Schools are now benchmarking their performance against similar schools and sharing good practice more often, according to Wales’s education inspectorate.
Estyn says schools are increasingly making good use of national data to evaluate their own performance and identify areas for improvement.
Introduced by the Welsh government in 2009, the All-Wales Core Data Sets contain information on a school’s results against local and national performance; the difference in performance between girls and boys and between those pupils who receive free school meals and those who do not; and comparisons with performance of similar schools on the free school meal benchmarks.
In a new report on schools’ use of the data, Ann Keane, the chief inspector of education and training in Wales, said: “Historically, there has been a lack of consistency in how schools and local authorities across Wales evaluated school performance to identify areas from improvement. Now with the introduction of the All-Wales Core Data Sets, every school in Wales is able to identify higher-performing similar schools so that they can get in touch with them and share good practice.
“As a result, we are seeing more schools introduce strategies to tackle underperformance. Where families of schools are identifying and sharing good practice there has also been a positive impact on teachers’ professional learning. All senior leaders in schools should ensure that they are making the best use of data sets and sharing their analysis of them with teachers and governors.”
The report contains a number of case studies of good practice, including Newport local authority which has provided extensive support to school leaders and governors to help them make effective use of the data. The authority also provides schools with additional data analyses to complement the core data and holds seminars and workshops to explain their value.
However, the report also found that one-in-five schools is not using the core data sets well enough to help them identify what they need to improve. Inspectors found that too often these schools use data to justify what they do currently, rather than challenge themselves to do better.