Using national data for self-evaluation and school improvement


This NFER PRE article is a guide to the complexities and potential of the range of performance and assessment data available today. It aims to explain the main concepts and mechanisms in a clear and straightforward fashion thus enabling their positive use for school improvement. The interpretative remit embraces Achievement and Attainment tables together with the RAISEonline and Ofsted websites. An exposition of the meaning of contextualised value-added (CVA) analysis together with the different models that may be adopted leads into a more in-depth examination of some examples of PANDA (Performance and Assessment reports) material for both the primary and secondary sectors. These datasets are analysed in order to evaluate the significance and relative usefulness of the PANDA/RAISEonline information. The paper ends with a concluding review of the ways in which data can be best deployed in the pursuit of enhanced pupil success and overall school improvement.


The aims of the resource
The resource addresses important issues regarding the explanation and analysis of the various sources of data regarding learners' progress and attainment. The overall aims and intentions may be summarised as follows:


  1. To simplify and elucidate the key vocabulary and concepts within the plethora of value-added information that is in the public domain
  2. To explain what is meant by CVA according to a range of models and formats
  3. To employ the primary and secondary examples given on the Ofsted website and RAISEonline to demonstrate their potential  to guide and inform self evaluation 
  4. To give some recommendations and pointers for the most effective use of value added data for school improvement.


Key findings or focus

The well informed and perceptive nature of the paper enables a lucid presentation of the "value-added jungle". It makes a sharp distinction between the relative validity and power of the different types of data available and gives well supported suggestions for action. There is a strong argument that an informed and intelligent grasp of the statistical information available is a prerequisite for well focused and apposite action.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE

The author of the publication was until recently the Head of Statistics at NFER, and this acquaintance with the history and practice of data analysis enables a persuasive case to be made for the most effective and apposite use of statistical information. The recognition that the area will exhibit continued change strengthens the argument for a properly informed and coherent appreciation of the statistical verities that underlie any future manifestations. This is emphasised by the strong link that is made between the clarity of interpretation and a focus on appropriate action to raise standards.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors - when and how it could have best impact

Engaging with and providing evidence for Q13 can often present a challenge, and can become an item of concern for student teachers as they strive to place their own school experience in the wider arena of targets and value-added scores. This paper may best be used just before a school placement and in conjunction with the Ofsted and RAISEonline websites. Student teachers who are less confident in the use of number may need some support in working with the examples given, as the initial somewhat informal language is rather quite quickly replaced by more technical vocabulary. The resource may also be employed towards the end of the training year in order to place the work of classroom practitioners in the context of school effectiveness more generally.


The relevance to ITE students

The QTS standard relating to the use of local and national statistical data (Q13) becomes more meaningful if particular information regarding classes or individual learners is put into the wider discourse relating to CVA and target setting approaches. Familiarity with some of the statistical terms and methods may also be useful preparation for the Numeracy Skills test (Q16 ).


Although the aim of this publication is to encourage an informed and critical acquaintance with the use of statistical data for school improvement, it may still be too dense and technical for some beginning teachers. It does have a relevance and degree of importance in informing all teachers of how the targets they are asked to work with come about, but the density of argument may discourage those less comfortable with the use of number from a continued engagement with the debate.


Reviewed by:

Karl Cain

Authors :

Ian Schagen

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