I see reporting as the biggest, quickest and easiest “win” for education to come out of AI – with the benefit of empowering staff to ask questions (even ones they might think stupid), without fear of judgment. At present there are those of us with sufficient skills and knowledge of “tools” such as Excel, PowerQuery, PowerBI and Bromcom who can produce whatever we want, and that’s great. But most staff – from SLT to Teachers and TAs (and, slightly worryingly, Finance) – don’t have the ability to interrogate data and process it into the form they want, any more than they can touch type (both these facts make me sad).
For the cover supervisor to be able to ask: “Which five teachers have provided the most cover in the last month” – so that they can perhaps go lighter on them – versus knowing the report they need to run, then having to put the parameters in, and then establishing the top five – is a significant time difference.
For Pastoral staff to be able to ask: “Which students have shown an increase in bad behaviour in the Spring Term compared to the Autumn Term” without needing to wrestle the behaviour dashboard and wait for it to process (and even then having to do additional analysis work on it afterwards) is a big win.
"The great thing about AI is, if you feed it the database structure at the back end, it should be able to intelligently query the data in a way that we just can’t."
These are all reports I’ve been asked to produce which AI could provide invaluable assistance with:
- “How many students have transferred to other schools in the last 6 months”
- “Please highlight the students we only have one contact for” (so we can chase for a secondary contact)
- “Who are our 20 most deprived students in Year 10. Please plot their grade progression in English compared to that of their peers. Use IDACI for the deprivation measure”.
- “Please produce a table that lists each behaviour consequence against each academic week, showing the number of instances of each behaviour consequence in each week”.
- “Are there any patterns to a named student’s absence. Please cross reference their timetabled teaching groups, attendance of other students, and timing of behaviour sanctions issued to them”
- “How has named student’s attendance and behaviour changed since their group change 2 months ago”.
The great thing about AI is, if you feed it the database structure at the back end (as well as point it to additional data sources it can query), it should be able to intelligently query the data in a way that we just can’t – at least not in a single query. Even those of us with the relevant skills. Opening up the data to everybody to easily interrogate (in roughly the same words as they’d use to me) saves time and resource, will make staff feel more able and, importantly, likely lead to staff asking questions they might not normally because “so and so is busy” or “it will be a waste of their time if it doesn’t show us anything”. Not only that, but if they ask something random and see something interesting, they don’t have to come back to me and say “Err, so, can you give me more detail on this” or, “Any chance you can break it down by SEN and prior ability”. They can ask that question and get the response from the AI.
In schools we are time poor and under-resourced from a staffing point of view. People with skills and expertise in data aren’t generally a priority. All sad, but true. There are two of us here who can interrogate, process, and present data as staff want. One of us is a teacher, so has limited additional time. The other is me – who is also responsible for a whole load of other things – so has limited time. For all staff to be able to have immediate, hands-on access to AI will be invaluable. Now, in the words of Picard, make it so (please!).
By Malcolm Box, Bishop Perowne C of E College