Empowering class teachers to use assessment data effectively
Gavin Booth kindly took the time to talk to us about how the Infinity Academies Trust is driving their assessment to enable teachers to be more effective in the classroom.
What challenges were you facing before using Insight?
Before finding Insight, we’d tried a number of different tracking systems over a relatively short space of time. They were all quite complicated and so ended up residing solely with the senior leadership team. Because they weren’t confident sharing these systems with the staff we ended up with a lot of replication – some people were assessing on paper, others were entering assessments into a system. Only certain people were able to analyse our data and they were having to feed that back down to class teachers. This meant the systems weren’t meeting their purpose, as they just weren’t enabling teachers to be more effective in the classroom.
How did you get set up with Insight?
I follow Sig+ (James Pembroke) on Twitter and we got talking. We had him come to us for a day to look at the school’s approach to data. He took one look at what we were doing and said “you must be mad, trying to make this system work! Have you seen this?” He gave us a quick tour of Insight; straight away everyone in the room could see just how simple the interface was, yet how powerful in terms of being able to get to the data you really wanted regardless of your position in school. Whether you’re a class teacher or a headteacher you can get what you need swiftly.
James helped us again during his ‘databusting’ tour, and he’s spent time looking at our Trust data strategy as well. We have seven schools in our Trust, and we’re trying to get to a point where we share a common assessment language. James and the Insight team have been really helpful getting us to this stage. They spent a lot of time working on bits and pieces for us, going backwards and forwards getting our mark schemes, subjects and assessment names aligned across the Trust… they were brilliant. Really, really helpful.
At one point, we came up with the idea that we’d like to apply sliding thresholds to our past papers. The team were able to put that in place, giving us different pass marks for each test, and that has made such a difference to us. Previously we’d spent time doing our own calculations, but now after just a quick conversation Insight is doing all that for us.
Have we met your expectations as far as set up goes then?
Yes you have! Sometimes I ring up and think I’m a little confused about what I want, but the people at the end of the phone have been very helpful. It’s about knowing what you want to do with your assessment first as a Trust or as a school, then coming to Insight and saying “this is what I want to happen.” Sometimes we’ve been lead down particular alleyways looking at the kind of programmes and data systems we could use first, but we know we have to be really clear what we want to do with our data and how and when we want to collect it. You’ve been really good at making Insight mirror that.
Do your teachers all get on well with the system in your individual schools?
Our early adopters absolutely love it. The number one thing that I think has made a difference has been the implementation of Insight from a class teacher’s perspective. They are so much more in control of the data; it’s reduced a lot of bureaucracy in terms of inputting the information and has increased the speed that they’re able to get that information back. The aspect I’m most interested in is what they’re then doing with that information. They’re now using reports like the Progress Matrix all the time: they’re able to work out which children are falling behind, which children need that bit of a boost, and who’s doing really well. They’re re-targeting interventions and class teaching practices based on the information they’re getting. They’re coming to pupil progress meetings and churning out tables and reports and things that even I hadn’t thought to look at. They’re saying “I’ve been looking at this” or “I’ve got this and I am now going to do this”… for me that is absolutely a dream. It’s exactly what we want people to be empowered to do. With time, I know that all this will come for our newer schools as well, as it cascades down as leadership start to understand the potential.
Are there any improvements you’d like to see?
From talking with James Pembroke, I know that most of the things we’d like are already in development. We need to look more at the Trust-level reporting in Mosaic, and we need to have a closer look at the Headline reports. Now that we know what we want teachers to record and when and what we are going to call it, what we want to do next is standardise our reporting across the Trust. For example, we’ll agree that we’ll all take a particular report to our local governing bodies at a particular time. Just hit that report, click print and go.
As Trust lead is there a particular aspect of Insight you rely on the most?
I think the Progress Matrixes are probably the number one thing we look at now, which we weren’t able to do easily with any former system. We like the really clear visual of where pupils were at the end of the previous key stage against where are they now. We can so easily answer our questions: Are pupils on track? What does that look like? Where do they stand if we start putting the FFT targets in? What do we look like in terms of getting close to any of those? That is a revolution for class teachers, to be able to do that easily without having to trawl through loads of bits of paper or spreadsheets, going backwards and forwards between different documents, just to try and say where pupils should be.
The best bits for me are just around how simple and straightforward everything is. Before, a lot of teachers were only really looking at their in-year information. Now they have access to the whole picture. We’ve finally found a system that enables teachers to be more effective in the classroom.