Academy groups: how are your schools performing?

By Duncan Hield

As the number of schools joining academy groups continues to grow, having an understanding of how schools within your group are performing is crucial. Robust school performance monitoring and oversight is key when it comes to driving improvement and evidencing it. But how can academy groups get the balance right when it comes to managing the wealth of data they receive from their schools?

Many academy groups are often taking data on trust from their academies due to their reliance on manual systems, processes and spreadsheets. They tell us they struggle to get data to the centre of their group in a timely way, so they often don’t have the opportunity to analyse the data and make it meaningful. With the focus from Ofsted on inspecting academy chains and an increasing focus from School Commissioners groups, having the right data at the right time and being able to evidence improvement has never been more important.

At an overall group level, having that overview of performance across all your schools can be crucial to spot where a school may be falling behind or where another may be excelling above the rest. Without the right information, your group could in effect be driving blind when making data-driven decisions and targeting interventions.

The data collection burden

As many of you will be aware, the burden of data collection has been the subject of scrutiny in recent months. The data management review group made recommendations to schools following the results of the Workload Challenge, which revealed that 56% of teachers see recording, inputting, monitoring and analysing data as an unnecessary or unproductive task.

One of the key points in the report focused on an ‘only collect what’s needed’ approach. It encouraged schools to challenge themselves on the purpose and usefulness of the data they were collecting. The report advised to ‘collect once, use many times’, to be ruthless and only collect what is needed to support outcomes for children. All great advice, but where do academy groups start?

Data collection for academy groups can often be just as overwhelming as it is for schools. When you’re provided with masses of data, can you sift between it and find the golden nuggets that will enable better decision making and ultimately help learners improve? We think keeping it simple with data collection and analysis can be the best way forward.

Putting data at the centre of your group

Last year, at our annual conference for academy group leaders, we asked for your views on group governance and data management. A central dashboard view of data across all schools was seen as an essential next step development to monitoring progress for academy groups.

We took your feedback on board and would like to introduce our new data dashboard solution designed specifically for academy groups. If an easy-to-use integrated view of performance across all of your SIMS schools is something that your group would benefit from, then SIMS SchoolView is the right solution for you.

The aim of SchoolView is to help provide the group and academy leaders with the information to help manage, monitor, and collaborate effectively. We’ve designed the system to allow the group to go from an overall combined view across all of their schools through to the individual pupil or staff level within just a few clicks. As the system is fully web-based, you can access it securely from any location through any internet enabled device.

What makes SchoolView different?

SchoolView is all about simplicity. We’ve listened to feedback from lots of academy groups and focused on delivering a very easy-to-use system that’s quick to get started and solves key problems. It automatically brings SIMS data to the centre and provides more flexible access for the group, without the need for specialist data analysts or multiple separate systems to configure and manage.

Your group will be able to access a range of key performance measures available from SIMS covering attendance, pupil numbers, conduct, assessment, exam results, staff information and more. Plus we’re including key pupil demographic filters that you can apply to the data, including EAL, ethnicity, Pupil Premium, SEN status and more to help focus on particular cohorts of students across the group or in a particular school or group of schools. All of this information aims to help you find stories in your data and provides the valuable insight you need, while presenting it in a way that’s easy to understand and interpret.

We haven’t tried to replicate the more advanced reporting and data analytics systems that are available – the focus on simplicity means that SchoolView brings data to the centre of your academy group through easy-to use data dashboards so that you won’t feel overwhelmed with data.  

Looking ahead

We’re continuing to work closely with key academy group leaders and our SIMS support team advisory partners, plus engaging with the National and Regional Schools Commissioners to ensure the new SchoolView solution is focusing on the right areas. We’ve also established our first Visioning Group, which has its first meeting in early November. This new group provides an opportunity for academy group leaders to view the latest SIMS product developments and a platform for discussion and insight sharing.

Work is continuing to ensure SIMS SchoolView is the best it can possibly be for our customers and we have exciting plans for the coming year. In the meantime, you can sign up for updates here.

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