Love your data – it can work for you… really!

Kate Hay

Kate works for SISRA, a web-based performance analysis tool for secondary schools.

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Mention the dreaded ‘D’ word in the staff room and many teachers will suddenly remember, ‘oh yes, there’s a pile of marking I must do… right now!’. It clears the room almost as quickly as the afternoon bell on the last day of summer term.

A slight exaggeration maybe, but data should be embraced as it can enhance the performance of both students and school in simple and positive ways – and there are many...

Attendance data is compulsory; it is collected and recorded twice a day, and for the majority of schools this is done electronically on their MIS. Using standard prepared reports from your MIS you can export attendance percentages which, with just a little help, can be transformed into clear, colourful, easily understood graphs. Generate a Year group, Tutor group or House group and so on.

Year group and House group data can be used in assemblies to generate competition, promote peer support and encouragement. Incentives are a powerful tool for persuading students to focus on a goal. We know times are tough and school budgets tight, but expensive incentives are not always necessary: alternatives such as ‘entries into a termly raffle’, ‘first lunch sittings’ or ‘no uniform treat’ would be welcomed. I’m sure each school knows the buttons to press to make students want to make an effort.

This information can be used within Tutor groups to monitor individual student attendance, celebrating good attendance and improvements. Concerns over poor or dropping attendance can be identified quickly and intervention planned.

Awareness is an important aspect of this exercise too, as one of the most effective ways that schools can improve achievement is by improving attendance. A regular focus on attendance from all staff, not just the few who have a responsibility for Persistent Absentees, can only have a positive impact.


Data Managers can provide this type of data in many schools. It could be seen as an approach where ownership is given to students of an area that they can have control over. Using clear, visible graphs to keep students regularly informed and up to date will encourage focus.

Every week or two the ‘slate’ could be wiped clean to start again, allowing the competition to stay fresh and let those students who had a ‘blip’ quickly become involved once more.

This is just one simple example of using data to motivate students and staff and create an opportunity to improve the outcomes for all. There are other means of using data in a positive way to incentivise student behaviour, participation, motivation and, ultimately, achievement such as merit and behaviour points.

Try it! I’m sure your students will love it!

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