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View finding made easy for heads

How off-the-peg surveys can flush out bullies. Al Constantine reports

School managers visiting the Education Show will be able to sample three do-it-yourself surveys that allow schools to sound out their pupils' and parents' views on bullying, parental consultation and the use of computers at home and school.

The surveys are from Data and Research Services, a company which has specialised in optical mark readers (OMR) - the kind of technological wizardry used in processing National Lottery tickets and multiple choice computer marked tests - for 25 years. The company also provides local authorities, schools and colleges with OMR technology for processing student records and other administrative tasks and is responsible for the co-ordination of national examination results, including GCSEs, BTEC tests and NVQs.

The new off-the-peg surveys for schools to administer follow a two-year pilot project involving 23 schools which helped to prioritise the areas of greatest interest. DRS will collect the completed paperwork, process the data and compile an analysis and interpretation to assist school policy-making and forward planning - all for pound;195 per survey or pound;495 for all three.

Angela Thomas, business development manager for education at DRS, says:

"Raw data collected from the school community isanalysed electronically using software which generates tables and charts that schools can share with staff, governors, parents and pupils.

"As more schools use the service, we will be able to offer more comparative data, which we know, from feedback we've had already, that schools would find useful."

Kevin Arthur, head of Battle Hill First school in Wallsend, near Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, undertook all three surveys during the pilot. They gave unexpected insights into the underlying culture of the school and made a significant impact on the school's approach to management issues.

"We were most interested in the bullying survey because we wanted to reassess our behaviour policy in school. We found the results very revealing. We'd had some problems with one particular age group and the results gave us a much better understanding of the problem. We were very surprised, for example, by how much some children were being bullied at home," he says.

The school was also surprised to find that access to computers at home and at school had been greatly overestimated. "Again we had our eyes opened," says Mr Arthur. Among other measures which are a direct consequence of the findings, the school is now organising after-school computer access.

Data and Research Services stand IT75

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