Published on: 29 Nov 2018

Let's talk about data for leadership

James Neill, International Director, GL Education

Back in my own teaching days, it was common to use assessments like CAT4 and the Progress Test Series for benchmarking and then to put the data back in the cupboard to be ignored. Today, however, it’s a different story. Leadership teams across the world are embracing how data from these and similar assessments can transform classrooms and recognising the advantages of having accurate information that can be used in different ways to support teaching and learning.

Many international schools are keen to share best practice, as well as the challenges they face, which led to a very illuminating debate when I chaired the panel at the recent 2018 COBIS annual conference. I was joined by Karen Jones (who works in Saudi Arabia), Matthew Savage (a principal in Jordan) and Matthew Dagan (deputy principal in the Czech Republic), who provided a great breadth of experience, backgrounds and opinions – and who weren’t afraid to express them!

Pre-conference, we had done some research by sending out a survey to COBIS and CIS schools. This threw up some really thought-provoking results for our panel to discuss.

The statistic that stuck in my mind was the fact that only 22% of schools have a named member of their senior leadership team responsible for data. While the panel agreed this was important, they felt it was only the tip of the iceberg in ensuring an information culture permeates through a school. Matthew Savage, for example, spoke about embedding accountability by creating ‘data doctors’ out of senior and middle leaders, which I think sounds a great idea. 

In response to a question about barriers to best practice, Matt Dagan made the point that it’s critical to get information into teachers’ hands in an accessible way. He suggested building in professional development time to allow staff time to digest data and consider the best teaching strategies.

It was also clear that mental health amongst pupils is on many educators’ minds yet, notably, our survey revealed low confidence in identifying children’s wellbeing concerns. The panel delved into this issue and shared the tools that they have found to be useful in gaining an insight. After all, as Karen Jones said, “We have a moral purpose to give children emotional resilience and help them cope with the pressures they face.”

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, or would like a more details on the survey and associated best practice, you can find out more and download the full report here.