School Reporting Suite

Saving Teachers Time

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Accurate Reporting Of Pupil Progress Is Important In The UK Education System

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Accurate testing and reporting of pupil progress is an important part of the UK education system, however it hit the news for the wrong reasons last week as a testing scandal emerged that led to an official government trial being curtailed.

The test was of national spelling tests for 7 year olds, which is currently in the process of being rolled out across the country. But Progress has hit a speed bump after an embarrassing faux pas in the official trial.

Last week it emerged that during the trial many pupils were able to predict what questions were coming next. The children had not learnt to predict the future, but rather had seen the test paper before as it was the same as some of the practice papers they had been given access to.

Charlotte Smiles, a teacher spotted the error and said:

“One of the children who was sitting the spelling test that we were giving them kept saying, ‘I know this one, and this one’. He appeared to know what was coming next.

I went and checked on the DfE website and I found this exact test published as a sample paper.”

Knowing the answers to a test in advance is the stuff of slapstick movies, this is quite a serious error for a new process and one that has left many scratching their heads at how such a mistake could happen.

Head teachers leader Russell Hobby stated that

“We have no way of knowing how extensively it has been used by schools. This is a serious error that undermines confidence in the administration of primary tests and also means that we can have little faith in any standard setting exercise that may emerge from the pre-test trials.

What Next

The full Key Stage 1 tests are due to start later in the year but this error has given the tests a rocky start. We will be keeping an eye and monitoring how the rollout continues after this setback.

Sugar Tax To Fund Breakfasts & Extended School Days

The recent budget by George Osborne contained a number of initiatives that will impact on schools and the millions of children that attend them every day.

Although announced this week they are a continuation of policies that have previously being trialled or enacted at various levels of the education system.

We have recently blogged about the biggest change unveiled during the budget, which was the conversion of all UK schools to academies by 2022. However, there were also announcements around the length of the school day, after school activities and the so called “sugar tax” that have also dominated the post budget discussions.

Although the sugar tax is not strictly an education issue, it is an important one. The tax is expected to raise £1.2bn in the first two years after it is enacted. The mechanics of which are not only designed to help tackle childhood obesity, but also raise revenue that will be used for education initiatives.

These include £285m per year to spend on the extended day program for secondary schools; £320m to double the primary school PE premium and £10m to provide 1,600 schools with breakfast clubs.

Extended School Days

The extended school days’ program will be used to fund extracurricular activities focused around sports and the arts. These sessions will extend the school day for many students by more than an hour and is based on research that such activities improve student achievement.

The proposal has been met with enthusiasm by Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, he said:

“Any expansion of hours must be properly funded, as school budgets are extremely tight. As long as this remains at the discretion of schools to meet the needs of their pupils, then it seems positive.”

“The idea that most schools shut at 3.30pm is itself pretty outdated, but we have no problem with extra money to help them in the activities they offer.”

Can You Really Scrap A-E Grades and Reporting

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There is a requirement for schools of all types in the UK to have Ofsted compliant systems of assessment, tracking and reporting.

The way that education is measured and reported is an area where professional opinions can differ significantly.

In the UK schools are bound to track, assess and report pupil progress in line with the national curriculum; however there are some schools outside of the UK that are trying a different reporting system.

One such experiment is taking place in Australia where Nossal High School has removed grades from its reporting because they found parents and students were giving them too much attention and missing out on important feedback.

The Assistant principal, Sue Harrap said she felt that the previous mandatory reporting style left teachers feeling “boxed in”.

Instead students and teachers contribute to the new report cards and rate the student’s knowledge, skills, participation, reflection and study habits.

The tracking and assessment reporting system that the school is using is published to families four times a year and contains more information that a traditional grade focussed report.

Importance of Assessment Tracking In The UK

The experiment in Australia highlights the benefits of bespoke assessment and measurement in the participating schools. In the UK the national curriculum means that schools are obligated to measure and track certain endpoints and monitor progress.

However, for schools looking for additional flexibility due to an alternative measurement of success or those operating within faith curriculums, bespoke school reporting can allow for a higher level of visibility and engagement.

This can improve the communication and reporting between education managers, teachers, parents and the students themselves.

Although the UK curriculum does not allow for the following of the model being adopted in parts of Australia, there is certainly some validity into looking at how school reporting can better serve those involved.

How Would Your School Handle A Digital Detox

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Digital technology has taken over our lives in recent years.

