Managing performance in

academy groups This month, regular Education Today GRAHAM COOPER, Head of Product Strategy at Capita SIMS, offers his view on the importance of evidencing improvement in academy chains for Ofsted.

Now that Ofsted has turned its attention to inspecting academy chains, coupled with the increased scrutiny from school commissioners, being able to evidence improvement has never been more important. This means that senior leaders

need to understand how schools within their group are performing at any given moment. But how can academy groups bring in all the information they need without drowning in data? Well, the first requirement is to

decide exactly what needs to be measured and how often. After a short emphasis on ‘more data is better’ in education, sense has returned and the focus is now on ‘only measure what is needed’. The other element is to get buy in from the schools within each

trust. It is important that heads are involved in designing and agreeing the way their data is collected, shared and used. This way, heads have ownership from the start. What’s more, this spirit of openness can ensure that data is valued by all in the group and seen as something that adds value. For academy groups to be confident in the information they have

about school performance, they also need to reduce the variation in data. This requires strong cooperation for agreement to occur. The other part of the variation issue is in removing the reliance on

manual systems for collecting and processing data. Many groups rely on data collected through Excel spreadsheets. These methods mean that there is little time left for data analysis once the laborious task of pulling all the data together has been achieved. This makes it more difficult to verify if any mistakes may have crept

in through a line of data or to pull out any trends that make the data truly meaningful. Senior leaders need to be able to spot when a school may be falling

behind or when another may be excelling so they can share their secrets of success. Without the right data collection process in place and up-to-date information to hand, it’s impossible to do this or make the right decisions and introduce effective, targeted interventions. Academy leaders need to work together to agree which data to

share and then find ways to ease the burden of data collection to enable better decision making and ultimately help students improve.

Capita SIMS has recently launched SIMS SchoolView which allows academy groups to instantly find out exactly how any of their schools are doing or examine performance across the whole trust. For more information about SIMS SchoolView, please visit

Alternatively, visitors to Bett 2017 can request a demonstration on stand B190.


Christmas and the classroom - a festive teaching guide!

With the festive season now upon us, regular Education Today columnist and STEM ambassador KIRSTY BERTENSHAWoffers some great ideas on spicing up your science lessons for Christmas.

Christmas is on its way! This term is always the hardest with dark evenings and the urge to hibernate, but you can brighten up your lessons with a Christmas focus towards the holidays. These can be adapted for any age group, and some can take place over a series of lessons too. Merry Christmas everyone!

Make your own Snow Globe! This is a great science activity, which can be used to explore soluble and insoluble substances. Pupils can experiment to find which materials make the best “snow” from a range of substances such as salt, sugar, flour, rice, and glitter by observing them in water. They can then decide which materials would be best to make their model for inside the snow globe – card, Plasticine etc. Again, a set of observation experiments is a good idea, leaving the materials overnight for best results, as it takes time for card to disintegrate. I recommend Plasticine models of snowmen or Christmas trees, glycerine or water as the liquid, and large pieces of glitter as the snow!

Christmas tree triangles A practical maths lesson is always more fun than theory. Teach about angles in triangles with this idea. Using straws of different lengths and Play- Doh or blue tack, assemble triangles into a 3D tree shape – be creative! Now use a protractor to explore the angles in each triangle. Is there a pattern? Add up the angles in each triangle. Do you see a pattern? What can you conclude from using three straws of equal length? What about two straws of equal length and a third shorter straw – what observations can you make then?

Salt dough ornaments Salt dough can be used to make almost any shape, and if it’s 3D you are after, them make the 2D shapes and glue them together after baking. This can be used to teach about amounts of ingredients, mixing, cooking, and shapes. All you need is salt, flour and warm water in the ratio 1:2:1. First, mix the salt and flour together well. The slowly add the warm water, until you get a firm dough. If it becomes sticky, add more flour. Shape the dough into Christmas trees, wreaths, snowmen, shepherds, stars, Santa sleigh shapes, or any other shape desired. Bake the salt dough on a low heat until dry. Now it can be decorated with paint, and hung up as a Christmas tree ornament. A variation on this is to make tanagrams – a square cut into seven pieces. How many different shapes can be constructed now?

Design-a-sleigh! This cross-curricular STEM activity focuses on science and design technology skills. The world’s population grows every year. That means Santa has more homes to visit every year, on his present drop off journey. Pupils need to design a sleigh that will allow Santa to travel even faster around the world! Lolly sticks make a good base material as they are light. Using glue guns,

pupils can construct a basic sleigh model, then make the chassis using a suitable material (felt, card, foil etc.). Students should also consider the base of the sleigh. For faster lift offs, do they want a material with a lot of friction or very little? Preliminary experiments can take place, testing different materials on a ramp using a shoe or toy car. The final designs can be tested, using long tables as the test surface, with a pulley and masses attached to the end of the table, and to the sleigh using string. This provides a constant and fair pull of the sleighs to compare timings and stability of the sleigh.

December 2016

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