to measure school performance, along with the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) average point score, and the proportion of pupils attaining English and Maths at a grade 5 or above.

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Fig 1.: Your free Arbor Insight dashboards analyse trends over the past three years and benchmark you against local, national and “Schools like you” measures

Arbor Insight is all you need to analyse past performance and view trends, but how can you estimate your accountability measures for your current Year 11 cohort?

First, some quick definitions:

Attainment 8 for each student is simply the sum of values of the highest GCSEs within four “buckets”: Maths, English, EBAcc and Open (other subjects). Maths is double-weighted. The highest of English Language and English Literature is placed in the English bucket and is also double-weighted, provided that the student takes both. Some non-GCSE qualifications can count towards the ‘Open’ slots.

Progress 8 for each student is one tenth of the difference between the student’s predicted Attainment 8, and the expected Attainment 8 score, based on their KS2 Prior Attainment. Both measures are calculated after the Key Stage 4 results are released each year, because they’re based on the actual average results achieved by students.

The first and easiest way to analyse your Key Stage 4 performance is to check the features available in your MIS or assessments system. Your MIS may provide estimates for Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Arbor does this within the Progress 8 Analysis dashboard. This automatically uses the complex DfE methodology and will give you a useful overview of your estimated measures. The estimates for each student can be downloaded or sent to a live feed:

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Fig. 2.: Arbor uses DfE methodology to calculate estimates for Progress 8 & Attainment 8

What can you do if your MIS doesn’t provide this analysis?

You can calculate your Progress 8 measures within a spreadsheet. You’ll need to start by calculating the KS2 prior attainment for each student. For details of how the DfE calculate the KS2 Prior Attainment you should refer to the Secondary accountability measures document published by the Department for Education. It’s currently the rounded average of the fine scores for Reading and Maths. Below is an example of how the fine scores can be calculated within a spreadsheet – feel free to copy my work!

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You can use lookups on the test marks to find the fine score for each student. Then average the two marks and round to one decimal place:

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You then need to download the grades for English, Maths, Ebacc and Open from your MIS. To calculate the Attainment 8 convert these grades to values and sum, doubling the value for Maths and English (providing students are taking both English Literature and English Language).

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The Secondary accountability measures document provides Attainment 8 and “bucket” averages from the previous year. These can be copied into your spreadsheet.

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Use this data to calculate the expected Attainment 8 score and marks for each student. The KS2 Prior Attainment for the student is used to lookup the average marks for Attainment 8 and for the English, Maths, EBacc and Open subjects. The average marks for Maths and English need to be divided by 2 to give the expected marks for these subjects; the EBacc and Open marks need to be divided by 3.

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The Progress 8 for each student can be found by subtracting the expected Attainment 8 score from the predicted Attainment 8 score for each student and dividing by 10:

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To calculate the overall school Progress 8, find the average of all the students’ Progress 8:

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Finally, you can refer to columns from the different sheets and use conditional formatting to analyse your data further:

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I hope these tips have been useful for new data managers, as well as those who still aren’t quite comfortable with the new system. If you’d like to find out how you can perform your Progress 8 or Attainment 8 analysis in Arbor instead, do get in touch here!

 

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Category : Blog

KS1 & KS2 disadvantaged data is now available in Arbor Insight!

We’ve just updated our KS1 and KS2 free dashboards and premium Insight reports with the latest ASP disadvantaged data! This means that our Ofsted Readiness, Attainment & Progress and Closing the Gap reports all now include validated & disadvantaged KS2 data and disadvantaged data & phonics KS1 results. With the release of this new disadvantaged

We’ve just updated our KS1 and KS2 free dashboards and premium Insight reports with the latest ASP disadvantaged data!

This means that our Ofsted Readiness, Attainment & Progress and Closing the Gap reports all now include validated & disadvantaged KS2 data and disadvantaged data & phonics KS1 results.

