How to Build a Culture Around Data

datahammer.pngActivity 1

When I state the word data, which picture do you most identify?

Hammer: Tool

Aaargh: Fear

Heart: Love

Boring: Waste of time

Whichever picture you chose. Be aware there will be people in your team who fall into the other quadrants. Data is a vital part of our roles in schools, leaders should look to become more data-rich and move towards an evaluation and action model.

Data is a vital part of our roles in schools, leaders should look to become more data-rich and move towards an evaluation and action model. Click To Tweet

Data is used regularly in our society. Here are some examples:

  1. Weather forecasters with their barometric charts;
  2. The nurse tracking pulse, temperature and blood pressure before and after an operation;
  3. The accountant analysing spreadsheets and cash flows;
  4. The marketing Director interpreting survey data on market segmentation and
  5. customer preferences to inform branding and publicity strategies;
  6. The football manager reviewing tactics and results;
  7. Teachers tracking and reviewing the progress of each and every pupil performance
  8. to inform teaching and learning;
  9. Education policy makers monitoring how schools and our education system is doing.’

(Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, June 2003)

Activity Two

Within your own current classrooms, what are the data trends? Over your career, what are these trends?

Usually, schools will start by looking at:

Socio – economic (PP, FSM, Ever6, etc.)





These are a great start to identify possible trends within the classroom, department, and school levels.


Before I go any further, let me set out the stall. Data should never be used as a bat to beat staff. Data should not be used to judge anyone or anything, data is a tool used to analyse and evaluate. Live by the mantra; data is a tool used to ask more questions.

How to use Data

In all types of schools; it’s found that data was perceived to promote teaching and learning by facilitating:

  • More effective allocation of staff and resources
  • Performance management
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of initiatives and strategies
  • Evidence-based discussions with the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), local education authorities (LEAs), governors, among others
  • Challenging expectations of staff, pupils, parents, among others
  • Transitions and transfers – particularly transitions between key stages within schools
  • Identification of pupils’ achievements and setting of targets.

 Kirkup et al 2005

Again all of the above are around asking more questions. I know some you are are being cynical. When I previous have held data sessions, people have been very frank and pointed out that this just a game that OfSTED want us to play.

Self-evaluation is the aim, to be better a school for the pupils you serve, OfSTED or anything external should not be your aim. Leaders ensure your vision around data use is centred around these points.

John MacBeath draws a distinction between self-evaluation that is engineered to meet external requirements but is not embedded within the school’s ongoing review procedures, and that which is embedded and within the life of the school.

(School Self-evaluation: A Reflection and Planning Guide for School Leaders, NCSL)

Self Evaluation for External Use Self Evaluation for Internal Use
Accountability focus narrows the lens. ‘What gets measured get done’.

Done to stakeholders.

Completed as a tick box exercise.

School improvement focussed. The lens is all-encompassing.

Completed with all stakeholders.

Part of the school’s culture.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.