Getting Started for New Data Managers

So, you have a new job as a Data Manager. Maybe you’re a data analyst new to education, or maybe you’ve been working in support at the school for a while and have plenty of experience in education but are new to the data side of things? Either way, there is a lot to learn.

The impact of the role of data manager on the leadership team should not be underestimated; well-managed data is crucial to support understanding of school performance and it is therefore understandable that this role can seem like a daunting one to take on. In addition, you may be the only one doing the role so will have nobody to lean on. On my first day in school ten years ago, I had to ask the Head what grades you could actually be awarded for a GCSE! Well, we all have to start somewhere.

To begin with, you need to know what events both inside and outside of school will require your attention, and how to approach them. For example, your KS4 exam cohort will need verifying via the checking exercise in June. Do you know how to access the checking website, and what the process for checking the data is? Forewarned is forearmed, so I would suggest starting by planning out your year in advance, to avoid surprises. You could use a template like this to record internal and external events, and plan how to prepare for each one.
  What's coming up in school/externally? What do I need to do/learn/plan?
Summer 1    
Summer 2    
Autumn 1    
Autumn 2    

In order to make sure you have the relevant knowledge and understanding for your new role, you’ll no doubt need to ask lots of questions. The difficulty is knowing exactly what questions to ask! Try some of these as a ‘starter for ten’:
  • What exams do our students sit? When are the results released? What do I do on results day? Which qualifications count in the key headline measures? Where and when are the national figures published?
  • When and how are targets set? What prior attainment information do I need to enable target setting? Where will I find it?
  • How often do we collect assessment/monitoring grades? Do we collect all year groups at once, or are they staggered? What levels/grades do we use? What do they mean?
  • What pupil groups do we monitor in school? Where will I find lists of who is included? How often should I update them?
  • What systems do we use to record/store/analyse the targets, assessments and results?
Data cycles

The ASCL ‘Annual Data Cycle’ (below) can help you with the ‘what and when’ questions, answers to the ‘how’ questions may be harder to find. Try to get as much information from the previous Data Manager before they leave, or if they have already gone, talk to your SLT data lead. Maybe see if you can meet up with other Data Managers from nearby schools.

And get on social media. There are data management and SIMS support groups on Facebook, data forums run by Edugeek and SSAT (accessible if your school is a member), and Twitter is a mine of useful information (along with a lot of pointless gossip, but don’t let that distract you!).

New to Managing Data data cycle

Lastly, the most important question of all is ‘what training do I need’? School budgets are tight but weigh up the time spent struggling with SIMS or Excel against a couple of good training sessions up front. It’s worth it, for both you and the school.

Rebecca, along with ASCL Deputy Director of Policy Duncan Baldwin, is leading our one-day course New to Managing Data on 19 September in London.
Rebecca St. John
School Data Consultant and Trainer
Posted: 22/05/2019 12:49:30