Multi Academy Trust (MAT) leaders have an abundance of data at their fingertips, but it isn’t always easy to find it, pull it together for analysis and understand exactly what the data is saying. Being able to do this is critical for continued strategic improvement of the Trust and its’ schools.
There are some barriers that we regularly see being faced by MATs all over the country.
- Time lag between data recording and reporting
- Different Management Information Systems in the MAT
- Variable Data quality
- Difficulty in collating multiple data sources
- Costs associated with Data Management
There are five key steps that MAT leaders can take to break down these barriers:
- Set a Data Vision
- Carry out a Data Audit
- Develop a plan to close the gap between your current state and what your data needs are
- Decide which tools/resources you need to implement the plan
To find out more about these barriers and how to break them down, read our data management guide.
In this blog, we are focusing on the last step, deciding which tools/resources you need to implement your data management plan.
Tools to facilitate Data Management
As ICT specialists in Education, we have seen many MATs and schools struggle with their Data Management, their ability to make data-driven decisions and how it can have a detrimental impact on performance. As a result, we developed Questa, which is a Data Warehouse and Educational Intelligence solution for MATs and Schools. Questa draws from multiple data sources into the Data Warehouse as well as providing a single view from individual school to Trust Level. It has easy to understand dashboards enabling Trusts and schools to monitor progress against Key Performance Indicators. We call this the Qview.
How can I bring data together to see strategic Trust-wide performance?
The Q-View concept provides an overarching layer of dashboards which combine data from the underlying domains. This could be Trust-wide then stratified to school level.
This combination could happen in two different ways:
- Bring together charts from different data domains into a single dashboard/report view.
- Perform calculations, e.g., ratios using variables in the different data domains.
Each Q-View could have its own decision audience and role:
- Reporting a range of national resource management indicators for a Trust Board.
- Reporting a range of national financial value indicators for a Trust Board.
- Reporting against a range of objectives for the Trust’s strategic plan (e.g. a Balanced Scorecard)
- Reporting against specific research hypothese or improvement interventions.
Which metrics will reduce uncertainty for my most important decisions?
Not all information is equally valuable. The best information reduces uncertainty enough to produce a decision with a desirable outcome. But not all data is collected with this purpose in mind and a lot of data is waste. Even nationally mandated indicators/metrics/KPIs serve a different purpose, and some could even drive unintended system behaviour.
The Questa team want decision makers in MATs to have the information they need for their specific priorities.
We’ve introduced the concept of Q-Scores to help with this challenge. A Q-Score is a performance measure which has been specifically designed for the Questa user community. Q-Scores are then placed in a Q-View, adding to the rich set of Trust-wide strategic measures.
The inspiration for a Q-Score may come from a particular Trust’s own ambitions or co-created with other Questa community members. A Q-Score could arise from the Questa team’s own consulting or research. The knowledge and use of a Q-Score is then shareable and could also build into a suite of reliable benchmarks at both school and Trust-level.
How do I know my interpretation of the data can be trusted?
A lot of data interpretation relies too heavily on the comparison of individual numbers. This may compare one group with another, rank items in a list, compare this month to last month or to a target. Some of this practice has a financial legacy, where counting more or less money is an end in itself. Comparing two numbers can certainly tell us that they are different, but it can’t tell us whether the process which produced them has actually changed.
For strategy execution and continuous improvement, we must understand whether our system of processes is truly changing or whether the numbers are just natural variation. Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts are the robust way of separating signals of exceptional causes from the noise of commonly occurring causes.
Randomness is everywhere. But patterns can emerge from random causes which control charts exploit for two important purposes.
- Detecting whether something exceptional has happened. This reduces the likelihood of making a decision when we shouldn’t or not making decision when we should. An exception could be a single extreme event, or it could be a gradual shift over time.
- Predicting the future within limits. If we know a process is stable, we can make predictions within a range about how that process will perform in the future. We can then decide whether or not to intervene to improve the process capability.
A control chart is a line chart with a set of statistical calculations overlaid on it. There is a central line which characterises the typical process performance, usually a mean or median. There are also lines or a band which characterise the process variability, randomness around that central line.
An important benefit of control charts is that the interpretation rules are clear and unambiguous. This means that claims and opinions about a change or difference can be verified and conflicts about the numbers evaporate. This single version of the truth also reduces ineffective interventions and knee-jerk tampering.
Together with the regression and distribution charts on the Analysis dashboard, the use of control charts means you can be confident of statistical validity when interpreting data in Questa.
Making sense of the abundance of data available to MAT leaders is key to decision making and strategic management of the Trust. Undertake the five key steps to break down the barriers to effective data management and you will be in a much stronger data position.
Selecting the right tools and resources is fundamental. The tools should display the data into clear dashboards for MAT leaders to make informed decisions. Questa and its dashboards with Qscores and the Qview is an Educational Intelligence Solution that will do just that and lead to improved strategic decision making and continued Trust performance.