I’m not prone to bouts of nostalgia, but the other day I saw a retro tea towel (yes, they do exist) in a shop and all of a sudden the memories of the Sunday dinners of my youth came flooding back, mainly because it was always my job to do the drying up. The tea towel that turned the clock back forty years was one that listed ‘The rules of cricket for foreigners’ for alleged comic effect. Ah yes…the good old 1970s. When even your kitchen linen could be have xenophobic/jingoistic undertones.
Anyway, the gist of the text on the tea towel was that cricket can be very confusing for anyone not familiar with the rules of the game and the plethora of associated words and phrases. The list of ‘rules’ went something along the lines of, “The batsman (sic. Don’t forget that casual sexism was also all the rage back then too) comes out to bat and is in until they are out, at which point they come back into the pavilion.”
I remember my Dad trying to explain the rules of cricket to me via the deliberately confusing list of rules from that tea towel. And as I became a lifetime follower of cricket I realised that you subliminally became something of a statistician; commenting sagely on a particular player’s dip in the averages, or nodding approvingly as the run rate increases by a tiny percentage at the end of an over. But if you don’t understand the game it can be completely baffling. Just look at the electronic scoreboards during a test match. The sheer quantity and the apparent randomness of numbers can be baffling for anyone without an understanding of a.) the rules of the game and b.) at least a ‘b’ in A level maths.
And then there are the abbreviations and jargon of the game. What on earth does, “…and they are out LBW to an excellent in-swinging yorker that was just drifting to leg” mean to anyone outside of the game? No wonder Americans stick to big rounders (sorry…baseball. I can’t help it – xenophobic tea towels influenced my attitudes from a young age).
RAISEonline and the Inspection Dashboard
In many ways, coaxing someone new to cricket into an understanding of watching the game is similar to a situation we deal with in schools. Namely, dealing with how data is presented in RAISEonline and the dashboard. For a new Governor or someone promoted into the leadership team, these documents may as well be written in another language. It requires similar levels of statistical knowledge and have their own lexicon, for example sig+, sig-, CLA, FSM, disadvantaged pupils, phonics screening, leg before wicket…
Let’s begin with RAISEonline
For a start, and in a somewhat tenuous continuation of the cricketing analogy, they keep changing the format. Just when you get used to one way of doing things, they change it the following year. I used to like the line graphs for key stage 1 attainment, where you could see the national line compared with the peaks and troughs of the school’s own data for that subject. But, just like white clothing in a one-day cricket match, they are a thing of the past.
And for a new Governor or member of the SLT, RAISEonline is amazingly inconsistent.
For example, it provides:
- Contextual data for three years up until 2015, but attendance data only up until 2014 until validated Raise is released..
- Two year’s worth of data for Early Years, but no analysis of groups such as term of birth which is provided for key stage 1 attainment. (Does it not matter at key stage 2 or EY?!)
- Five years of attainment data for key stage one and for key stage two attainment, but only a three year trend in progress between the two key stages.
And it concludes with the ‘Closing the gaps’ tables and graph on the final pages that I really believe only five people in the whole country actually understand in full.
Is it any wonder that this provides a daunting and often illogical challenge for governors and new school leaders?
And as soon as anyone gets their head around RAISEonline, it changes anyway. We know it will change again next year because of the removal of levels.
Then there was the data dashboard, or inspection dashboard as we now have. This has evolved at a rate that would put those populations of finches on the Galapagos Islands to shame.
The Inspection Dashboard
It was back in 2013 that Sir Michael Wilshaw said that inspectors should be critical of governing bodies that did not know their school’s data well enough, with the inspection dashboard being the minimum expectation. So the pressure on (let’s not forget – volunteer, unpaid) governors is huge, not only to understand how the data is presented, but then to keep up with whatever changes occur year on year.
It doesn’t help that the inspection dashboard is presented in almost the exact opposite order to RAISEonline, finishing with contextual information and beginning with key stage 2.
And again, check carefully to which cohorts the inspection dashboard refers. Floor standards on the front page are for the 2014 cohort, whilst the strengths and weaknesses on the same page are for the 2015 cohort. Absence data is provided up until 2014, but exclusion data only up until 2013, again on the same page. (Have I missed something here? Have exclusions been banned since then?)
Getting to Grips with RAISEonline and the Inspection Dashboard
So once again, the onus is on schools to keep up-to-date and provide training for relevant leaders. And we know that ‘onus on schools’ translates as ‘something else for the headteacher or principal to sort out’.
There is also a Focus Quick Download, ‘Analysing Your Inspection Download’ which takes you through each page of the document and explains each graph and table. There is also a version available for infant schools and a version for junior schools taking into account the different formats for these settings.
Which should help your leadership team understand your historical data and enable your governors to provide support and challenge.
Until, of course, they change it all again.
It’s just not cricket is it?
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You can find me on twitter @Focustn or keep checking back on the blog for more advice and tips.
Tim has been a headteacher with a successful track record; his last school had a reputation for innovation and their initiatives have been utilised by others and presented internationally.
School improvement has been at the heart of his career, working as an LLE, a School Improvement Partner, Professional Partner as well as an Ofsted inspector and mentor for trainee inspectors.