It’s almost that time of year when we are filled with a mix of dread and nervous anticipation.
Whilst chatting with some Data Managers the other day, someone new to the role asked for some survival tips. Our top tip was preparation, preparation, preparation! Even for those who have been in the role for years, this still applies. Ensuring you are well prepared does take time, but it will make embargo days less fraught.
I think Abraham Lincoln had a very good point when he said;
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Of course, we cannot always prepare for all eventualities but it is good to have a back-up plan in case something does go wrong, such as staff illness or no internet connection.
As we all love a good spreadsheet, it is handy to prepare a schedule similar to the one shown below. It ensures all staff are aware of their responsibilities and that the exam period runs as smoothly as possible. I used to break mine down into pre-results days, A-level embargo and results day, and GCSE embargo and results day.
If you are new to the role, you could visit another local school to discuss their procedures, or attend any local data staff meetings. Some Local Authorities host these or there are the SISRA DataMeets too (you don’t need to be a customer to attend) and you can find out more about these here.
…so what kind of preparation can you do?
- Check A2C is working and you can connect to the exam boards. Install it on a second machine too just in case!
- Refresh exams base data.
- Set up embargos in your MIS – don’t forget to include yourself and be mindful of JCQ regulations!
- Upload any banked exams (with the appropriate date for first entry rules) to SISRA Analytics.
- Ensure your student data reflects the January Census (students, KS2, SEN & FSM Ever 6 information).
- Partially complete any LA or Trust returns with as much information as you can e.g. cohort numbers, PP, SEN to cut down on paperwork on the day.
- Ensure all upgrades are applied to your MIS.
- Speak to site staff and ensure you will be able to get into school (not fun waiting outside the school gates at 5am – yes it happened to me!).
Padlock / barricade the office door – I say this in jest, but politely reiterate to overly keen members of staff that producing accurate headlines is easier when left to work undisturbed and not rushed.
- Check the IT staff have nothing planned which will disrupt your internet connection or access to the server.
- Have a list of entries ready so you can check all the results are in. Ensure your number of targets match this too to ensure your analysis is accurate.
- If you are expecting any results for home languages, external music qualifications etc., create these manually in Analytics in readiness.
- If you use student admission numbers in Analytics as the student ID, prepare a look up if you want to use the certification broadsheet in SIMS Exams Organiser (as it only contains either the UPN or exam number).
- Remind all staff to have their logins ready (there will still be one that asks for a password reminder!).
- Fill your supplies drawer. If you are going to have a long day, have some lunch and snacks ready.
- Stock up on paper and any other stationery you will need.
There could of course be things that happen which are outside our control.
However, we should treat these and any mistakes as something we can learn from. This blog is the first in a series of three – look out for the others which discuss how to ensure your results day analysis is accurate!
SISRA Analytics administrators can also find results day resources within the HELP section of SISRA Analytics.
Throughout this term, I will be tweeting top tips on getting results day ready – follow me on Twitter @EmmaSISRA to find out more.