BETT 2017 Guest Post: “2017 – the Year of Education Data Unification?” – Matthew Woodruff, Coscole Ltd

All throughout January as we move towards BETT 2017, we will be sharing a number of guest posts that feature contributions from Microsoft Partners who are exhibiting, Microsoft Showcase Schools, MIEEs, Teacher Ambassadors or Microsoft product specialists.

Today we are pleased to hear from Matthew Woodruff, who many of you will have seen presenting on the Microsoft Stand last year.

Matthew has helped education institutions leverage value form their investments in technology over the last 12 years. Through his work with Microsoft in the UK and internationally, Matthew understands that schooling systems are often data rich but information poor. Matthew has founded companies specifically addressing how technology can support more effective decision making at all levels to improve outcomes, but also importantly in today's economic climate to be able to 'do more, with less'.

Today, Matthew is Managing Director at Coscole Ltd, supporting Multi-Academy Trusts, Schools and Pupil Referral Units in the UK.


2017 - the Year of Education Data Unification?

I kick off most weeks by discussing new ways to bring together and deliver educational insight to those that need it, so why should the first week of 2017 be any different?!

I dislike the use of the word 'transformation', so often liberally applied to EdTech like an overdose of salt, but we certainly need to do things differently by taking advantage of new technology to overcome some of the present challenges I see:

Pace of change

The government agenda continues to evolve around curriculum and public accountability measures, and the speed of change, and sometimes their reversals, can cause your head to spin. From the Early Years Baseline, Life without/after Levels, primary SATs changes and normalised progress scores, and Progress 8 I'm not sure students, parents and staff have had such an opportunity to be confused in recent history.

Ever increasing demands of transparency and accountability

Performance tables have not quite been turned upside down by these changes, but many, for certain have seen a change in outlook. The blog sphere is alive with critical opinion on Primary, although P8 as it refines itself and beds down I believe to be a positive step.

Data silos

'I've got an App for that' mentality drives me nuts. It is so important to be able to understand what is happening across the systems we use to help us manage learning, and mostly the choices that are made put up walls. We need to be open and share data. Make it accessible. Share it easily with those that need it.

I was recently asked to do an eight-minute presentation to an audience at a DfE conference in the West Midlands. We produced this quick two-minute video snippet as part of the presentation where I chat through some of my perspectives on what 'Big Data' means to us in UK primary and secondary education and focus in on the fact that we don’t have a problem with the production of data but that our challenge is in turning that data into information to help us make better informed decisions.

All of the main MIS vendors are able to adequately produce reports across attendance and typically attainment. A number of other vendors specialise in attainment and progress reports, or behaviour systems. A school may well be running something else for finance, or perhaps staff CPD and performance. I know well the argument for best of breed applications, but to ignore the opportunity to access data for analytics is to severely miss a trick.

What we are typically lacking is any ability to combine this data and make sense of it as a whole. In my view, all of these aspects are inter-related. Each one impacts on the other, but I seldom see this type of analysis take place.

We should also be moving away from 'reporting', a flat representation of historical data towards 'knowledge' creation. In many cases we don’t need to see a whole school broken down into facts and figures for us as the human to do the work to understand what it is telling us. Information should be fed to us live, as we need it, focussed on the individuals or groups with whom we need to intervene.

At coscole we are working with selected schools and multi academy trusts to ensure that the right person has the right information at the right time to make better informed decisions, be they student, parent, staff, leadership, mentors, or governance and Trusts. We do this using the power of Office 365 and Power BI.

We'll expand on how in subsequent posts - stay tuned!


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