With the release of this new disadvantaged data, the Department for Education has published new analysis about the disadvantage gap in UK schools. Looking at provisional phonics data from 2018, 70% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) met the expected standard in phonics in year 1, compared to 84% of all other pupils. The gap between pupils eligible for FSM and all other pupils is 14 percentage points, and remains the same compared to 2017.

The gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged KS2 pupils (measured using the disadvantage gap index) has decreased in each of the last seven years, narrowing by 3% in the latest year and 13.2% since 2011.

If you’d like to know how your disadvantaged pupils have performed relative to national averages and other pupils within your school, you can find all the information you need in your Insight reports, which are available to view in your Arbor Insight portal. If you’ve already got an account, you can click here to log in, or click here to create an account for your school or MAT.

A closer look at what’s new in our Insight reports:

Since we imported this new data, we’ve made a few changes to your Arbor Insight reports. We’ve outlined the most important changes below.

1. Ofsted Readiness report

In the KS1 section of this report, we’ve added disadvantage cohort benchmarks to the Working at Expected Standard measures for Reading, Writing and Maths. For KS2, this added benchmark can be found in Averaged Scaled Score and Overall Progress Score for Reading, Writing and Maths.

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Fig. 1: The bar graphs above show your school’s average as a benchmark against each demographic group, helping you to quickly see which cohorts are under-performing or exceeding the school average

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Fig. 2: A screenshot of our Ofsted Readiness report

You may have also noticed changes in the condensed Closing the Gap section in our Ofsted Readiness report for both KS1 and KS2 data (see above image). For KS1, Working at the Expected Standard for Reading, Writing and Maths now has added disadvantaged measures. For KS2, this measure has been added under Averaged Scale Score in Reading and Maths. The text callout for these measures contain useful calculations which explain your data in plain english & calculate the percentage by which the gap for each measure has widened or narrowed in your school.

2. Attainment & Progress report:

The KS1 & KS2 Attainment and Progress reports also now contain disadvantaged benchmarks and cohort data for 2017/18, allowing you to benchmark this cohort against all other demographic groupings in your school. For KS1, this chart can be found in measures, Achieving Expected Standard: Y1 Phonics, Achieving Expected Standard and Working at Greater Depth within the Expected Standard for Reading, Writing and Maths. For KS2, this graph appears in Overall Progress Score for Reading, Writing and Maths.

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Fig. 3: A screenshot of our Attainment & Progress report

3. Closing the Gap report: Focus on Disadvantage

This particular report is part of a series of 5 reports which help to identify the gaps between student groups, showing which groups are under or over performing relative to the school, group and national averages.

At the beginning of this report there is a star chart which shows the gaps between disadvantaged and EAL pupils compared to the rest of the school. For KS1, the measures shown in this graph are attendance and attainment, and for KS2 they are attendance, attainment and progress measures. This star chart is colour coded to help you identify any areas that need your attention (or indeed any areas that should be shouted about because there is no gap!); for example, a green star indicates there is no gap between the group and the school average, whilst an orange star indicates the group has performed below the school and national averages. A yellow star indicates the group has performed between them.

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Fig. 4: A screenshot of the star chart at the beginning of the Closing the Gap report

Your reports clearly display the cohort size for each measure, so you know how much statistical significance each outcome has. This can help you know which areas you should be prioritising.

Finally, KS4 validated and disadvantaged data will be released in the next few weeks. Once it’s released, Arbor Insight portals & reports will be automatically updated.

As one of only a few accredited suppliers, we receive all of our data for Arbor Insight reports and dashboards directly from the DfE. Over 10,000 schools are now using Arbor Insight to benchmark their performance, so if you’re thinking of signing up, you’ll be in good company!

