Last month saw the long-awaited publication of the Government’s education white paper ‘Opportunity for all‘. By now, you’ve probably seen some breakdowns of the paper. If not, I would recommend the ASCL summary. Over the next two Data Trends posts, I intend to pick apart the white paper from the point of view of a MAT or school data leader, picking out some bits you may have missed and looking at the implications of some of the meatier elements. This post will look at some of the more overlooked areas including curriculum, attendance, and intervention. The next post will tackle the significant areas of academisation, accountability and performance measures.
The white paper sets out the plans for expansion/development of what is/was Oak Academy, specifically:
(4) A new arms-length curriculum body that works with teachers across the country to co-create free, optional, adaptable digital curriculum resources to deliver a rigorous, high-quality curriculum.
(53) It will work with thousands of teachers to co-design, create and continually improve packages of optional, free, adaptable digital curriculum resources and video lessons that are effectively sequenced to help teachers deliver an evidence-based, high-quality curriculum.
As with many areas of the white paper, this has been seen as controversial by some people, with a fear that it will set in stone a more detailed version of the knowledge-rich national curriculum and take away teacher autonomy.
One potential advantage that could stem from this would be a framework for curriculum and assessment tools to use as standard in the future. Imagine a world where whichever assessment package/quizzing tool/curriculum resource that you bought mapped learning to the same underlying framework of topics/knowledge. This could potentially open up some exciting data analytics opportunities if providers were to open up their data and we could collate learning information from a range of sources for individual students.
Actions for leaders: Encourage your providers to allow free access to your assessment and learning data and encourage them to standardise curriculum frameworks where possible.
Attendance has been a huge focus this year, and I’ve written about this previously here. The white paper sets out an intention to continue sharing more data at a national level:
(4) A national data system to drive up attendance.
(76) Having learnt from the pandemic how important having a real-time national picture of attendance can be, we will also make it easier for schools to understand individual attendance patterns and for trusts, local authorities and the Department for Education to identify concerning patterns more quickly. We will design a national data solution and introduce legislation to modernise the rules on recording attendance. This integrated, 21st century approach to tracking attendance will provide a safety net for spotting vulnerable children at risk of falling through the net. It will also provide a blueprint for wider data improvements across the system.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out. So far the sharing of data has arguably had little impact, and a cynic might say there is little substance to this area either. But we’re big fans of openly sharing data across the whole sector and hope that this allows MAT leaders to better analyse attendance and impact positively on student absence.
Actions for leaders: Monitor this one closely, until something like this comes to pass look to tools such as Assembly and nationally published data to give you in-year attendance comparisons.
Intervention & Tutoring
The National Tutoring Programme has been something of a disaster. That hasn’t stopped the proposal to double down on this as a way to close the attainment gap:
(5) Up to 6 million tutoring courses by 2024 with action to cement one-to-one and small group tuition as a permanent feature of our school system.
Money will all be directed straight to schools to use with providers of their choice, but it’s clear there will be an expectation to see this in place in all schools. Expect your Pupil Premium strategy to receive close scrutiny with regards to your tutoring plans.
Chapter 3 looks at ‘targeted support for every child that needs it‘. Some of this comes across as a little patronising (particularly the language used with regards to the parental pledge), but the intention is clear:
(90) We need to pivot to a system where all children receive the right support, in the right place, and at the right time based on their need.
We will look at the proposed national targets for KS2 & KS4 in more detail in the next post, but the key focus of this chapter is around evidence-based intervention, for all students, particularly those ‘falling behind’ in English or Maths. This includes a laudable continuation and expansion of the EEF:
(106) We will also go further to ensure that the evidence generated directly impacts children. That is why we will provide over £55 million for our Accelerator Fund to develop and scale-up the best-evidenced literacy and numeracy interventions, spreading effective programmes to every corner of the country. This fund will fuel cutting-edge, evidence based programmes, directly informing the best practice targeted support schools will implement through the Parent Pledge. We will support schools across England to access pioneering targeted support, straining every sinew across the whole school system to deliver our ambitious literacy and numeracy mission.
Looking at this through a data lens and based on past experience of the levers that government have to enact such plans, I would expect there to be a drive to provide data-based evidence of intervention programmes across schools and MATs. Demonstrating the impact of specific interventions on the progress of students is notoriously difficult, particularly in recent years where the in-built national stepping checkpoints such as SATs have been missing due to Covid.
Actions for leaders: When thinking about your data analytics you should consider how you measure progress, how you benchmark this against national comparators, and how you collate a holistic data picture of individual and groups of students. Ensure that you have access to all of your data in the format that you need it to make this analysis as seamless and powerful as possible.
Data Trends – News & Articles you may have missed:
- Tom Brassington wrote a great Twitter thread about outliers (or lost birds) in school data. Whilst statistically we are often taught to ignore them, Tom reminds us they are all young people and need our consideration.
- Harry Fletcher-Wood sends a shiver down our spine recalling the use of National Curriculum sub-levels for accountability, suggests removing the accounting, but comes around and recommends accountability through giving account.
- FFT Datalab picks apart the national attendance figures at the end of the Spring term. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t a pretty picture.
- Schools Week summarised Ofsted’s latest report on education recovery.