Wednesday 15th August 2018
What tracking systems should do
We’re keen followers of education bloggers, not least the School Data Updates author James Pembroke. While he’s a big advocate of one of our main competitors, we still value his opinion in the primary school education sector. In one of his latest posts James alludes to a set of critera that a tracking system should meet.
1. A flexible approach to tracking objectives
At OTrack we don’t dictate whether schools wish to track against curriculum objectives. It’s an option, but not a necessity. We’ve always actively steered away from creating a system where you have to input swathes of formative data, just to create a summative judgement. The question we always ask, with regards to formative tracking, is “what are you using this data for?”. If the answer is to improve pupil outcomes through gap analysis then great. If it’s a box-ticking exercise, I have no qualms about recommending they reconsider what they’re doing.
For schools that have created their own content set, we now have the option in OTrack for them to edit their objectives to suit changes in their curriculum.
2. Bespoke summative assessment descriptors and point in time assessment
An interesting point, and one which we’ve experienced directly here at OTrack. Many of our schools are using a linear approach to tracking, and we’re more than happy to cater for their needs going forward. But there is a big shift towards point in time assessment for sure. There’s an intrinsic simplicity to it that, once you get past the need to show points progress, gives school leaders the information they need without over-complication.
One of my favourite sayings when I meet schools and MATs is “don’t let the tail wag the dog”. Decide on your assessment approach, then let us build the system around you. We’re confident we can cater for most schools’ needs.
3. Assessment out of year group and tracking interventions
We’ve identified that this is an important feature, allowing schools to track their SEN pupils and show an improvement in outcomes. OTrack allows you to enter data for bespoke groups, meaning you can sub-section those children working outside of their year group and show they are making progress, not just staying at emerging/below (or whatever you want to call it!).
4. Handling test scores and other data
We’re finding that more schools want to record test scores in OTrack, as well as other types of data such as reading ages. The great thing about adding this feature is that we’ve added more flexibility to our reports, allowing schools to analyse different types of data next to each other. Teacher assessment might tell us that the pupil is doing alright, but a test could highlight something different. Perhaps the child hasn’t fully understood a particular concept, or maybe they just don’t cope well in a test situation. Either way the system allows you to ask these questions without having to run several reports.
5. A few simple reports
This is probably the biggest journey we’ve been on in recent times. Over the years we’ve built a reputation on being customisable and being able to build reports that replicate something the school/MAT already does manually. In retrospect this made OTrack slightly too complicated and created a situation where schools didn’t know where to go to find a particular piece of information.
We’ve changed our approach slightly now and approach each new request in the same way. Our development team meet every week and look at all the requests we’ve received, then we ask ourselves three main questions.
- Is that information already available in OTrack? If so, we signpost the school to the report(s) they should be using.
- Is there a report in OTrack that, if updated slightly could give them the information required? And will it benefit several users?
- If the request is completely new, and there is nowhere in OTrack to get that information, we schedule in the development work.
We’re constantly developing OTrack and adding new features that enable us to cater for the wide range of needs of our schools and MATs. At the same time we’re acutely aware that we need to keep the system under control in terms of it’s usability. With all of the above points in mind we’re confident that we’re on the right lines. We’re under no illusion that we’ll keep everybody happy, but we’ll satisfy most.