Data matters

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There is broad agreement in research that effective use of data is vital to school improvement. We know that the effective use of data can promote better teaching and learning through practices such as tracking pupil progress, setting targets, identifying where students need further support, strategic planning and performance management.

Therefore, it stands to reason that there is also a need for school leaders to have high levels of assessment and data skills.

Mark Steed (@independenthead), is Director at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) in Dubai, a leading HMC and COBIS school. JESS is a well-respected and leading school in the Middle East, delivering world class education to English-speaking students from over 70 different countries.

Baseline data

JESS is a school which aims to have a global reputation for delivering a unique brand of education. This demands the effective use of a range of data to identify and tap into every individual student’s gifts and maintain their reputation as a high-achieving community school.

‘When the young people join the school they have a baseline assessment in Year 7. We then have data from which we can produce a series of chances graphs.

‘So, for a given performance of a child, we’d be able to say “well, 5% of students of that ability and that profile went on to get a D at GCSE, 10% would get a C, 25% got a B and so on”. By taking the most likely grade on that chances graph, we would then be able to say what would be a standard performance for each child.

‘We then set an aspirational target, which would be one grade better than that in comparison to independent schools in the UK. So, we are then setting aspirational targets from day 1.’

Working towards aspirational targets

The school regards improving the use of data as a key element in raising aspirations and identifying underachieving groups.

‘We also use the data in our reporting structure. So, we can ask: is that child meeting that aspirational target or working towards it? How far short are they?

‘We can then analyse the data centrally and say, for example “as a year group, the Year 7s are on track to meet their aspirational target…or, two thirds of the year group are on track to meet their aspirational target.” So it becomes a really useful tool.

‘It also enables us to sit down with parents and explain what the targets mean and where we really need to put a little bit of extra effort in.

The MidYIS assessments we use give us data which we can marshal and use with the whole community, whether it’s teachers raising their pupils' expectations, the aspirations of the children themselves, or as a way of working with parents in order to give them a realistic target for their child.  The triangulation of classroom, pupil and home is really important for the whole way in which we use things like the MidYIS data here at JESS.’

Improvements in GCSE performance

‘The data from these standardised assessments is a very powerful management tool for a school. It gives schools the ability to set targets for young people, to set reasonable aspirations, and helps us work with parents over target setting, so they can understand what’s really possible for their child.

‘It gives my senior management team the ability to analyse data and look at whole school and subject performance. It also gives us an opportunity to benchmark as a school against other schools, both in the region and in the UK.

‘We introduced MidYIS tracking and target setting two years ago at JESS, and our performance at GCSE has gone through the roof.

‘It has had particular impact with our brighter students. We have gone from 19% to 33% A* at GCSE, in two years, without being any more selective. Our A*/A have gone from 52% to 66% in two years. This is a tried and tested way of raising school attainment by raising aspirations.’

Data is used as a driving force for raising standards and is central to the school self‐evaluation process at JESS. Using data and monitoring performance is seen as an effective method of raising achievement levels, identifying priorities for improvement, and planning the actions to put in place the support to bring about that improvement.

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