Monitoring and evaluating is an essential process for any type of project. With relation to the Standards Fund, the minimum possible burden should be placed upon schools and LAs to produce the relevant information.

There is a wide variety of Standards Funds grants, for which varied evaluation strategies will be required. However, the suggestions outlined below may help you design an effective monitoring and evaluation strategy or improve on your current arrangements. The Star Chamber guidance on questionnaires also applies.

  • Monitoring and evaluation should be planned as policy develops to keep it close and relevant to the needs of the grant.
  • You should find out what evaluation is being undertaken by LAs that could feed into your own work, reducing chances of duplication in the information requested/ prepared.
  • Those involved in collecting data must have a full understanding of what information is required, clarifying any areas of ambiguity from the outset. For LAs, some form of guidance additional to the Standards Fund circular should be provided to ensure a relevant and manageable level of information is requested.
  • When considering what data requests to make to LAs, you should question whether the information would be readily available to them. If they would need to contact schools for the information, for example, proposals for such data requests should only be made if they are exceptionally relevant.
  • You should test out your evaluation plans by asking suitable contacts for comments/advice before submitting firm proposals to the Star Chamber secretariat.
  • Information should be collected in a consistent and timely manner, preferably annually. Requests to the Star Chamber secretariat for ad hoc or very frequent collections should be avoided.
  • Information should be collected and recorded electronically where possible to enable further analysis, perhaps with the use of statistical software packages.
  • Where information is used by various partners, information should be shared using tools such as databases/shared drives to support informed decision-making and policy development on a wider scale.
  • Questions justifying the expenditure of the grant should focus upon producing the outputs, highlighting the results, as opposed to the process that was undertaken to achieve them. This type of information is likely to be clearer, more relevant and more quantifiable.
  • Information should generally not be requested as open-ended narrative text. Tick boxes should be used where possible and notes of guidance provided if applicable.
  • You should keep the length of the questionnaire to a minimum, bearing in mind how long it would take schools/LAs to fill in.
  • It is important to ensure the level of detail asked for is fit for its purpose and relevant to what needs to be found out.
  • Ask those concerned (schools/LAs) to provide feedback on your evaluation strategy and to suggest ways in which to improve it.

Ask yourselves these five questions each time you consider what information to request. Is the information to be produced

  • timely – are consistent and achievable deadlines set and adhered to?
  • relevant – is the data relevant to fulfilling the objectives of the monitoring and evaluation strategy?
  • verifiable – can this data be justified if necessary, and if so by whom?
  • accurate – are appropriate measures undertaken to double check the data produced?
  • reliable – can well-informed decisions be drawn from this data?