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Management Information Systems and school development

Caroline Fisher, Product Manager at RM Education, looks at how an effective MIS and proper use of data can be used to drive long-term improvements

Posted by Charley Rogers | September 04, 2017 | Secondary

Most schools now rely on a Management Information System (MIS) to complete statutory requirements such as the School Census and School Work Force (SWF) Census; but are they really making the most of the data that can be held – and crucially, interrogated – in their MIS?

A report last year commissioned by the innovation foundation NESTA explored this topic in detail; it suggested that while the UK is leading the way in areas like opening up government data, the education sector has made limited progress by comparison, despite the vast amounts of data that’s now being collected in schools every day.

This is a trend that’s slowly beginning to shift. Schools are now seeking a much greater level of information from their systems; they’re realizing the potential to fully exploit the power of data for things like monitoring attendance patterns, communicating with parents, storing documents electronically, holding medical information, tracking SEND requirements, cover arrangements, and exploring contextual data analysis to spot anomalies and identify trends.

And it isn’t purely from a pupil perspective; from a staff perspective, schools can see data on clearance information, as well as CPD and training information, contract type of staff members and statutory attendance information.

Historically, data used in schools tended to be based around personal information, contact details and attendance information, but now data has become more contextual, schools can delve deeper into the information they hold to explore variables such as disadvantaged circumstances, language proficiencies and mobility.

Data sitting dormant in a school’s MIS is worthless unless it can be reported on in a manner which gives teachers interesting insights and helps them put interventions in place to improve teaching and learning.

NESTA’s research on this topic has further enforced a previous survey conducted in June 2015 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which found that teachers want much more from data than annual test scores; they want rich information about students’ academic, social, behavioural and cultural experiences.

Teachers believe that this information gives them a far deeper insight into their students, which can help strengthen their connection with teachers and ultimately shape how learning takes place.

Data sitting dormant in a school’s MIS is worthless unless it can be reported on in a manner which gives teachers interesting insights and helps them put interventions in place to improve teaching and learning.

Therefore, teachers are invaluable to the successful use of school data. When powerful data is combined with the experience of practitioners to bring about change for the benefit of pupils, the power of data truly comes to life.

But data shouldn’t only offer insight; it should ultimately give schools a tangible path to improvement, both in terms of academic performance and in improving the efficiency of back-office operations.

The DfE are currently in the process of moving school data from RAISEonline to the new Analyse School Performance (ASP) Service, a sister to the existing Compare School Performance Service. This is intended to allow greater analysis of a school’s performance by authorized personnel, with more detailed information on key headline measures.

Headteachers and Governors can combine the ASP information with OFSTED’s guidance to build a school development plan and monitor its effectiveness using the Key Stage results. It is important, however, for schools to have this kind of information instantly to hand, so they can put interventions in place quickly without having to wait until the year end results.

And this is where the MIS data becomes really powerful; schools can then track attainment and progress for all their assessment needs – formative, as well as summative - and their MIS can be set up to whichever programme they are using, whether a published one or something totally bespoke.

Teachers are invaluable to the successful use of school data. When powerful data is combined with the experience of practitioners to bring about change for the benefit of pupils, the power of data truly comes to life.

By bringing live contextual data into their mark books, users can also immediately identify any interventions that might be required. For example, if disadvantaged boys are not making the progress throughout the Autumn term, interventions can be planned for the Spring term, giving enough time to take effect before the year end.

Early interventions are the key to the successful use of data, and are increasingly required much earlier in a child’s education. Yet as school budgets are restricted and teaching time becomes more limited, these interventions must be targeted effectively at those that will benefit most.

And with GDPR coming into effect in 2018, stakeholders will be more conscious of the rights they have with regard to their data and how it is held, and schools will be aware of their increasing responsibilities. The MIS will play a key role in helping schools to fulfil some of those responsibilities.

With a clear set of objectives for improvement and a robust MIS, schools can begin to evaluate and use their data much more effectively to ultimately maximise teaching resources and optimise children’s learning.

For more information and advice, visit www.rm.com/products/rm-integris

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