Gathering data for intervention
Frequency and methods of data capture
Schools usually have between four and six data-capture points during the year – varying by key stage and department (i.e. more frequent data input for core subjects). Some schools are still using the old NC levels, but most have moved on: some are linked to new 9–1 GCSE grades (perhaps with the school’s own sub-levels), some to ARE and others to commercial or home-grown systems. This can differ by key stage, with older year groups who came through the system under the NC levels using these, and lower key stages now using 9–1 gradings.
‘All departments contribute assessment data but some (core subjects) contribute more (every half-term) whilst other subjects such as drama/music that have the lowest number of lessons at KS3 only report once per term.’
‘After each assessment point (5 times a year) students are given a score of 9–1 (new GCSE grades). This is compared to their target grades which have been set based on prior data.’
A range of assessment formats feed into the grades (e.g. standardised tests, exam board papers, department-designed methods), making use of tests, moderation, formative and summative assessment data. Pastoral data are also captured (e.g. attitude to learning/effort, homework, behaviour etc.).
The data are often analysed centrally, usually by the head of department, and then disseminated to staff within the department. Analysis includes comparison of key pupil groups and helps to identify pupils for intervention and targeted support within class. The data can also be used to feed into teachers’ performance management.
Pupils’ future grades are predicted using various methods: for example, following so-called ‘flight paths’, using the government’s modelling methodology, or initiatives stimulated by a local authority, MAT or teaching school.
‘At KS3, getting full marks in an exam will result in a 9, regardless of the difficulty of the exam.’
What tracking systems do schools use?
What makes a good tracking system?
According to the survey, SISRA is the most commonly used tracking system, followed by 4Matrix and SIMs, and some schools use more than one. Both good and bad points of each system were mentioned: being intuitive to use was a common positive, along with effective analytical tools that enable comparison of key pupil groups.
‘For simple tracking of the core assessments, it’s easier just to use one of the tabs on SIMS. On the “Assessment” tab for each class, it’s easy to compare all their grades … We use SISRA too. This is much better for detailed analysis and also, of course, for comparing any “off track” results with other subjects to see if it’s just MFL that’s a problem. SISRA is such a huge program – it’s great for being able to be selective and to filter everything within an inch of its life.’
Schools may export data to Excel and perform their own analyses, use in-house systems designed themselves, or use a local provider such as a teaching school. MATs often have their own systems – presumably to facilitate comparison and moderation across the group.
‘Our data manager uses Excel to record and then track progress. This enables a lot of flexibility in the data we wish to track.’
‘It meets our needs and is constantly updating in line with gov changes.’
‘SISRA is struggling with the new grading system, so looking at going to Alps for KS4. Previously used 4Matrix which was better in some cases (student photos) but not as easy to manipulate.’
‘SISRA – good for analysis. More intuitive. 4Matrix – probably more powerful for analysis but less intuitive so used less.’
‘We use SIMs as our tracking system. It is a basic method but it is easy to access and use and allows teachers to review pupil performance across all subjects.’
‘SIMs but about to introduce 4Matrix. SIMs is time-consuming as all data needs to be downloaded per class and analysed by HOD. It gives no overview.’
‘Manipulates data quickly and visually. Accurate.’
‘I found SISRA to be more intuitive and user-friendly than 4Matrix but my colleagues have assured me that 4Matrix is a more powerful tool.’
‘Have 4Matrix but not using it at this time due to issues with needing KS3 to be on 9–1 system.’
GO 4 Schools
‘[GO 4 Schools] tracks data effectively and provides headline figures. It also provides departmental, year group analysis as well as analysis by teachers.’
Limitations of tracking systems
Some teachers feel that they are ‘making up’ the data using assessments created by heads of department. There is a need for more moderation and a stronger sense of the national picture through comparison with other schools’ data. Validating assessments is seen as an issue, but lack of time prevents teachers from achieving this. Data input takes a significant amount of time, and home access is an issue: for example, SIMs is not accessible from home which creates problems for teachers when needing to input or analyse data. Other issues mentioned were as follows:
‘The approach across the school was not consistent.’
‘Too many groups to compare makes it difficult to plan intervention or class-based support.’
‘Lack of training on using complicated systems, or sporadic use, meant people felt ill-prepared to use the tracking systems.’
‘We are reliant on a data manager who likes his current system. If he goes off, we will be stuck!’
‘Greater flexibility to adapt it to our needs in school i.e. allowing sdmin to add or take away features and selection tools based on what they want staff to access. Greater connectivity with other software to enable easier recording of current levels and entry of data.’
About this research: SchoolZone consulted with 50 secondary schools in December 2016 to ask them what issues they faced in gathering assessment data, using tracking systems and how they would like to be able to address them. Research was commissioned by SAM Learning, who provide a cost-effective framework for Targeted Intervention. Click here to find out more.