Let’s do school data

By February 17, 2014 10 Comments

Make it human

When thinking about school data I’m always drawn to thinking about the seminal character on Star Trek The Next Generation played by Brent Spiner. The character, an android, is always striving to make himself as human as possible. “I am, perhaps, not nearly so human as I aspire to become.” This, I think, links very closely to how we work with data in schools. It is very easy to start seeing students as numbers, to look at whether they are going to achieve their target grades. Will they match up to the Fischer Family Trust data that you have been working with them to achieve? Will they make their expected 3 (or even more challenging and realistic in todays’ examination of data, 4) levels of data.

Data (Brent Spiner)

“I am, perhaps, not nearly so human as I aspire to become.” Source: Universal

Overcoming the mass of information that is data in the secondary school is a big task. It should always be however, whatever level you are looking at it, whether it’s whole school looking at your Ebacc measures or your best 8 or whatever it is – you should be using your data to start a conversation about learning and teaching. Whether it’s learning of a student, of a class, of a subject, of a year group or of a school. It should form the basis of the conversations you have about teaching. It should be a great starting point for conversations about learning.  (Source: roughly from Gareth Beynon).


Photo Credit: Mattijn via Compfight cc

Doing it for yourself?

Starting with data on whatever level can be a daunting task for many. Certainly, I have had to make some serious spreadsheets in my time, particularly when delivering subjects such as BTEC and DiDA where the results of the course do not fit in with the traditional GCSE grades (are systems ready to meet the challenges of the new GCSE grading systems?).

Creating systems for whole school analysis are really complex and the situation you really want, is a place where your teachers can be informed by data analysis that they haven’t had to do themselves. Data that can be analysed, drilled down in to and trends elicited with the minimum of fuss. Leaders in charge of data in schools want that information to be readily accessible; easily administrable and reactive, particularly to the receipt of results and reporting additions to your MIS.

In IT terms, data doesn’t actually become information until it has been processed:


This is where having smart software in-house can help make sense of the data that you hold within your school. There are lots of different providers of systems that will work with your MIS to provide analysis of your  data. None of them are cheap per se, but when you compare it to how much time your staff ‘could’ spend analysing data to get them to a point in time where they can actually manipulate the data to get to a point in time where they can actually use the data to have the conversations about learning and teaching you want them to have; and to be able to make informed decisions about any interventions that are required.


Kev Bartle wrote a great post about doing data as a member of SLT in which he talks about a mantra that I strongly agree with – I recommend it as a great read packed full of sound advice.

He writes:

Less is definitely more
Linked to the first point. You have to be familiar with RAISEonline, FFT, Jesson and SIMs Assessment Manager and you have to keep an eye on all the groups (ethnicity, SENDA, prior attainment, blah, blah, blah) but don’t transfer that over-abundance of data to your middle leaders and class teachers. I’ve tried it and failed spectacularly. Instead know what the main data is telling you and then help middle leaders to drill down only when they have to.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

By doing this, you’re enabling, for your teachers just as Hattie says, “feedback that is just in time, just for me and just what I need” to move your learners / groups / classes / subjects on.

There are a number of systems to facilitate you doing this:



Source: 4Matrix.org

4Matrix, the SQL driven data analysis tool has a lot of great features. It will create flight paths, or forecasts for your students. Your whole school RAISEonline will form the basis for the hypothesis that Ofsted will come to your school with. 4Matrix will enable you to take your whole school data and be able to show the effect of the work you’re doing with your students / groups / years to offset any negative elements on your RAISEonline document. 4Matrix is relatively inexpensive too when compared with how much time / manpower it would take a member of your leadership group to formulate something similar in Excel. It has some nifty features for teachers too where you can get photos of your groups of students that need interventions. It also creates profiles of students with their images with their data next to it too. What it doesn’t do which some others can is give you more detailed information about your best 8 and other whole school measurement figures. That said, that extended information is great for school leaders, but for giving teachers in the classroom access to great analysis of their class data without the extra information which might confuse or swamp your teachers and middle leaders with too much information, 4Matrix might be just what you need. 4Matrix works on any windows device with the 4Matrix software installed. For more information on 4Matrix visit http://www.4matrix.org/

SiSRA Analytics

Now I have to say, having had access to both 4Matrix and SiSRA Online previously, I did find that I did use SiSRA more than I did 4Matrix. I just found it more accessible and the drilling down and looking at the groups gave me more easy access to the information; this wasn’t the case for all colleagues, but a personal preference. SiSRA didn’t have all of the pretty flight paths and charts that 4Matrix did, but I found the information to be more accessible. I found it to be helpful too because I could also access the data anywhere, on any laptop – I couldn’t however access it on my iPad.

Since then, SiSRA have launched SiSRA Analytics which is a development on the previous version. In addition to what I’ve mentioned before, you can now access data on any internet enabled device (which means I can access it on my iPad) and there are a host of other features included which make it a serious contender for your tool of choice, both for your teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders too.

The new SiSRA Analytics goes live in March and I’m looking forward to using it!

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 14.10.30Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 14.10.55Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 14.11.13

Find out more by visiting: http://www.sisra.com/analytics/what-is-sisra-analytics/

So now what?

Whilst these two are the two main runners. There are lots of other products out there, for example the ultra expensive ‘Datasec‘.

I’d love to learn more and hear about what you’re using – certainly, my philosophy is clear. Let’s not have data, let’s have information and empower our colleagues so that data can inform learning, inform our teaching, inform our pedagogy and (whilst it’s easy to let this happen) to not dictate it. Let’s get that information in the hands of all the stakeholders that need it too. In a usable format and in a format which isn’t too data rich so that the key points are missed.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


  • Phil Bourne says:

    Great article- totally agree with the points made! Think I should perhaps add that keeping an eye on other national data can help. Follow the website link to have a look at what has been done here!

  • Phil Bourne says:

    Great article- totally agree with the points made! Think I should perhaps add that keeping an eye on other national data can help. Follow the website link to have a look at what has been done here!

  • […] blog by ICTEvangelist discusses school data and the need to ensure data is analysed in such a way as to make sense of […]

  • […] Let’s do School Data by @ICTEvangelist compares the benefits of using data tools from @4Matrix versus @SISRAanalytics […]

  • Janette Smith says:

    Great article, it was interesting to read about 4Matrix as I hadn’t heard of it before. We are using Sisra Analytics and just before we broke up for half term, 40 teachers were trained to use it to analse their year 11 exam groups. Digging down deep using the filters, to identify sub-groups of prior attainment at KS2, gender and PP. The subject teachers considered each student that fell below 3LoP to put in place appropriate interventions. This was such a useful session because the data was translated immediately to provide personalised impact for under-achieving students by their subject teachers in their classrooms. Power to the teacher!

    • Thank you Janette – that sounds like it was a really useful session! Thank you for sharing. Out of interest, why 3 LoP and not 4?

      • Janette Smith says:

        Intervention was only deemed urgent and necessary if a student was below 3 LoP, it is a good place to start to ensure every student makes the minimum expected progress. If every student is already at 3LoP or above then the intervention can similarly move up. By planning it this way, teachers can make sure no students are getting left behind. The sub-grouping helps teachers see if their teaching style is especially good or poor for certain types of students which helps us reflect on how we can provide better support for some and more challenge for others. It would probably be too daunting to raise the bar to 4LoP in these initial stages. But hopefully next year……

  • Christine says:

    Thanks for the article, i work in a school that uses SISRA analystics religiously.
    Janette do you have a specific document that your teachers use when they are ‘digging down’? We currently have one but it seems very time consuming and takes time away from the necessary personalised targets/intervention.

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