 

 

blank James Weatherill - 5 December, 2018

Category : Blog

4 practical ways to centralise school data & back office ops

— I recently spoke at our Manchester MAT Conference on how culture beats strategy when MATs start thinking about centralising data, operations and people. At Arbor we talk about 4 (broad) types of MAT cultures, and how the degree of MAT alignment vs school autonomy dictates how you approach scaling systems, processes and people. What

I recently spoke at our Manchester MAT Conference on how culture beats strategy when MATs start thinking about centralising data, operations and people.

At Arbor we talk about 4 (broad) types of MAT cultures, and how the degree of MAT alignment vs school autonomy dictates how you approach scaling systems, processes and people. What we see more and more from the 57 MATs who we provide MIS systems to, and the 100s more we are speaking to is that centralisation of school back office functions such as data, HR, finance and operations is the general direction of travel for all MATs. The debate is centred around the degree, style and pace at which this happens.

We’ve gathered feedback about the 4 different ways MATs go about scaling decision making, curriculum & assessment, systems & processes and their central team in the presentation below. See what you think and whether you fit into 1 or more of the categories I describe.

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Category : Blog

The DfE’s ASP service helps you ask the important questions – Arbor can help you answer them

Our take on Analyse School Performance (ASP) The DfE launched its new, slimmed down service called Analyse School Performance (ASP) to replace RAISEonline in April last year. ASP is intended to be a sister service to Compare School Performance (which helps you benchmark your school’s performance), and was designed to be a simpler and more straightforward service than RAISEonline.

Our take on Analyse School Performance (ASP)

The DfE launched its new, slimmed down service called Analyse School Performance (ASP) to replace RAISEonline in April last year. ASP is intended to be a sister service to Compare School Performance (which helps you benchmark your school’s performance), and was designed to be a simpler and more straightforward service than RAISEonline. In theory, this sounds great – but what’s it actually like using ASP for meaningful performance analysis?

At first glance, ASP does seem easier to use and more useful than RAISEonline. It’s not flashy – but to get a quick overview of your data, ASP works well. The charts are clearer to read than in the old RAISEonline, and some less frequently used data (like confidence intervals) have been dropped, which makes it easier to digest your data at a high level.

But what about if you want to dig deeper into your performance? Below we show you how ASP can help your Senior Leadership team get an overview to ask the right questions – but how you’ll need to use other performance analysis tools like Arbor Insight to go one level deeper and help you answer them.

Using Arbor alongside ASP

As in the old RAISEonline, ASP shows users an overview of headline and key measures for your school. The problem is, seeing your performance at such a high level doesn’t help you truly understand why your school performed as it did.

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Analysing Progress 8 in ASP

For example, after seeing this chart on Attainment 8 in ASP, schools might wonder:

  • The school is below the National average, but is it moving in the right direction? What’s the trend?
  • Does this school have a particularly challenging intake? How does the Attainment 8 data compare with similar schools?

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Analysing Progress 8 in Arbor

Services like Arbor can help you answer these questions. Our reports (like the example shown above) use trend data to help you see how your performance has changed over time, and we benchmark your school not just nationally and locally, but against similar schools and Outstanding schools too.

The DfE has also introduced scatter graphs in ASP. These graphs are helpful in that they allow schools to see individual students’ attainment on a key metric, and identify whether there are any trends with other measures. For example, the scatter graph below shows the correlation between KS2 prior attainment and KS4 Progress 8 score.

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An example scatter graph in ASP

Again, whilst this graph is good at giving an overview, schools might need to look elsewhere to answer key questions this graph raises such as:​

  • Progress in English GCSE is correlated with prior attainment for this school. How significant is this? Should it be the main priority for the school?
  • Non disadvantaged pupils are getting higher Progress 8 scores than disadvantaged pupils at this school. Are the non disadvantaged pupils doing as well as non disadvantaged pupils nationally? What about locally?

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Benchmarking different groups in Arbor

In Arbor we help schools answer these questions by using plain text call outs to explain how significant a trend is. We also benchmark different groups within your school against each other, and against national and local averages to help you see your performance in a more holistic context.

