Don't fear the data: four ways to make metrics work for you

6th August 2015 at 17:00
Mastering metrics
Don't dismiss talk of data points and key performance indicators as jargon: according to Kris Spencer, assistant headteacher at Latymer Upper School and a governor and director of Notting Hill Prep School in West London, these corporate concepts can be vital in measuring progress

Performance targets, efficiency, opportunity cost – the vocabulary of economics settled into schools’ data conversations some time ago. Chief among the adopted terms is key performance indicators (KPIs).

At a time when collecting the right data – and interpreting it with focus and sensitivity – has never been more important, KPIs are very useful indeed. If, that is, they are used in the right way.

Simply put, KPIs are markers that tell you if an objective has been met. For example, your objective might be to ensure that all children in Year 6 achieve in numeracy; the KPI might be that every child reaches a level 4 in maths. Using a dashboard, you can track the progress towards that goal.

The key to this – and where many schools get it wrong – is in the choice of metrics. Schools are not about profit and loss, and a successful school is not just about results and league tables.

Here are four tips for choosing the right metrics for your school:

1. Identify your goals but do not let the metrics dictate things. Avoid the temptation to be led by what is easy to measure, or even by what external forces are telling you to do. Measure what is important to you.

2. Be honest in the way you apply the metrics. If you fail to achieve a KPI, ask yourself why. Understanding the reasons for failure can be just as useful as analysing success.

3. Create a timeline and remember that even when a KPI is achieved, it still needs to be monitored. Beating last year’s numbers is not the point. A performance measurement system needs to tell you where you are going, not just where you have come from.

4. Benchmarking is an important performance indicator. To measure how well you are doing, you need to compare yourself to other similar schools.

Read the full feature in the 7 August 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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