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Check the data for your childs school - find the hidden truth

(57 Posts)
riddlesgalore Wed 27-Feb-13 17:48:35

You might like to ask questions based on DFE performance data:

Particularly the average point scores percentage of GCSE only entries against all (including equivalents).

Also Ofsted's Data Dashboard:

You may find it interesting to compare schools against the bench marks you think important. Also remember to check the courses entered at GCSE and A Level to ascertain if the academy/school is guilty of any league table manipulation at the expense of attaining pupils full potential.

I think you will find it very interesting.

lljkk Wed 27-Feb-13 19:47:55

Pretty boring, no surprises.

BoundandRebound Wed 27-Feb-13 20:20:02

What truth is hidden?

LadyIsabellaWrotham Wed 27-Feb-13 20:44:03

It's not hidden very well is it? On the OFSTED and websites is not exactly Dan Brown levels of mystery.

balia Wed 27-Feb-13 21:00:48

Did you mean to sound quite so mad conspiracy-theory-spotting paranoid? Sometimes, entering children for non-GCSE courses is to do with what is best for the child, or to do with the vocational course the child wants to go onto. There are some teachers who didn't go into teaching just to manipulate league tables, amazing as that may seem in patronising crazy world

Also, word to the wise - you may want to check the dictionary definition of 'interesting'.

I always think the Value added scores are much more enlightening - then you can see which schools actually move kids on, whatever their starting points, and which really don't help students attain their true potential but get good A*-C figures because the children arrive with high levels.

ClutchMyPearls Wed 27-Feb-13 21:32:02

You do realise stats from these tables are bandied about quite regularly on the Education boards?

Or is there secretly coded info within them that is hidden? In some sort of invisible screen ink, perhaps?

potatoprinter Thu 28-Feb-13 07:06:54

The simple truth is that most schools have a range of abilities and unless they are super selective they are not going to have uniformly high marks. Some human beings have less academic ability than others. My Child's school are open about the fact that some do GCSE and some BTEC etc.
my elder Child attends a super selective where most people get a straight sweep of A or A* - the schools cater for different abilities - so what - it is no mystery.

Roisin Thu 28-Feb-13 07:44:05

Thanks OP. I am always fascinated by schools data, and I've never actually come across these two particular websites.

I think the data is very clearly presented for a comparison between schools; and much easier than other websites I have looked at.

tiredaftertwo Thu 28-Feb-13 10:38:02

There is masses more information available now than there was a few years ago, and many people may not be aware of it, so thank you.

If you look at the new league tables they show you the ability ranges, so you can compare schools with similar intakes directly.

University statistics strongly suggest that one of the barriers to equal access is subjects studied at the right level, so this is really important stuff.

Where did anyone say that all teachers want to manipulate the league tables or that everyone can achieve high marks?

If one school is averaging C+ with its high ability children and another A-, you may at least want to ask why (and there could of course be valid reasons).

difficultpickle Thu 28-Feb-13 13:46:22

I've not seen the dashboard website before. It sets out info very clearly and confirms that the good schools near us are very good but our catchment school is still poor.

riddlesgalore Thu 28-Feb-13 13:55:51

LadyIsabellaWrotham :
From the tone of your reply I assume you are extremely capable of the advance analysis required in order to extract meaningful information from the data and statistics provided on both the ofsted and DFE sites. All this data can be downloaded and imported into a spreadsheet for further analysis, might be a good idea to undertake this work before you dismiss the contributions of others.

Thank you Roisin and tiredaftertwo for your considered response. As you say, if you make comparisons with other similar schools, questions usually pop to mind. I wouldn’t say that all teachers want to manipulate the league tables or that everyone can achieve high marks, however I have been in education long enough to know the pressures that subject staff are put under to deliver good league table C+ results and that courses are often introduced/changed to facilitate these better results!!! Hopefully now that many of these 'equivalents' have been withdrawn we will be left with only the higher standard courses, GCSE's or others.

Finally balia,
working in education I have along with many been bullied by the best but that hasn’t stopped me from having my say. I don’t intend to stop now!!!

Other information which is useful can be found here:
In ‘Your Area Website’ where you can find a range of school and local area education statistics

ThingummyBob Thu 28-Feb-13 14:00:04

Has anyone seen my socks? I seem to have lost them grin

aliasPrickleandJones Thu 28-Feb-13 14:15:18

Yes, the dashboard is a clear way of looking at the figures. Really highlights those schools in the area that have a good reputation (and in high demand) that may be coasting.

warwick1 Thu 28-Feb-13 15:18:27

ThingummyBob - I guess your socks are where your foot is at this moment - I'm sure you didn't mean to be rude but learning how to get the most out of data is important for parents and some of us are interested in the sites posted by riddlesgalore.

aliasPrickleandJones: If you also compare a selection of local schools its easy to spot where the schools/academies concentrate on adding value.

Hullygully Thu 28-Feb-13 15:21:34

Did ofsted kill Lady Di?

tiredaftertwo Thu 28-Feb-13 15:27:15

learning how to get the most out of data is important for parents

This is so, so true.