Use Arbor to give you the edge in discussions with Ofsted, and to provide context to your governors

Using Arbor Insight reports, like the ones shown above, can give you an extra advantage when an inspector calls. Our reports can help you show things like:

  • “We’re doing as well as the average Good or Outstanding school”
  • “We’re doing better than schools with similar intakes to ours”
  • “We’ve made clear progress towards closing our attainment and progress gaps”

Arbor Insight reports help you present the real story behind your data – sometimes this isn’t clear just from looking at your average headline measures for the current year. Once you understand the real picture you can have much more constructive conversations with stakeholders like Ofsted and your Governors to help you focus on your priority areas for the year ahead.

Want to find out more? Read our blog about how Arbor Insight can help your governors get to grips with data here

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Category : Blog

How school governors can get to grips with data literacy

This blog has been written for Arbor by Oliver Kean, Service Development Manager at Governors for Schools.  One of the first things governors realise when they start is that the role involves data. A lot of data. Data on attainment, about progress, on different groups, data on pupils’ attendance, punctuality, behaviour incidents. And it’s not

This blog has been written for Arbor by Oliver Kean, Service Development Manager at Governors for Schools

One of the first things governors realise when they start is that the role involves data. A lot of data. Data on attainment, about progress, on different groups, data on pupils’ attendance, punctuality, behaviour incidents.

And it’s not just data focused for their own school. Governors are presented with data on national, local and similar schools so they can benchmark their performance to identify areas where they might be able to do better.

They then need to understand what the data is suggesting sufficiently well to construct challenging, relevant questions that hold experienced headteachers and other members of the senior team to account, and identify where it puts the school at risk of not achieving particular performance thresholds that could lead to intervention.

It’s a challenge for all governors, but especially those who are less confident with numbers and statistics (who may nevertheless have valuable expertise elsewhere). Nowadays, everyone involved in school governance is expected to be able to use data to help deliver effective governance. However, it’s clear that not all school governors can. A recent report from Ofsted said:

The ability to understand and query performance data was a common area of weakness … Weak governing bodies rarely provided enough challenge to the headteacher’s interpretation of published and internal assessment information, absence rates and exclusion data. There are also schools at which governors are not given access to assessment information. This limits their ability to challenge leaders.

Data’s rise within the accountability system hasn’t gone unchallenged, however. In response to the accountability system’s seemingly insatiable hunger for ever more complex, in-depth, up-to-date data some teachers have begun to complain that it now represents an unmanageable aspect of their work, and one that distracts them from the core nature of teaching. The oft-repeated complaint that education is about more than just numbers and learning is about more than just stats is nevertheless worth repeating, because it’s fundamentally true. You’d be hard-pressed to find a teacher that went into the role first and foremost to deliver incremental improvements in narrow performance measures derived from assessment results.

Ofsted has begun to show signs of understanding this as it works on a new inspection framework; chief inspector Amanda Spielman recently said that schools that place too narrow an emphasis on their data systems are more likely to suffer falls in performance. But good governors have always known this. They know that understanding the health of a school is equally about the unmeasurable, the emotional and the invisible. That’s why the best governors understand and apply data to their role, but also make sure that they visit school, speak to parents, pupils and staff, look at books, displays, go for lunch, spend time in the staff room, and see the playground. Of course, this places demands on governors’ already limited time and energy – anything that frees them up to see a school, its complexities, nuances and atmosphere ‘in the round’ is to be welcomed.

Attending training on data is one way to get smarter, thus providing more time for governance other crucial activities. Training can help governors to quickly understand what data might be telling us, provide quick ways to assess its robustness and reliability, as well as show us the limits to its usefulness (and where investigation elsewhere might be more appropriate). A quick and convenient way to learn more is to use the Governors for Schools eLearning for an introduction to some of the key concepts and ways to use data.

