Setting your college up for success with a strategic view of data

Jacob Kemp, head of direct sales at Dynistics, explains how a robust data strategy can give a more holistic overview of staff and student performance

Data in FE


The further education sector has moved on dramatically in recent years and will continue to do so into the future. Fast forward to September 2020 and the much-awaited T-levels will be introduced, providing another pathway for students to explore within further education. In the present, Ofsted’s new framework is putting the curriculum into the spotlight of each inspection, to ensure young people and adults are provided with the high-quality training and support they need to succeed in their careers or next steps of education.

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Ofsted inspections compromise of numerous parts, from the effectiveness of leadership and management to the quality of teaching, personal development and behaviour and of course, the outcomes for students and learners. With results being a clear indicator of the success of a college’s commitment to the curriculum, a year of above-average exam results could be critical to colleges looking to demonstrate this.

By tracking progress throughout the year, colleges can ensure they have the data they need to report effectively. A strategic view of data throughout the entire academic year can ensure colleges get the grades they need to set their students, staff and the future of the college up for success.

On the right track


Rather than focusing on a single moment in time – such as the moment students receive their exam results – a strategic view of data throughout the entire academic year is far more effective. This way, staff are able to keep their students on track and progressing in line with expectations. For example, a student achieving their target grade is impressive, but how does it compare to their performance in the months or year before? Could higher results have been achieved with additional support or guidance? At the other end, if the predicted grades weren’t achieved, what measures could have been put in place to get the student where they needed to be?

Rather than focusing on a single moment in time, a strategic view of data throughout the entire academic year is far more effective.

In addition to exam results, other measurements and KPIs including engagement in virtual learning environments (VLEs), revision classes, attendance, or additional work or commitments outside of classroom hours should also be considered. These areas are particularly valuable for students at risk: if the student’s attendance is below average, or has seen a sudden decline, could that also be a sign that additional support is needed? With Ofsted’s new framework on the minds of all college leaders, they need to be able to demonstrate that all tutors and leaders are doing the right thing for their learners, without taking shortcuts. Therefore, colleges that have tracked and measured student progress and performance throughout the year, taking all factors into account, will be in the best position to impress.

Counting on the curriculum


It’s not just the progress and performance of students that can be analysed, but of staff too. Insights from concrete data can increase accountability and also the ability to praise and reward; by taking the guesswork out of staff performance, senior leadership teams can not only ask the tricky questions when needed but also quickly see which staff are exceeding expectations.

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And it’s more than meeting targets. Are staff successfully enhancing student engagement by delivering their lessons in an innovative and creative way? Is a particular tutor achieving higher retention numbers, and how does this compare by subject, or the time of day of a particular lesson? Taking a look at both staff and students, is the student performing consistently, or are they falling short in certain areas? These questions are crucial to ask and enable colleges to identify patterns in data that will not only lead to answers, but actionable outcomes that can really make a difference to staff, student and college performance.

Real-time data to protect a college’s reputation


Every college has a reputation to uphold, as does any organisation. No college wants to suffer the fallout of a bad reputation: bad news spreads fast and will quickly have an impact on future funding, new student applications and recruiting new staff.

The good news is that, through the use of real-time data, colleges can be in a position to spot issues before they arise, mitigating the chance of a crisis.

The good news is that, through the use of real-time data, colleges can be in a position to spot issues before they arise, mitigating the chance of a crisis. A single snapshot of data can show if student performance isn’t as high as it could be or if a particular tutor isn’t meeting expectations, meaning that it doesn’t have to get to the point where grades aren’t up to scratch or where word gets out in the local community that the standards of the college have slipped completely. Furthermore, this insight could give colleges the insight they need to field questions from Ofsted before they have even been raised: what might not be going to plan, why, and what actions could be put in place as a result?

A holistic view


Colleges need to focus on the bigger picture. Exam results are key, but an overarching view of performance and progress is far more essential. Data is powerful, and it holds a lot of potential not just for colleges, but for the entire education sector. Analysing and reporting on data effectively can be the difference between a successful and progress-driven academic year, and a college that enters crisis mode. A strategic view of data will see colleges build their reputation, set students up for future success and achieve the oustanding rating they all strive for.