For most of us, this sort of data was not available when we were educated. But it is now, it is published and free, and each year there seems to be more. If people could learn to use it, I think it could help address inequalities in education. The more information we have about vital public services that we pay for the better.

Those sneering would perhaps like to look at the league tables now and note how much info there is on ability range, progress, value added and so on. It is much better contextualised that in was.

warwick1 Thu 28-Feb-13 15:49:41

That is true tiredaftertwo. Knowledge is power as they say.

With a little bit of effort, it is as riddlesgalore says, possible to find worrying trends and possible issues either within specific schools or local areas that need addressing. Many schools/academies appear to have been coasting others that profess to have improved (including academies) are shown merely have been benefitting from a national rise in performance rather than the school/academy specific rise they boast about in their literature. Whether the national improvement is genuine or distorted is obviously another question.

Any more sites you come across riddlesgalore, I for one will be interested in hearing about. Maybe those who are not should resist the temptation of posting sneering remarks and allow those with something constructive to say voice their opinion without fear of abuse.

tiredaftertwo Thu 28-Feb-13 17:00:55

Exactly, warwick1.

Discussion can also help. The league tables for A levels now include AAB in at least two facilitating subjects. This seems to have been added as I am pretty sure that when they were published, it said three, which is a nonsensical measure and led to a lot of negative and misleading headlines about state schools not producing anyone with the right grades and subjects for RG universities. I can only assume that discussion and complaints got this fixed. And now everyone has access to this information in a (relatively) clear standardised format - useful for parents but also a good place to start digging to see where discrepancies in university admissions really start, for example.

I think it can be hard to interpret this mass of information, and I think the attitudes of some schools and teachers makes this harder.

And finally, while I am grumping, I would also say that arguments that rely on pouring scorn on things your opponents never said look very weak.

lljkk Thu 28-Feb-13 17:18:11

You can only get the most out of the data if you understand the margins of error, which are probably included somewhere in the fine print, to be fair. Coz we know how good everyone in modern life is at reading and even understanding the tiny font fine-detailed print.

NotADragonOfSoup Thu 28-Feb-13 17:21:11

Has anyone seen my socks? I seem to have lost them

Someone has probably used them in an Arts and Crafts session.

BigBoobiedBertha Thu 28-Feb-13 17:21:36

The Dashboard is actually very limited. It only gets updated once a year. I am surprised it is recommended for use by governors. If they relied on that, a problem in attainment could already be year old before it come to light.

I agree with Balia that that Value Added is what counts and the dashboard doesn't really have anything to say about that. The performance tables do but then they always did.

I also fail to see what difference it makes to a parent how the school spends its money. If they aren't making the most of it then it will show in the performance of the school. As a parent, other than it being interesting because I am nosy, it doesn't really tell me anything about standards and how the school can do better. Why should I care or even be told the average salary for example? Isn't it just another stick to beat the teachers with? You can just see it now - disgruntled parent of unruly child, fed up of being told their child is disruptive/underperforming/generally making life difficult for the school and the other children, who tells the teacher they get paid enough to sort it out and they should just put up with it.

The information is at risk of going over a lot of people's head and misinterpreted or just being ignored. I would argue that a lot of this stuff is what we expect the governing body to keep an eye on. It is beyond what parents need and in a lot of cases want to know.

lljkk Thu 28-Feb-13 17:23:01

One of my socks has a HUGE hole in it. I am wearing it upside down until both sides wear out. Am I Frugal Star or what?

AChickenCalledKorma Thu 28-Feb-13 17:27:49

I've just looked at the dashboard for the first time, and I think it is pants. Parents looking at my children's school will get a quick snapshot that shows it is in the lowest quartile for certain subjects. That is true. What they will not see (because they probably won't bother looking) is that it has a very high proportion of children with language processing difficulties, because there is a specialist unit in the school. And, surprise, surprise, many of them don't hit the national targets.

But the school has just been given a Good report, because the rates of progress made by all children are good - and so is pretty much else about the school.

warwick1 Thu 28-Feb-13 17:44:15

May I suggest you read the dashboard guidance document first. As BBBerthasays, it's all in the small print.

tiredaftertwo Thu 28-Feb-13 18:07:31

The FAQs are clear I think, too, and explain the "similar schools measure" - it compares results with a reasonably small number of schools with a very similar intake (attainment-wise).
AChickenKorma - how does your school fare on that measure?

If parents don't want it, fine, they don't have to look. If they don't "need" it - who says? I am a parent and a taxpayer and I think I need it. If it is misinterpreted, well, let's all help explain how data works, complain when the media gets it wrong, read the background info and FAQs, talk about it, encourage schools to explain how their particular circumstances pan out and point people to the league tables and ofsted demographic info too; and let's not pretend that the previous lack of info wasn't unfair - some people were in the know, some were not and had to rely on rumour or ignorance when making important decisions.

Those who oppose this - how do you think we should decide who gets what data? Given it can now be accurately collected and cheaply disseminated in a meaningful form - should governments decide what to release on the basis of what they think - on no real evidence - the masses will understand? For ever?

If people can find their way through this, I suspect they can also find their way to the league tables, ofsted, the school's website and pick up some local knowledge too.

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