The invention of smart phones and the mobile internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure that has grown to support them means that we can be online virtually anywhere.

One generation that the digital revolution has affected the most are school age children.

There are now generations of children growing up that are digitally native, they have never lived in a world where information and communication was not at their fingertips 24/7. Children are drawn to technology from an early age and it seems to come naturally to them.

Teens in the UK, like most everywhere else in the world, are incredibly digitally literate. Smartphone adoption is sky high and by 2013, 8 out of 10 UK teens had a smart phone, using it for browsing the web, playing games and using social media.

Young people are estimated to be only for 27 hours a week and there is concern that is too much and children are becoming dependent on being connected.

Last week the BBC put together an interesting experiment to see how high school students would cope with a weeklong digital detox.

Digital detox refers to a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic connecting devices such as smartphones and computers. It is regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.”

It was insightful to see how the students use the technology and how different their experience of the world is to their parents.

All quite endearing it shows just how important digital has become in the behaviours of the next generation. This will affect how they respond to how they find and absorb information and how they communicate with each other.

School Reporting Standards

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The UK education system and the way that students progress is assessed tracked and reported is one of the most politically sensitive topics in education.

This is because the way in which students are tracked and measured affects the way that students are taught and how the success of the education system and schools themselves is evaluated.

The last decade has seen renewed focus on the way in which pupil progress is assessed and reported. School tables may have been axed but within the education system teachers have had to adapt to a constantly evolving landscape.

What Fuels Changes In Assessment and Reporting Systems?

Change can be triggered by internal factors such as union or teacher feedback or external triggers such as changes in the political make up of the country or governmental education department.

One of the most recent changes to be announced was the introduction of baseline assessments for primary school children. The aim being to measure where a child is when they enter education and how that compares to progress made by the time they leave.

This change has not been universally popular and has recently been criticised by the media, by MPs and teachers groups. However, regardless of what the current system is, it is important to have the right mechanisms in place to assess, track and report student progress.

The Importance Of Flexibility

One of the advantages that users of the School Reporting Suite have found is that our proprietary software has the ability to adapt to changes in legislation and the national curriculum as well as the bespoke faith curriculums that our software can easily accommodate.

If you would like to know more about how our systems can make the compliance to current reporting standards within your school easier then contact the School Reporting System team for an informal discussion.

Kodesh Curriculum Case Study

At School Reporting Suite we know that our software can handle the complexities of running a system in English and Hebrew, whilst reporting on the Kodesh and national curricula.

We know this because we have implemented it within a Jewish school in Golders Green and the results and response from the school has been phenomenal.

The Menorah Primary School Case Study

The Menorah Primary School, is an orthodox Jewis school founded in 1944 by the Golders Green Beth Hamedrash. They contacted Aspiring Panda the company that created the School Reporting Suite looking for tracking and annual reporting software for the school.

Two of the key requirements that the software were

  • It could be written to and edited in Hebrew
  • It could be fully customised to suit the subjects and grading criteria of the school’s Jewish studies curriculum

What We Did

Aspiring Panda implemented a cloud based version of the School Reporting Suite to accommodate the Jewish Study Curriculum and he school’s grading criteria.

Using the language settings of the software we allowed the system to be written to and edited in Hebrew and accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

The Reaction Of The School

The implementation of the software went smoothly, teachers found it convenient and easy to use and the head teacher reported that time efficiencies were achieved due to standardised formatting which reduced writing and review time.

Parental feedback was also extremely positive, particularly on the professional style and quality of the reports.

Here is what the head of the school had to say after the first year of using SRS.

“We have completed our first full year’s assessment schedule using SRS, using both the tracking and reporting modules. The software fully represents our assessment ethos. It is easy to deploy and data entry is very straightforward even in Hebrew! Layout is comprehensive without being cluttered and print copy is aesthetic and ready to send to parents. We now have the tools to generate full reports and charts on classes, groups and individual students in all their subjects and categories. We can track, assess, compare and plan – all within one software package.
Thank you, Aspiring Panda! Your customer service is ‘top-shelf’ with immediate and effective response to all our technical enquiries.”

  1. Atlas, Principal

The History Of Assessments In UK Education

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The Languages of British Schools

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The UK school system is huge, with more than 8 million school pupils across 24,000 schools.

These schools cut across all different elements of society, and incorporates the diverse cultural backgrounds from which these children come. It is this diversity that means that there are more than a million children in UK schools that speak 311 different languages and dialects.

