Attendance – Poynton High School
The Open Data Project for Schools is a first of its kind collaboration between ASCL and selected partners. Powered by askEddi’s school improvement platform, schools can gather, interpret and share data to improve pupil outcomes.
One of the first issues that the Open Data Project is tackling is attendance, specifically the way attendance is recorded reported and acted on in schools. Working with ASCL’s network of school leaders we have the opportunity to change the way attendance data is used in schools for the better, helping schools to tackle persistent absence and spot patterns before they become a major problem.
Poynton High School in Cheshire East is one of the early adopters of the project and have been part of the Open Data Project’s network of schools, developing the project and sharing insights and successes.
David Waugh is Head Teacher at Poynton High School in Cheshire East. Mr Waugh is also the trust leader of the True Learning Partnership, which is a cross phased values focused multi academy trust working with five schools across the North West, and the Vice President of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
We spoke with Mr Waugh about his school’s participation in the Open Data Project and how effective data has made a difference over the past 12 months.
“We’re using the askEddi attendance dashboard across our senior leadership teams and our welfare and pastoral teams. We have an attendance officer who reporting daily on our Pupil Premium (PP) students and at 9am she’s got live attendance data and can see if that fits in a pattern and whether we are able to respond.
“As a result our PP attendance is now an inverted gap – meaning our PP students are now doing better with attendance than our non PP students. We can see that it’s a direct result of having access to real live reporting.
“Schools tend to use data to simply justify themselves, whether for the inspectorate, governance, local authorities or performance tables – rather than unleashing the power that data has to help us support children.
“When you do try and attempt to support children with data it’s often very laborious and takes a long time, and the second it’s cut it’s out of date so it doesn’t give us the ability to intervene before we need to intervene. One of the things that attracted us to the askEddi platform and the Open Data Project is that it’s forensically allowing us to identify the bit of data that we need straight away rather than trawling through a cumbersome information management system.
“askEddi is very powerful as it retains data from previous school years whereas our existing systems reset every year so you would lose the history and the patterns. The algorithms in the askEddi system compares data to spot patterns and tells us where we can make a difference. The dashboard on three clicks allows me to understand where patterns are emerging – almost to know a child is going to be off before the child is off so we can act.”
Mr Waugh and Poynton High School identified a number of key areas that better data on attendance has helped with:
“Putting downward pressure on workload is a key aspect of this project because we want to save time for our support staff as well as teachers. Most schools don’t have endless resource for analysing and reporting on data. We want to focus on teachers being able to plan good lessons, teach good lessons and give kids some decent feedback, removing all of the barriers to doing that.”
“For teachers the challenges are reliability, the timeliness and the magnitude of data. So we need to understand what the data means, make sure we get it live, or as close to live as we can, and making sure that it’s meaningful and easy to interpret. It’s got to be readily accessible because at the end of the day you just want them teaching. The data becomes our tool, not us being a slave to the data.”
“Every school, every college around the land is trying to concentrate on improving the quality of teaching and learning – but a child’s got to be in the room, because the vast majority of our resource is teaching and teachers, and if we’re spending the money on the teachers we need the children and the young people in the room to benefit from it.”