Live happily ever after by not relying on your spreadsheets

9th November 2018, 12:00am
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Live happily ever after by not relying on your spreadsheets

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/live-happily-ever-after-not-relying-your-spreadsheets

Once upon a time, there was a spreadsheet and on that spreadsheet there was lots of interesting pupil data.

Very helpfully, the spreadsheet had made some calculations so as to inform the teacher of how well the children were doing with their learning. The spreadsheet told of how many pupils had: made expected progress, achieved age-related expectations, achieved accelerated progress and who were sadly working below the expected standard as a result of making slow progress.

"Thank you, spreadsheet - that is very useful," said the busy teacher.

"But that's not all I have, teacher," replied the spreadsheet. "I can also provide for you this very day some group data."

"Indeed?" asked the teacher. "Do show me more of what you have to offer."

So the spreadsheet told the teacher of how many boys were still behind in reading and writing (those pesky boys and their literacy).

It showed the teacher many wonders such as how a "group" of children with highly complex and individual needs were all making less progress this year than they did the year before.

But the teacher was clever, and wasn't to be fooled by the spreadsheet's simplistic tricks. You see, the teacher knew there were different individual reasons why these six boys might not have made the desired amount of progress and not achieved the expectation.

This was information that the spreadsheet, no matter how wonderful, could never tell the teacher.

This was because, the teacher knew, the spreadsheet was a poor storyteller, despite its best intentions. It was very fine in its mathematical ability but that raw data wasn't really enough. The teacher was aware of the limitations of such information and was careful not to make decisions solely based on it.

Instead, the teacher treated each one of those struggling children as individuals, tending to their needs based on their real stories - the stories the teacher had learned by spending day after day with them.

You too can be like the teacher. Don't allow the spreadsheet to suggest to you that just because all the boys are struggling, it's simply because they're boys. The spreadsheet can't tell you that. Look deeper, beyond the numbers, and find the reasons for the individual difficulties then base your interventions and teaching on those reasons.

Aidan Severs is a deputy head at a primary school in the North of England

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