Moreover, adopting more intuitive data reporting systems, such as that provided by Arbor Insight, goes a long way to providing governors with the information they need in a clear and digestible way, giving them clear leads as they hold leaders to account. Based on Department for Education data, they convert often confusing formats and measurements into something that is far easier to interpret and analyse. As such, it saves headteachers a huge amount of time in preparation and commentary.

While it’s clear that we aren’t about to see a wholesale abandonment of data anytime soon, data literacy for governors is increasingly going to involve thinking hard about proportionality, ease of use and accessibility. Anything that can help schools manage their data and performance analysis, such as Arbor Insight, should be welcomed enthusiastically.

Governors for Schools exists to improve educational standards so that children and young people have the chance to realise their full potential. You can visit their website here

blank James Weatherill - 8 October, 2018

Category : Blog

6 steps to reduce teachers’ data workload

Reducing time spent on data and assessment is the key to reducing additional teacher workload Much has been written recently by the government and in the press about reducing teachers’ workloads, with polls suggesting that 1 in 5 teachers intend to leave their job because they feel overworked. One of Arbor’s impact goals (which we analyse each year

Reducing time spent on data and assessment is the key to reducing additional teacher workload

Much has been written recently by the government and in the press about reducing teachers’ workloads, with polls suggesting that 1 in 5 teachers intend to leave their job because they feel overworked.

One of Arbor’s impact goals (which we analyse each year for all the schools we work with) is to reduce the time teachers spend on inputting & analysing data so that they can focus on improving student outcomes! So we decided to take a look at the data to see where teachers were spending their time.

By looking at teacher diary surveys, we found that in just three years the workload of teachers has increased by an average of 12%. Put another way, this is a huge 5 days extra work per year for a primary teacher and 4 days extra work for a secondary teacher!

Digging down into the data further, we found that three-quarters of this increase in workload can be explained by an increase in the amount of time teachers are spending on planning, preparation and assessment. Given that it’s doubtful that teachers have been ramping up the time spent on planning or preparation, as this has always been a core requirement, the change most likely comes from an increase in assessment-related work driven by government, Ofsted and school policies on data and reporting.

Following this analysis, if your school can reduce the amount of time teachers spend on assessment and data, you’ll go a long way towards solving the workload problem! To do so requires reviewing how and why you collect, analyse and report on data.

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6 steps to reduce teachers’ data workload

Arbor has built a simple 6 step checklist to help senior leaders reduce workload in your school:

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Implementing a data workload checklist

We’ve broken down the 6 steps above into a helpful checklist for senior leaders to help implement within your school, complementing the advice given by the Teacher Workload Review Group with an actionable list of key tasks. If it seems too much to take on all at once, just start with one item at a time, and remember that every step you take could help to reduce the workload burden on staff.

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Click here to download this checklist as a handy PDF.

blank Arbor - 2 October, 2018

Category : Blog

Ofsted, data and a school system in flux

By Loic Menzies, LKMco The school accountability system is changing fast. League table measures have been reformed dramatically and Ofsted has been grappling with how it can become a more proportionate and reliable force for good. This has led to a brand new strategy for the inspectorate and recent speeches and publications have started to set

By Loic Menzies, LKMco

The school accountability system is changing fast. League table measures have been reformed dramatically and Ofsted has been grappling with how it can become a more proportionate and reliable force for good. This has led to a brand new strategy for the inspectorate and recent speeches and publications have started to set out a new landscape which will have important implications for how schools use data to reflect, improve and prepare for inspection.

This blog talks about how you can use Arbor Insight Reports to analyse your schools’ performance and set out your plans for improvement. As Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, put it this Summer: “Rather than just intensifying the focus on data, Ofsted inspections must explore what is behind the data, asking how results have been achieved”. This report should therefore act as a starting point for important conversations and reflection.

