What keeps me awake at night - Data's coming out of my ears - but it's useless

Tes Editorial

How much data is too much? One spreadsheet? Two spreadsheets? Three spreadsheets with a set of progress ladders thrown in?

I wonder how the amount of data teachers are expected to produce relates to the type of school they work in, and if school leaders are realistically thinking about the usefulness of this data in contrast to its effect on staff morale.

I've been teaching for five years at a school that, miraculously, has not been closed during the best part of 10 years of failure. Old-timers sometimes mention the "good" old days, but all I've ever known is the constant threat of someone pulling the plug on the school's existence. This threat has resulted in the need to prove that "we know our children" through numbers and letters and colours on grids.

This need has been used by the leadership team to justify a change from termly assessments to half-termly and to harvest enough data to sink a cruise liner.

I find the whole process incredibly stressful, particularly after I've been in school from 7.30am and marked books until 10pm. And I'm not alone: my colleagues agree that, out of everything, the need to process and present data is the thing that makes them question whether they chose the right profession.

The worst thing is that I actually feel I know my class less well than I did three years ago. I used to sit down and willingly work out who needed help and how I could assist them; now data is simply a to-do list - my only focus is on how I can get the job done in less than 10 hours. By the time I've completed the profiles and ladders and evaluations and spreadsheets, I'm so saturated in pieces of data that I can't even find a use for them.

When I started out, I used to teach a lesson and know intuitively which children I needed to focus on and push; now I just see a blur of names and yellow highlighter.

The writer is a teacher in Yorkshire, in the North of England.

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