Knowing our students
Significant accountability*, curriculum and assessment reform is impacting upon our schools. There is barely pause for breath before adding careers guidance reform, the SEN Code of Practice, [breathe] pay and conditions reform is front with centre and capital funding rarely removed from the review / todo list. It is reassuring that government is engaging “closely and constructively with the profession on workload.” In the meantime, we are getting on with the job at hand, enriching pupils lives and maximising their future life opportunities. To fulfil this aim we need to truly know our pupils.
We need to be able to identify the academically most able, the often silent “majority” middle, and most definitely, the vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils, including those from low income families, those identified with special educational needs and looked-after children but we need to know our pupils. Tutors, teachers, to curriculum and year leaders and the most recent addition, the Y11 mentor, we need to know our pupils.
In the context of academic achievement, we need to be able to quickly identify a pupils context, their academic start point and academic potential (fleas aside). We need to present their most current achievement profile / profile against potential, or their achievement flight path in a given subject, against a back drop of what is happening in that pupil’s life… we need to know the learner.
How well do staff know our pupils?
A passing corridor request from Sally Arthur, our Achievement for All (AfA) coach, spurred my action. In the first instance, Sally requested the most current achievement profiles for our focus AfA pupils. My immediate response was to create two “research groups” in 4Matrix. Creating two research groups, the target group (AfA) and non pupils group (non-AfA) is my default action. A strategy adopted / borrowed from Raiseonline “Progress Measures” and “Closing the Gap” tables and allows for more appropriate comparisons. The good news is that creating bespoke research groups in 4Matrix is very easy to do, a five minute task that gives you the ability to filters the various 4Matrix tools by research group and also to print the groups, individual reports.
Together, Sally Arthur, our Assistant Principal, Head of Year and SENCO wrote individual action plans for each pupil, drawing upon various conversations, meetings and achievement reports. The task was then to disseminate these plans back to the coal face, where tutors, teachers, to curriculum and year leaders and the Y11 mentor could access them to support the individual pupils.
Given that the individual reports held the achievement data, the obvious solution was for 4Matrix to hold the qualitative commentaries as well. So I picked up the phone and offered a rationale to the 4Matrix team, and low and behold in the latest update 188.8.131.52, the team had added a collapsible/expandable “comments field” to the Pupil Display.
The comment then also appears on the report.
The response of the in-house AfA team was hugely positive. 4Matrix is school wide and this addition field further disseminates the information and support in place for some of our more vulnerable pupils. Of course, we envisage curriculum and progress leaders will use this comments field to collate feedback / feed forward on a wider group of pupils. Unsurprisingly, this simple but important development lead to a flurry of ideas and suggestions.
Could the Pupil Display page includes specific achievement / learning targets? Could we have sections and tick boxes to check off as these targets are completed?
Can Pupil Display also display attendance for that series?
Could we have two boxes (comments fields). One for learning comments and one for personal/social comments?
Can we filter the pupils by AfA or any group?
I am sure / know that the 4Matrix team will consider these suggestions, however there are a numerous, more significant, enhancements on the development roadmap. And yet, I can not help but think that this simple comments field will get well used and have real impact at our school and other 4Matrix schools.
*Statistics will now be counted in an ‘open’ slot of Progress 8, regardless of whether or not a pupil has also taken an Ebacc mathematics qualification.