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Managing Teacher Workload

This week I had an email from gov.uk updates with the subject heading “Data management: reducing teacher workload”. Naturally this got my attention, and I decided it was well worth a read.

The link took me to some tools to help schools evaluate each type of data collected about pupils, what it’s collected for, the impact on children and what it contributed to teacher workload. They also refer back to quotes from HMI inspectors, dispelling two big myths:

1. That schools are expected to predict their progress scores, and

2. That inspectors expect to see vast elaborate spreadsheets with overly frequent tracking of pupil progress

What works in schools

Another interesting thing I noticed was a series of links to blogs called “What works in Schools”. These made particularly interesting reading, as much of what was written in here echoed what we’ve been saying to schools and multi-academy trusts for such a long time:

  • Using the same tracking system across a MAT creates a common format and language across schools and provides a facility for data to be entered once and used many times
  • Tracking systems shouldn’t guide your assessment thinking, it needs to be the other way around
  • Don’t collect assessment data if it isn’t going to improve pupil outcomes in the classroom
  • Set targets for pupils and monitor progress against these
  • Introduce less, not more, data collection points

Myths about OTrack

Having seen articles and tweets from certain educational bloggers, and with these bullet points in mind, it’s important that we also dispel a few myths about OTrack:

  1. OTrack doesn’t need to be constantly fed with data if you’re not going to use it to improve pupil outcomes.
  2. You don’t need to record endless formative data in OTrack in order to get a summative judgement. This actually goes against our core beliefs.
  3. Schools can dictate to us (not the other way around) how they want to track. Our software is flexible enough to cater for most schools’ needs.
  4. If you want to carry on with points/steps that’s fine and we certainly aren’t in a position to judge, but there are other ways to track progress.

In addition, we have had to be bold at times and strongly recommend that MATs consider a unified system for tracking. It is a proven, tried and trusted approach. MATs sometimes are reluctant to impose a single tracking theory on their schools but, as time goes by, they find it increasingly difficult to get aggregated trust data. I certainly wouldn’t impose such a thing on a MAT, but if they decide not to go with my recommendation, then I’d probably say a piece of commercial software, such as ourselves, isn’t right for them.

Nice to know that the DfE website is promoting the same message that we’ve been saying for the last couple of years. Hopefully the word continues to spread!

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