Effective Management of Student Level Data Across a Family of Schools

Present government policy continues to promote the creation of larger multi-academy trusts and with this comes greater challenges

School leaders must ensure that their systems and processes are fit for purpose in promoting the best possible student outcomes whilst also being efficient and cost effective. Here Martin Cain provides some practical advice for MAT leaders to ensure that their assessment and data tracking systems are simple, workload friendly and make an effective contribution to the development of impact-driven teaching and learning strategies

One system

  • Using a single data-tracking system across all schools in a trust will support the development of a common language across all of them and a uniform approach to the key aspects of the raising standards agenda.
  • For example, this can help facilitate the establishment of unified target-setting and intervention strategies where all staff and students are clear about how the targets have been determined and also how progress towards them will be tracked, regardless of school.

A single but flexible assessment cycle

  • Creating a centralised data system will support the trust to carry out interim checks on the projected progress of their schools throughout the academic year. This must also be flexible enough to allow individual schools a degree of autonomy over when they collect data, alongside the strategic data collection and tracking requirements of the trust.
  • Individual schools have different needs that are specific to their setting and require a system that can be tailored to reflect this accordingly. For example, they may have different priorities in terms of the student groups that they track, will want to define the type of progress data to be collected and analysed and will require their own staff to determine the relevant intervention priorities which will inform their learning and teaching strategies.
  • Individual schools have a responsibility to the trust and must provide data analysis that allows MAT leaders to compare strengths and areas for development across them in a timely manner and which also enables them to ask the right questions to hold each school to account; greater efficiency can be ensured when all trust schools share common features across the key elements of their quality assurance processes and in the language that they use when analyzing their student level data.


  • All analyses should be made as simple and straightforward as possible so that trust leaders are able to access their school tracking systems quickly and ensure they are comparing like for like in terms of progress indicators.
  • A centralised approach should allow leaders to determine priorities across the trust on an ongoing basis and ensure that resources are assigned appropriately on a school by school basis to the students identified by the data as being in most need of them; this will support the efficient and effective use of trust resources.

Curriculum decisions

  • A centralised data system can inform a review of the curriculum offer in an individual school as well as across all schools in a MAT.
  • The ability for leaders to be able to develop a strategic overview is critical in allowing them to design a cost effective curriculum model that meets the needs of students in all schools across the trust; for example, the system must arm them with information about the range of courses offered by individual schools, student numbers and historical progress trends.

Informed accountability, support and challenge

In general terms, the establishment of a common approach to data tracking across a trust will help ensure that its leaders can design a highly tailored rigorous cycle of support and challenge to school leaders and hold them to account.

  • An appropriately designed and administered centralised system can also contribute to:
  • Establishing a culture of school-to-school support as, for example, with the sharing of data also comes the sharing of best practice and the opportunity to drive improvement across all schools in the trust.
  • Identifying schools and subject areas where practice is strong and those where practice is having less impact on progress.
  • Facilitating the communication and sharing of good practice led by those stronger schools and subject areas.
  • Promoting a culture of self-review and increased levels of in-house professional development.
  • Ensuring that there are clear intervention priorities and development plans generated which are focused on improving progress and outcomes for students.
  • Robust quality assurance of the impact of any agreed interventions through the rigorous analysis of subsequent data sets.
  • Providing all students with equal opportunities to maximize their potential.