This creates a language challenge within the education system. Depending on the demographics of different areas, this can be either a small challenge or a huge one.

In some schools English may not be the first language of a majority of pupils. This fact means that the education system has to be adaptive to the needs of schools in different areas.

Official statistics reveal there are classrooms in which the majority language is not English, but is Polish, Bengali, Somali, Gujarati, Arabic, Tamil and the Afghan language Pashto.

Overcoming this challenge is one that requires identifying the right needs and assigning the right resources quickly and efficiently to where they are needed.

Teaching In Languages Other Than English

Another language factor can be when the administration or reporting of the school is carried out in more than one language. This can be a factor for faith schools, where the core language used in the religion is not English.

These languages can be in different alphabets, and formatted in a different way to English. This creates a challenge to administration; tracking and reporting may be required in multiple languages, particularly if parents do not speak English as a first language.

This is something we have experience in facilitating through our School Reporting System. We have designed our system with language and curriculum needs of different school systems in mind.

This allows our software to be produced in a number of different languages; this flexibility has proven hugely beneficial when working with faith schools.

Government Analysis Of The Teacher Workload Challenge

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In 2014 the government commissioned a “Teacher Workload Survey” to identify the workload challenges being faced by teachers.

The Workload Challenge consultation ran between 22 October and 21 November 2014. It was an online survey that was advertised on the Times Educational Supplement (TES) website, and also disseminated via the Department for Education and union websites, newsletters, and social media.

The scope of the survey was for teachers to provide their feedback on what they perceived to be the ‘unnecessary and unproductive’ tasks that they were required to carry out.”

The survey was centred on three open ended questions relating to:

  • Unnecessary and unproductive tasks and where they come from
  • Solutions and strategies within schools for tackling workload and what works well
  • What the government could do to tackle unnecessary workload.

The survey got more than 40,000 responses, and it provides interesting insights into the challenges faced by teachers.

It uncovered that as well as tasks that were unnecessary or unproductive, among those that were necessary the level of detail, duplication or bureaucracy could have a negative impact on teacher workload.

Although not every response was fully reported due to the number of responses and the style of the survey, a number of different factors affecting workload were identified amongst the results analysed:

  • The volume of work compared to the time available (particularly for marking)
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Long or irrelevant meetings
  • Too many sources of information to manage/monitor
  • Lack of ICT training or equipment
  • Lack of clarity

The most frequently mentioned tasks contributing to unnecessary and unproductive workload fitted within the category of lesson planning and policies, assessment and reporting administration (82% of respondents mentioned tasks which fitted into this category).

This shows that any steps made to make these processes more efficient can have a positive impact upon teacher workloads.

Reducing Teacher Workloads Using Technology

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In the modern education environment formal assessments, paperwork, and marking are an increasingly large part of the teaching workload.

The government has identified three of the biggest areas that lead to unnecessary workload:

  1. Marking
  2. Planning
  3. Data Management

In 2014 the UK government launched the “workload challenge”, designed to ask teachers on their views on how to reduce unnecessary workload. It found that:

  • excessive levels of recording detail made tasks burdensome
  • Duplication adds to the workload burden
  • Bureaucracy was a challenge

With teachers already working long hours and having to adapt to a continuously changing education landscape, any ways of reducing this burden can have a significant impact on morale and results, by giving teachers more time to focus on teaching.

Providing the right tools are used, and that they are implemented with the right strategy, technology can have a significant part to play in reducing the administrative load involved with teaching.

With a need for more visibility and accurate information in real time, schools are looking at how technology can help minimise unnecessary workload.

Technology & The Teacher Workload Challenge

IT software can help overcome this obstacle. Workloads can be reduced by making pupil data easier to record, analyse, and report.

Tellingly, the most frequently mentioned tasks contributing to unnecessary and unproductive workload in the teacher workload challenge survey fitted within the category of lesson planning and policies, assessment and reporting administration (82% of respondents mentioned tasks which fitted into this category).

Implementing simple to use systems can tackle two of the three biggest areas of unnecessary workload. Simpler ways of recording pupil assessments save time in marking. Whilst real time, accurate and tailored reporting mean that data can be managed and reported to senior management and parents in a professional and efficient way.

This challenge was the reason that we developed the School Reporting Suite, pupil assessment; tracking and reporting is essential to give teachers, senior management and parents visibility over pupil progress.

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