I stumbled into the role of a data manager. I was coming to the end of a fixed-term contact and saw a position advertised for exams officer and data manager which I thought sounded interesting. It seemed to bring together all of the skills I’d acquired in my previous roles; data, Excel, information systems, training, data quality, and data accuracy. I had no knowledge of education or the education sector and certainly didn’t realise at the time that the data manager position existed as a vital role within all schools, which meant Google quickly became my best friend!
The role of the data manager varies from school to school; some are involved in exams, supervising cover, timetabling, MIS management. Some do all of these and more! Even the job title varies across the country; data officer, data lead, assessment officer, to name a few. In my three years as a SISRA Consultant, I’ve learnt that the pathway that leads people to becoming data managers within schools also varies. Some come from a data and IT background from another sector, others develop into doing the role having worked in a school in an administrative position and others “just end up doing it”.
However you end up doing this role and whatever your experience is, I strongly believe that training, having a good level of communication with key staff at school, and being supported is vital in helping you to do your job well. There’s lots of things that you can do yourself to make your life easier, so I’ve listed my top tips below:
Understanding Assessment Data
Make sure you understand the assessment cycle within your school:
- What data is your school collecting?
- Why are you collecting this data?
- What happens with the data that is collected?
- What type of school are you working for?
- What Key Stages does your school have?
If you have come into the role from another industry, you will come across plenty of educational acronyms and terminology. You may find it useful to keep a list of these to refer to:
- Do you know when assessment data is due?
- Do you know when reports are due to be sent out to parents?
Being organised is key to good data management. I used to keep a chart on my office wall of when each year group had reports due, similar to the two examples below. Collate this information and update it for each academic year. If you are also involved in other things such as exams or the census, include these key dates as well.
I love flow charts or diagrams of steps that need to be taken when following a specific process or procedure.
When first being involved in assessment data and reports, you may find it useful to put the school procedure together as below:
Understanding Headline data and DfE Performance tables
If you are new to education, how do you find out what figures your school is measured on?
The DfE School Performance website is a good place to start. Search for your school and view the latest headline figures. Make sure that you have an understanding of how these figures are calculated by accessing the relevant DfE guides and sign up to receive email notifications about new releases and updates.
If you’ve taken up this role without previous experience of the education system you must be trained or be able to spend sufficient time with key staff in school who can further explain to you what you need to know. If you are struggling, try to think of the things that you feel would help you to do your job more effectively and if possible, ask for additional training.
Things in the education sector are always changing. Stay up to date by:
- Joining forums and networks
- Building relationships with data managers at other local schools
- Attend SISRA datameets (even if you don’t use SISRA Analytics you are very welcome!)
- Join the Data Managers Facebook group
- Sign up to receive DfE Gov UK email alerts
- Take your time
- Be accurate
- Be inquisitive
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions!