Magic markbook

Lynne Taylor

Several years have now passed since the Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) realised teachers were carrying a heavy burden of administration. It was clear computers could remove much of this load but how far have schools moved? The hardware and software is in place, but at the start of this academic year thousands of teachers still wrote out their markbooks. Why are they still spending hours putting children into sets and bands, projecting future performances to set targets?

The DFEE's publication Information Management Strategy for Schools and LEAs, advises on methods of data collection and transfer. And later this year the team leading this initiative will publish further advice.

I left my teaching post eight years ago to focus on using IT to reduce the administration load of classroom teachers. The computer is a tool, not the driving force, and its use should be on common sense, high-quality processes. Our small consultancy, Cogent Computer Solutions, has achieved great success in our small number of schools and projects.

Through the columns in Online and on its website at we are freely sharing this work with all. I hope all schools will find this helpful and if I can save just one hour of your time then it will be worth it!

Aims Throughout the coming months we will share ideas and methods that have already been implemented in different types of schools and in different LEAs. We will guide you to develop your own styles of assessment data manipulation; ones that best suit your school and you as individual teachers. We will demonstrate best practice that is simple to follow and realistic in its objectives. Our package will be freely available to you, with all documents and templates to download into your PC to save you time and effort and allow you get on with the key processes. Unfortunately, we cannot give you a complete solution but our ideas will help you to begin using ICT for assessment management.

Our guide will cover:

* procedures to start

* locating and recording assessment data

* tracking progress

* setting targets for individuals and classes

* analysing assessment data

* reporting in many different ways A more detailed plan, policy and timetable for implementing this work, with document files to download, can be found at: A common approach To track children's progress throughout their time in school, it is essential that a common approach is adopted by all. Although each school has national obligations in its assessment, record keepng and transfer documentation, there are no schools that are identical in their overall methods. There is however, key non-statutory assessment data that is generally agreed and collected in most schools which can be used to indicate progression, weaknesses and strengths. All schools choosing to electronically collect this data, together with statutory data, can ensure that every teacher in the future will have comprehensive historical academic records for all their pupils.

What hardware?

Hardware is plentiful today with many teachers having PCs at home and schools being well equipped with the latest models. You can achieve good results on most computer platforms found in schools. If you are considering buying a new PC, laptops are most suited to a teacher's busy schedule. However their costspecification compared to a desktop PC is high, so think carefully. You will find sound advice and ideas at: Which software?

Software that has been specifically written to record and track pupil achievements is readily available in many schools. SIMS Assessment Manager, Key Solutions Assessment Suite and Phoenix First all carry areas where assessment data can be recorded, manipulated and exported. There are less well known and, equally good, other packages available.

Links to all of these software websites can be found at: The processes are common to all; it is only the specific software routine that will differ. Always remember that software is just a tool - our guide will focus on the principles and aims of assessment recording, tracking, target setting, evaluation and reporting and not the software. Things to do before our next edition

* View our Web pages at

* Get some ideas from other schools that have started here.

* Download the documents.

* Agree an assessment management policy. (a draft is written for you on the website).

* Make an initial decision about the type of software that you will use. All good software allows information to be transferred to other packages so at the moment choose the best for you.

* Familiarise yourself with the basic functions of this software.

* Become aware of quality standardised data that exists in school. In the next edition of Online there will be guidance on what data and where to find it as well as ideas to begin new standardised records.

Lynne Taylor runs Cogent Computer Solutions, based in Kenilworth. Questions can be emailed to

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