A new landscape

At secondary school, the shift to Progress 8 has heralded a new era in which a much wider range of subjects falls under the lens of school accountability and where the emphasis has shifted away from pupils on the C-D borderline. Meanwhile, life-after-levels and the new system of ‘scaled scores’ are now a reality in primary schools across the country. As further shifts come into place over the next few years, the pace shows no sign of slowing.

All this rapid change, and a shift in emphasis towards progress – sometimes from unreliable base lines – is leading to some unexpected and unpredictable results. It is therefore particularly important that you scrutinise data particularly carefully to be clear what it is and is not saying. Ofsted has also made it clear that attempts to predict progress scores are not worth the effort since they are impossible to know in advance. Instead, your school should be prepared to respond to queries from inspectors who will have looked at a range of information in advance including:

Details from the school website – much of which will be data-driven like:

  • The school’s pupil premium strategy (including rationale and evaluation)
  • The PE and sport premium (in primary)
  • The Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium (at secondary)
  • The curriculum
  • The special educational needs (SEN) information report
  • The promotion of equality of opportunity and other information for parents

Inspectors will also have looked at key data summaries such as: the Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR), ‘Analyse School Performance’ (ASP), (which Arbor’s Ofsted Readiness report helps you analyse), and the Level 3 Value Added (L3VA) report. This will help determine any pupil groups that inspectors want to focus on during the inspection. Careful advance scrutiny of your data can therefore ensure you are not taken by surprise. (School Inspection Handbook, p. 15 & 23)

As Ofsted’s National Director of Education explains in relation to the new ‘short inspections’, what the inspectorate wants to understand is:

  • Whether leaders have a sound grasp of relative strengths and weaknesses in their school/provider
  • If there’s a credible plan to address the areas for concern and maintain the strengths

The two key questions to ask yourself are therefore:

1. What do we do well/less well?

2. What is our plan going forward?

On the other hand, Ofsted has also been keen to insist that:

“Ofsted does not require self-evaluation to be graded or provided in a specific format. Any assessment that is provided should be part of the school’s business processes and not generated solely for inspection purposes.”

Arbor Insight Reports – in particular the Ofsted Readiness Report – are intended to support you in understanding the two key questions above. It should prompt you to consider your strengths and weaknesses and help you dig beyond the headlines to question what might really be going on. This is crucial since the strength of leadership and management is largely driven by “the rigour and accuracy of self-evaluation and how well it leads to planning that secures continual improvement.” (School Inspection Handbook, p. 41)

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Key in this is looking across different sources of information to triangulate and reach better evidenced conclusions. As the current Inspection Handbook points out, “No single measure or indicator should determine judgements”, and as Ofsted’s recently published strategy points out:

“While data will always be an important starting point, our inspections should look beyond published data, explore how results have been achieved and in some cases act as a counterbalance to any unintended incentives in the broader accountability system.”

Metrics

The inspectorate will consider:

  • “Performance information” including:
    • Data published before the inspection
    • Information you present about current pupils across year groups and previous cohorts
  • Information on progress, attainment, attendance and exclusion, with a particular focus on:
    • Consistency in performance, trends of improvement or decline, and differences in the performance of groups
    • The accuracy of the school’s assessment of pupils’ progress and attainment
    • The robustness and accuracy of the school’s self-evaluation or equivalent, particularly about pupils’ outcomes, teaching, learning and assessment and pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare

Primary school accountability

According to the DfE Guidance, last updated in August 2017, headline measures for primary schools are:

  • The percentage of pupils achieving the ‘expected standard’ in Reading, Writing and Mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2
  • Pupils’ average scaled score:
    • in Reading at the end of Key Stage 2
    • in Mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2
    • the percentage of pupils who achieve at a higher standard in Reading, Writing and
    • Mathematics
    • Pupils’ average progress:
    • in Reading
    • in Writing
    • in Mathematics

Secondary school accountability

Key measures for secondary schools are:

  • Progress 8
  • Attainment 8
  • Percentage achieving the English Baccalaureate
  • Percentage of pupils entered for the English Baccalaureate
  • Percentage achieving grade 5+in English and Maths
  • Students moving to and sustaining educational or employment destinations

Given that Progress 8 is now the headline secondary measure it is important to take into account the following key definitions:

Key progress 8 values Interpretation
+0.5 or greater Pupils are making well above average progress
-0.5 or below Pupils are not achieving the floor standard

You can find out more about the full range of measures and how they are constructed in Schools Week’s special supplement by LKMco.

