Schools, Data and Parents

As a teacher the generation, collation and analysis of data are a fact of life.

There are important things to know that inform the teaching & learning going on in your classroom. Data can be used for tracking the progress of you and your students. It can be used to make predictions for Sixth Form and University entries. Struggling students can be identified and supported. G&T students can be enriched. Data can be, and is, useful.

As a parent, though, the use of that data can be a real turn off.

I have visited two schools (as a parent) in the last few weeks. Both were swift to talk about the data.

Is the number up?

In the first case, an auditorium full of parents (and potential students) engaged in some splendid synchronised eye-rolling when the first slide put up showed…yep…data.

The various numbers were discussed and more displayed. Hardly a breath was taken by the enthusiastic soul on the stage as the data was rejoiced over. The school was clearly (and justifiably) proud of the data. The majority of the audience visibly switched off.

When selling your school to potential students (or their parents) baffling them with numbers is not going to be a winning plan. You wouldn’t use the same powerpoint to teach cell structure to a y13 student as you would to a y7 student. Don’t do it with your data. Parents simply do not have the same level of experience with the endless acronym based data that teaching professionals have.

Remember the first time you ever sat in a whole school meeting to look at the RAISEonline, ALIS, ALPS, Progress 8, FFT, PISA, ASP or Value Added data? That ‘Oh help, I’m drowning’ feeling?

Make sure your parents/students aren’t left feeling like that.

Personalised Learning?

The second visit was a parents evening. I was the parent side of the desk, which for a teacher is unusual.

I know my child. He is a teenager. I have also taught teenage boys (and girls!), and I understand teaching data.

Each teacher has their laptop open and starts with a discussion about the data. Followed by the ‘do you have a revision guide?’ question. Then there is the ‘there are only a few months left, so get revising’ spiel. Your 5 minutes are over.

As a parent, this whole experience is pretty meaningless to be honest.

Firstly, I know no-one can predict the outcomes of the, as yet untested, 1-9 grade exams. Not even your computer. Plus you just posted me all these numbers in the most recent progress check.

Secondly, yes, I have purchased copious revision guides/workbooks. Remember when students used to have textbooks???

As for revision… there’s a phrase about horses and water that might be applicable here. Incidentally I did get reprimanded for smirking when I was told I was not proactive enough in my child’s homework.

Moving on to the next student. Change a few numbers. Recite the same formulaic prose to the next parent/carer. I really enjoyed spending the evening on a conveyor belt of short, repetitive data driven one sided conversations.

I’ve never been speed dating, but this is exactly what I imagine it to be like.

Know your audience

My conclusion is that as a teacher I do love data. However, as a parent I am looking forward to a future where the data we are shown is less clinical and more meaningful.

Thoughts of a Parent Vs The School Data
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