What’s the difference between a good teacher and a brilliant one?
Good teachers know their subject inside out and inspire pupils to share their passion. But the very best teachers – the ones pupils remember many decades after they’ve left school – are those who also excel at the pastoral role.
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And these days, that takes insight. Not the reams of bald and unconnected statistics that until recently schools blindly provided in a bid to appease Ofsted, but rather holistic insight into every child, available to any teacher whenever and wherever they need it. Teachers don’t just need to know whether a pupil has behavioural problems, or hasn’t handed in their homework for the last week, or who’s missed classes because they’re having a tough time at home – to be brilliant, they need all of this information all together in one place.
But schools don’t make it easy for teachers to access the joined-up insight they need to perform their educative and pastoral roles effectively. That’s not the fault of school leaders, but rather reflects on the inadequacy of most technology platforms in the market.
It’s been interesting, if rather frustrating, to watch the evolution of cross-school technology platforms. A few years ago, schools would deploy vast, all-singing-all-dancing platforms that claimed to do everything. Teachers and administrators quickly found that these school tools weren’t quite all they were cracked up to be. They did lots of different things, sure, but none of them particularly well.
If you want insight into every pupil, you need to build a mosaic of every aspect of their lives, something you can’t achieve with information dispersed between so many applications.
Today, schools have the opposite problem. They have ditched cross-school tools in favour of individual applications for everything from attendance, homework, online teaching resources and much more. Effective as many of these tools are, you don’t need to be a technology expert to spot the problem with this model. If you want insight into every pupil, you need to build a mosaic of every aspect of their lives, something you can’t achieve with information dispersed between so many applications.
Take classroom management tools, such as seating plan apps for example. Imagine that instead of simply showing where each child sits, the app could draw from the entire school’s data to provide rich, contextual information into the myriad influences that explain the why.
By combining information on, say, SEND, behavioural problems, attendance records and reasons for absences, welfare issues or even personal problems that may be affecting their behaviour or schoolwork, teachers gain the holistic pupil view they need to get to the root of the problem.
Nor are the benefits limited to student insight. Using a single intelligent platform can reduce teachers’ workload. Instead of flitting between individual applications, sourcing and inputting information, they’ll always have the data they need at their fingertips.
But it’s not just teachers who will benefit from a comprehensive school portal. Having accurate, cross-school information is clearly a major advantage for administrators, who can view data on attendance and punctuality rates, discipline and detentions, and even payments made for school lunches and trips. Crucially, though, with a universal portal that gathers data from across the school, they’ll also have the context that adds meaning to these bald facts and figures.
Parents too will benefit from this context. Updates from the school portal will not only tell them that their child is being held after school, for example, but why, with teachers’ notes automatically appended to the alerts.
It’s simply impossible to get this kind of holistic insight from standalone technologies. Schools that are ambitious about making real and measurable improvements to the life of the school will simply not achieve their aims with individual tools. By taking a holistic approach to data through a single portal, they will not just help teachers to be brilliant, but the entire school, too.
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