As a Multi-Academy Trust specialist, I’m very familiar with working with large groups of schools, enabling them to begin creating a data strategy with as little friction as possible. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, issues have become magnified as schools have been forced to constantly adapt to face ever-changing issues. Managing a Multi-Academy Trust is a significant challenge – even more so in the current climate. When you start with one or two academies it’s the sort of thing you can achieve relatively informally and organically, but as you grow you start to encounter two structural problems:
As your Multi-Academy Trust grows, it becomes harder to see the detail of what’s going on and information starts to creep into silos that require increasing manual work to connect the dots.
Many academies procure assessment software and other 3rd party solutions on an ad hoc basis, which provides challenges when trying to implement a common framework across your Trust. It’s possible that you might even find yourself with several different MIS products to support too.
Both of these challenges are part of a wider strategic concern that you will want to keep on top of – your data strategy. Having the right data readily and easily available makes your decisions more effective, it helps you actively measure the impact of policies and changes, and it helps you visibly demonstrate the effectiveness of your Trust to those that hold you accountable. Given an increasing amount of information moving around your organisation, how do you continue to support effective reporting as the number of systems and the amount of core data increases as your Trust expands?
Agreeing a MAT Wide data strategy is a hugely important step for all growing trusts. As a former Director of Data for a large school system in the US, I always worked with the Senior Leadership team and Board prior to each school year to agree the KPI’s and key measures that we would be analysing throughout the year. This helped reduce the ad-hoc requests for different reports during the year (often at short notice), that hugely increases the manual workload for all stakeholders (not just myself!) across a trust. It also provided transparency to all schools on the metrics that would be used and what data would be collected and analysed. A consequence of this was that a transparent data strategy helped the schools maintain the quality of data in the MIS as they knew exactly what was going to be reported on.
Creating an initial MAT data strategy does not need to be an arduous task. Initially, I would suggest that you keep the strategy simple – a brief outline or executive summary will be the most effective way to get started rather than a 15000 word dissertation.
Here are the key points to think about to get started:
- Why we collect
- What we collect
- When we collect
- How we collect
It sounds simple and it should be to start with. Your trust data strategy will grow year on year but as it does, you should also consider the following.
Don’t analyse too much
School’s now have access to more data than ever before. Just because you can access it, does not necessarily mean that you would want to include it in your Trust analytics. If you literally present all the data you collect, it makes it nearly impossible to get a clear picture of what is happening across the Trust as it would be lost in the noise of the competing data.
Ensure the data is comparable
It sounds obvious, but it is impossible to make data driven decisions if the data is not comparable. For example, if all your schools log behaviour in different ways, it does not make sense to analyse it across the trust. The same can also be said for internal teacher assessments if the assessment strategy differs by school.
A successful data strategy is a transparent one. When all stakeholders are on the same page with what data is been collected and why, it will result in greater ‘buy in’ and ultimately yield better results.
On a final note, technology is pivotal in helping you make the right strategic decisions for your students, staff and parents, and you should choose something that can scale to support your Trust as it matures and the demands for insights into your organisation’s data increase.
In addition to providing the platforms that enable Trust level analytics, we also engage with MATs at the design stage of a data strategy and can employ effective processes that focus on the core stages required to deploy an effective plan.