/ Scott Biggs
In the last School Improvement blog, we highlighted that School Improvement is a broad concept and that there is not a one-size fits all solution. However, in recent years educationalists have started to identify the components that need to be in place to create positive impact. Sir David Carter, mentions in his book ‘Leading Academy Trusts’, that he believes that if a school can ensure they have explicitly and rigorously thought about the three key areas of Strategy, Capacity and Pace; they will ultimately lead the school in the right direction and improve standards.
Throughout this series of blogs, we will analyse each area and cover strategies to help schools move towards a more sustainable School Improvement programme. The humble MIS has a key role to play throughout the process. It provides information that feeds into strategy, assists in the implementation of processes and can measure impact. Each blog will focus on the different components in the formula, highlight the touch points with your MIS and provide best practice guidance. There is a lot to take in, but equally the information should provide comfort and support to the school improvement process.
Sir David Carter (2020), Leading Academy Trusts, John Catt
Let’s begin with a focus on the Strategy element of the formula. Sir David Carter loosely explains the concept within his book ‘There needs to be a consistent strategy (or ‘plan’) for the way the school (or schools) will improve over time’. At School Level, we have four key areas that influence decision making and identification of standards:
The latest government support mechanism to identify areas by which we can close the gap came in the form of the IDSR (Inspection Data Summary Report). The IDSR has been designed to assist schools with the analysis of the statutory data that has been provided to the Department for Education. It contains contextual information including workforce census data, financial data, Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), Local Authority information and school links.
The IDSR also provides year group contextual information, performance data, absence and exclusions and a breakdown of pupil destinations for the past 3 years. It provides information on past trends and analysis of whether the school is going in the correct direction. This data report is the only data that Ofsted analyses before entering a school. It is therefore crucial to all schools that they understand their demographic and can explain the level of performance to an inspector.
All schools must factor in that any type of improvement will come at a cost. A cost for the intent, implementation and regular ongoing support to ensure the intervention or development is a success and sustainable. It is important that as school leaders, we are aware of the costs and implications this will have on the school and ensure that the capacity of the learning is not hindered by any of these decisions.
Governors or trustees are responsible for the quality of teaching and learning within the school. Strong governance holds the school leaders to account to ensure the school is moving in the right direction. In turn this direction or accountability pressure felt by the leaders when explaining their actions will also lead to school improvement. Repetitive challenge and ambition to improve the standards of the pupils, will force leaders to provide a succinct strategy towards school improvement.
Ofsted Framework (EIF)
The Education Inspection Framework is designed to hold schools to account. It provides schools with four key areas of focus:
The framework provides a breakdown of the areas in which schools are evaluated against. Auditing the school’s performance against these areas is a good starting strategy that will require research and development to raise standards. Here’s a summary of how Bromcom can support each area of the framework.
Utilising the tools and information available within your MIS can support your school to develop a strong strategy. At a basic level, an MIS can provide information for decision making, implement processes and then monitor outcomes. However, we aim to do much more than that, giving you the tools to bolster your strategy and create innovative working practices. We have touched on a fair few already, but here’s some more recent developments that have an impact on school strategy.
Many schools use the IDSR to provide some targets for the teaching and learning within the school. The downside is that it is limited in terms of what data the report has access to, and how often it can be produced. So, we are developing a report with the same functions as the IDSR template, that can be used within every year group based on the summative assessment data that has been inputted.
This will provide schools with detailed feedback after every data drop, covering pupil performance and where the gaps are in their learning. A powerful resource that can be used to speed up School Improvement. Currently the Department for Education releases the official IDSR in November, however once Bromcom customers have the bespoke report in the system, schools will be able to create action plans from September to ensure no learning time is lost.
Finance is another area that schools need to understand before using their resources. They need to know they can afford the changes or developments before they begin the process. Bromcom has an integrated finance solution which allows schools to analyse the spend within their existing budgets as well as being able to have the opportunity to engage in the operational analysis of income and expenditure. Bromcom Finance can provide salary projections for budgeting purposes, and we are developing further predictive functionality. For example, the ability to forecast funding and income, income and expenditure, and outturn.
An MIS needs to ensure accountability is transparent and that key stakeholders are able to interpret the data that is being collected. The Bromcom system has been created to ensure that there is inclusivity of all members within the school community. Roles and permissions can be set to enable there to be parts of the system suitable for Governor / Trustee analysis. This means live headline figures for attendance, demographics, behaviour can all be viewed by the governors to ensure they are aware of the school performance and can review the standards by which the school has set. The transparency and accessibility allows there to be a thorough review of performance that can be done at any time, allowing the volunteer to be flexible with their interaction with the data. Bromcom has also spent time in developing reports that can highlight key information for stakeholders to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in their role supporting the school.
Strategy is one of the key components when looking at School Improvement. Bromcom can offer schools a toolkit that both supports its development and removes implementation barriers. The Bromcom MIS and Vision system provide data that offers routes of enquiry and provides clarification of school performance; that in turn can provide a focus for the leaders in improving the current standards.
However, Strategy is only one component of the School Improvement process. Whilst it is essential to have a plan in place, the implementation is just as important. The next blog will focus on ‘Capacity’, demonstrating how we can support its management and how this leads to sustainable solutions for School Improvement.