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Mind the attainment gap By Graham Cooper, head of product strategy, Capita SIMS


t’s Wednesday morning. A message arrives from the school office. An Ofsted inspector is arriving in just 24 hours. It’s a scenario that’s familiar to us all. Although the call can strike fear amongst staff, there is a growing number of schools who are adopting an ‘always prepared’ policy. By opting for ongoing self-evaluation, headteachers and their senior leadership teams are able to drive an inspection and ensure evidence of improvements in achievement can be accessed in a few clicks. This forensic analysis is empowering headteachers and their senior leadership teams by providing real time data on how individuals and groups of students are performing. It is ensuring schools are able to swiftly address any areas of concern.

So, how is this possible? The answer lies in the effective use of a management information system (MIS).

Ofsted has begun placing an increased emphasis on the performance of different groups of students such as those for whom English is an additional language or individuals in receipt of the pupil premium. An inspector will want to see evidence that progress is not simply confined to the most capable, but that every individual has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. During my time as a deputy headteacher, I recall how we were reliant on the use of spreadsheets to monitor progress. In a large school with several departments and upwards of 1,000 students, it was a gruelling task that failed to give the senior leadership team, department

heads and teachers an accurate indication of how we were performing and where improvements needed to be made.

Like many schools I visit up and down the country, I began to realise that our MIS could be utilised for more than just taking an electronic register twice a day and housing contact details. An MIS allows a senior leadership team to examine the data held on those who receive free school meals, for example. It is possible to see whether they are progressing as expected and also to compare the information across every year group or the whole school.

It also provides schools with the ability to analyse up-to-date information. This ensures that all analysis undertaken is based on the latest assessment data, today’s attendance information and this morning’s behaviour points. It enables both the school and Ofsted to have a real understanding of what is happening in the classroom at that very moment in time. More importantly, if a potential area of concern has been identified and strategies implemented to address the issue, schools can provide an inspector with proof that the changes that have been introduced are indeed having an impact. We featured a school in our white paper, Ofsted Calling. Once, Handsworth Grange Community Sports College was judged to require ‘special measures’. After four years of hard work, it was deemed to be a ‘good’ school. And the number of students who achieved five A*-C grades, including English and maths, had almost doubled.

This has been achieved by setting every department realistic targets and regularly monitoring achievement against these targets. The school collects achievement data four times a year. Teachers must submit predicted grades, controlled assessment information and within- grade progression data. Analysis is undertaken using its MIS which enables staff to implement an effective intervention strategy.

Attainment is just one of the four cornerstones to a successful Ofsted inspection. The key is to ensure continued growth amongst individuals and groups of students by adopting an ‘always prepared’ policy. Ongoing self-evaluation will ensure that when the call from Ofsted is received, it is seen as an opportunity to demonstrate excellence.

To find out how your MIS can support your next Ofsted inspection, download a copy of our white paper Ofsted Calling by visiting

Careers: a clear brief for schools and colleges F

our leading education bodies have come together to support schools and colleges with a good practice brief to help young people to take charge of their careers and their futures. Published in partnership between the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the 157 Group, it follows the publication of the Department of Education’s new careers guidance and inspiration for young people in schools.

The new good practice brief on careers engagement highlights the principles of effective careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) as evidenced and agreed by the four organisations, and provides practical advice on putting CEIAG plans into action. It offers guidance to schools and colleges in assessing their careers provision in an easy-to-use format and provides a workabIe approach for this important area.

This unique collaboration brings together experts from schools and colleges in response to widespread concern about the quality of careers guidance available to many young people following the introduction last year of the statutory duty on schools and colleges to secure independent provision for their students in Years 8–13. It builds on research that provides the evidence on how young people are


navigating their way through these potentially complex choices of qualifications and locations of study and the importance to them of receiving high-quality, impartial and independent CEIAG.

ASCL, ATL, NFER and The 157 Group believe that schools and colleges themselves have a vital role to play in supporting young people to navigate their way through the increasing complexity of choices available to them. Karleen Dowden, Apprenticeship, Employability and IAG Specialist at ASCL, commented: “This collaboratively produced resource not only highlights the key principles and intermediate and long term outcomes of effective CEIAG, it is also an excellent practical tool. It will be of great value to assist leaders in auditing and prioritising further developments in relation to CEIAG in their organisations.” Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “We believe that the government’s changes to careers education have left teenagers without the level of support they need, and we urge government to invest in much needed face-to- face advice for all young people. Until then, schools have to do their best to advise young people on the range of educational and career options in front of them, whilst developing essential skills such as decision-making and the ability to persevere. This publication will

contribute to this difficult job and help teachers and leaders in schools do the best for every pupil.”

Tami McCrone, a Research Director (Impact) at NFER said: “This careers brief has been informed by research evidence and designed to provide practical help to support senior leaders within schools and colleges to meet their careers guidance duty. We all want the best for our young people and effective careers education and guidance are critical to ensuring that young people are able to make a successful transition through education to work.”

Andy Gannon, Director of Policy, PR and Research at The 157 Group, commented: “Equipping learners with the skill and knowledge to select the pathway through the education system which will bring them the most success is of vital importance. The All Party Group on Social Mobility recently called for a focus on character and resilience in education, and the confidence to pick your way through the many options available is a key element of character. We hope that, in some way, this brief will give schools and colleges a steer in assessing the extent to which they are delivering in this critical area.”

The good practice brief can be accessed at and on the websites of all four organisations.

May 2014

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