Data is key to educating the whole child, leading headteacher argues

TES cover feature

Data has been unfairly maligned in schools and this could prevent students from reaching their full potential, according to a leading headteacher.

Writing in the 12 June edition of TES, John Tomsett, headteacher of Huntington School in York, explains that teachers see data as something that restricts teaching and distracts from educating the “whole child”. But if data is employed correctly, the opposite is true, he argues.

“When data is used in the right way, it is not a barrier to teaching – it enhances it,” he says. “Data did not stop me taking risks with my teaching; rather, it made me realise that I had to take risks if my students were going to make better academic progress. 

“Just as important is personal progress. One fact is often overlooked: if a student is academically successful, they are more likely to thrive in general. The best pastoral care for students from the most deprived backgrounds is a great set of exam results.

“We don’t want the end of all data, but a sensible and productive use of the right data. If we want to ensure that our students progress, personally and academically, this shift is essential.”

There are many reasons why teachers fail to see data this way but Ofsted should take a lot of the blame, Tomsett says. However, headteachers are beginning to change the way they view data.

“We need to develop the leadership wisdom in our schools to ask better questions about what data is telling us. If we don’t use the numbers in the right way then simplistic, crude interpretations of assessment data will create a culture of fear; teachers will play it safe and stop developing their practice.”

Find the full feature in the 12 June issue of TES. You can read it on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents. 

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