Using the data

Progress 8 at secondary school and relative progress at primary school have shifted the emphasis of school accountability to how pupils with similar starting points are doing in different schools as well as how each pupil is performing – whether they are starting from a high or low baseline. The national and ‘‘schools like you’ measures in this Arbor Insight Reports will help you to scrutinise this and identify your schools’ particular strengths and areas for development. Consider for example:

  • What proportion of pupils with different starting points are making average progress or above average progress?
  • How does this compare to schools nationally?
  • How about different ethnic groups or demographics – how many of them are achieving different benchmarks?
  • How does that compare to outstanding schools nationally? How does this vary between subjects?

Throughout your analysis, be wary of making overly concrete conclusions based on small groups, for example, if you only have five black male pupils, do not use statistics based on this to make major claims about their relative performance. Look carefully at the patterns you spot and be prepared to use three-year rolling averages for example to spot longer term trends amongst larger cohorts of pupils. Where this report helps you identify an underperforming group, be careful about jumping to quick fit solutions, Ofsted itself has recently stated that:

“The existence of a gap does not always indicate that an intervention at sub-group level is the right approach. Very often, identifying and correcting institutional shortcomings (for example in curriculum, teaching or behaviour management) will improve outcomes, with disproportionate benefits for lower attaining and disadvantaged students”

It is therefore perfectly acceptable to identify an underperforming group and consider how whole school improvements might address this issue, rather than specifically targeting a new intervention at the group. You can investigate gaps further using Arbor’s set of Gap reports which analyse the performance of pupils in different groups (based on gender, SEN, prior attainment, ethnicity and disadvantage).

If your pupils appear to be doing particularly well, note this, and combine it with different sources of information, including your professional judgement to understand why, and how you can build on this. Ofsted too will look at a range of evidence so be prepared to share how you have brought a range of different sources of information together to plan for improvement. Consider for example how patterns vary across subjects and how you might spread good practice from one area to another.

Explaining and presenting this information however, need not mean putting together extensive and labour intensive pre-prepared packs. As Ofsted has explained:

There will almost invariably be areas in which your pupils are doing well, or groups that are doing particularly well so share your reflection and plans with inspectors. As Simon Eardley, Head Teacher at Orton Wistow Primary School, explains, the morning of his school’s short inspection was all about “dialogue and discussion” and an:

“Opportunity to go through our school self-evaluation evidence and tell the story about our school and to pick out the things we think we thought we were doing well but also the things we’d recognised we needed to get better on… that initial conversation steered the rest of the day.”

By providing this type of information in an easily digestible form, Arbor’s Ofsted Readiness Report helps you prepare for these discussions. Used well, it will be an invaluable part of the tapestry of evidence that you use to support your pupils, raise standards and evidence your achievements to inspectors.

Interested in finding out more about how Arbor Insight Reports can help your school ahead of your next inspection? Drop us a line at hello@arbor-education, give us a call on +44 (0) 207 043 0470 or get in touch via the contact form on our website.

LKMco are an education and youth-development ‘think-and-action tank.’ They support schools, teachers and education and youth organisations by planning, evaluating and improving the way they work. LKMco work to ensure all children and young people receive the support they need to make a fulfilling transition to adulthood by carrying out research and campaigning for action.

blank James Weatherill - 21 June, 2018

Category : Blog

3 ways of centralising data for schools, MATs and LAs

Why bother centralising your data? Schools, Trusts and LAs increasingly ask us how they can centralise their data, but they sometimes don’t know where to start and what their broad options are. Most share the common need of wanting to bring their data together to gain deeper, faster insight into their staff and students, save

Why bother centralising your data?

