Are You Fully Exploiting The Potential Of Your Management Information System?

Caroline Fisher, Product Manager at RM Education, delves into the wealth of ways that school MIS data can be used successfully to drive long-term improvements.

We live in a world where data is enabling us to make more informed decisions than ever before. Robust Management Information Systems (MIS) are putting crucial information at a school’s fingertips, from attainment and progress tracking to behaviour management.
But are you really making the most of the data that can be held – and crucially, interrogated – in your MIS?

Schools are now seeking a much greater level of information from their systems than they have previously; they’re realizing the potential to fully exploit the power of data for things like monitoring attendance patterns, communicating with parents, and exploring contextual data analysis to spot anomalies and identify trends.

‘Life After Levels’ has given schools more freedom around assessment monitoring and it is interesting to see how schools are managing this in different ways; assessment packages that give schools the freedom to input their own measures are growing increasingly widespread, but those that bring together contextual data with assessment data have a distinct advantage.

Data sitting dormant in a school’s MIS is worthless unless it can be reported on in a manner which gives teachers interesting insights and helps them put interventions in place to improve teaching and learning.

But data shouldn’t only offer insight; it should ultimately give schools a tangible path to improvement, both in terms of academic performance and in improving the efficiency of back-office operations. But before we explore how this is possible, let’s look at the basic requirements.

The DfE are currently in the process of moving school data from RAISEonline to the new Analyse School Performance (ASP) Service, a sister to the existing Compare School Performance Service. This is intended to allow greater analysis of a school’s performance by authorized personnel, with more detailed information on key headline measures.

It provides a comparison of school and individual pupil level against national averages and can be filtered on contextual data. OFSTED have access to the ASP and CSP services using anonymized data, and will be looking at school-level, regional-level and national data.

Before a school visit, they will analyse the available data and during the visit they will be looking to see how well school personnel know their own data, and how comfortable they are with extracting and manipulating it to inform interventions and evidence their effectiveness.

Headteachers and Governors can combine the ASP information with OFSTED’s guidance to build a school development plan and monitor its effectiveness using the Key Stage results. It is important, however, for schools to have this kind of information instantly to hand, so they can put interventions in place quickly without having to wait until the year end results.

And this is where the MIS data becomes really powerful; schools can then track attainment and progress for all their assessment needs – formative, as well as summative - and their MIS can be set up to whichever programme they are using, whether a published one or something totally bespoke.

By bringing live contextual data into their mark books, users can immediately identify any interventions that might be required. For example, if disadvantaged boys are not making the progress throughout the Autumn term, interventions can be planned for the Spring term, giving enough time to take effect before the year end.

Early interventions are the key to the successful use of data, and are increasingly required much earlier in a child’s education. Yet as school budgets are restricted and teaching time becomes more limited, these interventions must be targeted effectively at those that will benefit most.

For example, if a school is looking to diminish the difference between pupils in receipt of the Pupil Premium grant and others, they need to know not only who those pupils are, but also what their attendance figures are like and whether there are any specific behaviour issues that need addressing, as well as their assessment results throughout the year and whether there any barriers to learning, such as English proficiency or SEND requirements.

Each of these variables can then be compared with data on non-disadvantaged pupils to help schools identify the targeted interventions required in a school development plan.

There has been an increase in the amount of add-on software packages designed to help schools manage their day-to-day activities, such as visitor management systems, online payments and parental communications.

However, it can be difficult to keep all these records up to date in each system, so a good MIS should include a free-to-use web service where a school’s data is automatically transferred from the MIS to these other packages – only one system (the MIS) then needs to be kept up to date. This saves a great deal of time for admin staff, and time is an incredibly valuable commodity.

Other time-saving features include automatic alerts for clearance renewals, easy evacuation reports, simple staff absence tracking and the storing of contract information, amongst many other elements. Having an MIS that’s stored in the cloud is another critical element, as it enables staff to input information from home or other locations, or access data anytime it’s needed.

But the quality of results depends entirely on the quality of the data inputted. In a landscape where we’re seeing a rise in popularity of an evidence-based approach to classroom practice and school improvement, data must be thoroughly robust and act as a single source of truth in one central place.

Stakeholders’ input is also crucial, so that parents know they need to keep contact details up to date, staff know that clearance and contract information is accurate and current, and contextual information on pupils is continually updated.

And with GDPR coming into effect in 2018, stakeholders will be more conscious of the rights they have with regard to their data and how it is held, and schools will be aware of their increasing responsibilities. The MIS will play a key role in helping schools to fulfil some of those responsibilities. Further guidance on GDPR can be found on the ICO’s website.

With a clear set of objectives for improvement and a robust MIS, schools can begin to evaluate and use their data much more effectively to ultimately maximise teaching resources and optimise children’s learning.

For more information and advice, visit our website.