Schools, Trusts and LAs increasingly ask us how they can centralise their data, but they sometimes don’t know where to start and what their broad options are. Most share the common need of wanting to bring their data together to gain deeper, faster insight into their staff and students, save teachers time endlessly copying and pasting data from multiple systems (and reduce mistakes whilst doing so), whilst saving money by reducing the number of systems they have in the school.

3 ways for centralising your data, and when to do it

From our work with schools, MATs, LAs and governments we’ve seen a lot of different ways of centralising data, but they generally fall into 3 categories.

1. Using Excel/manual exports [best for small schools; MATs with less than 5 schools]

When small, it’s best to keep things simple. Whilst not ideal, excel is the quickest, cheapest and easiest tool to get to do your heavy lifting. Most schools will organise data drops at set times in the year, using permissioned worksheets and data validation to minimise errors, and producing graphs and reports that can act as simple dashboards. New versions of excel can even link live to your systems (we do this in Arbor) so that can be pulled automatically from your MIS, meaning no more data drops and data errors! That said, excel comes with hidden costs, it can involve staff double entering data, takes time to fill in, is prone to errors, and doesn’t scale as your school or MAT grows (in fact it gets harder to administer as you grow).

2. Standardising systems [best for large schools; MATs with more than 5 schools; LAs]

Once a Trust grows to about 5 schools (depending on the complexity of the Trust) the person in charge of collecting and analysing all of the data can often become overwhelmed by the manual process, and as we’ve written about before, this is the time most Trusts look at standardising some core systems to start to automate the process of data collection. It’s worth noting that this step is typically beneficial for all school types; the key is not to leave it too late, as you then end up unpicking all of the manual process within each school.

Once the core systems have been standardised and rationalised into as few systems as practical (e.g. finance, assessment, MIS), then the school, Trust or LA can integrate these systems, ensuring data is only entered once, and use the tools’ internal ability to aggregate their core data and reports. The disadvantage of this approach is the upfront setup time and cost, however if chosen sensibly, these system should be able to payback this in time/money savings within a year or two, lowering overhead, improving reporting capability, allowing the Trust to centralise workflows and communication and ultimately enabling the group to scale.

3. Analytics layer [best for very large schools; MATs with more than 15 schools; LAs]

Without a degree of standardisation in your core systems and data, as described above, achieving an analytics layer can take a lot of time and patience. Custom field names, non-standardisation across schools of assessment, and people simply choosing to record things in different ways at different times lead to increasing complexity. Many systems (like Arbor) integrate with analytics layers such as Microsoft’s PowerBI (which many Trusts are using) out of the box, so once you’ve standardised your MIS, you can spin up an analytics layer in little to no time. This allows you to create custom graphs and charts with the reassurance that the underlying data is accurate – else bad data can lead to bad decisions!

How Arbor can help [click here for slides]

1. Integrate live with Excel/Google: Every table and report in Arbor can be live linked to Excel or Google sheets [slide 18], meaning no more data drops. Schools and Trusts can collect data instantly from several schools, and generate their own simple dashboards, combining MIS, national, HR and external data to create a holistic view of performance

2. Standardising systems: we’ve talked about what systems to standardise and when before. Once standardised, Arbor’s Group dashboards and reports instantly aggregate student and staff data across schools, allowing MATs and LAs the ability to centralise data and take action by logging into systems remotely and performing workflows (e.g. attendance follow-ups)

3. Analytics layer: Arbor integrates with PowerBI out of the box via the excel integration, allowing groups to build their own simple Analytics layers. Our free and open API can also be used for deeper integration with Business Intelligence tools.