If you don’t know what to do with the data you’re collecting, you probably don’t need it.
This is an excellent mantra for SENCOs when faced with the mountain of data we inevitably end up with. Education as a whole collects a lot of data and the role of SENCO is no different. It is par for the course that along the way we will need to collect academic and pastoral data about the students on our register and often we need to supplement this with some very specific assessments of need.
There are few reasons to collect data for data’s sake. A child’s progress (or lack of) from the class or subject teacher reports should be enough to inform you whether their needs are being met, so use the data that others collect as part of their normal classroom practice or school data trawls.
Some schools ask for projected grades in their data collections, whereas as SENCOs we tend to work in the here and now and need current grades. It is much easier for staff to provide these at the same time as submitting their projected grades so popping the dates in your diary and reminding staff that you need this information is really helpful.
SENCOs are also in the enviable position of having all the data from any interventions or provisions. After all, we are not just running a reading intervention so that a child can escape the classroom, there is a purpose to every provision and usually something that we are measuring and collecting data on. Many a time I’ve run a spelling intervention and students have made progress against the spellings list we worked on, only to discover that they have not transferred the skill into their normal writing.
It’s essential that you understand the information which you have in front of you too. There is nothing worse than looking at a series of data (quite often out of context if it is not your subject) and not understanding it. This can be the case when looking at specialist reports from educational psychologists or the sensory impairment team. Make sure you ask questions of these professionals to understand them thoroughly as you can be sure that parents will be asking the same of you. Most recently it is the ADOS assessment that has caused confusion, especially since the definition of autism has recently changed but the assessment and its language hasn’t.
At secondary level you may be involved in gathering information for examination concessions/access arrangements. Whilst many believe this involves a spelling and reading test it is far more than this. You will need to gather evidence of the ‘normal way of working’ (NWOW) and that involves collecting something out of the ordinary.
- When will you collect data – can it line up with whole school data collections?
- Are you a part of whole school observation schedules?
- When will you analyse the data you collect?
- When will you assess intervention information?
- When will you update reading/spelling ages (it usually falls to the SENDCO)?
- Will you have the data needed for examination access arrangements, or do you need to schedule assessments/book someone to do them?
- When do examination access arrangements have to be completed?
- When do you need to apply for modified papers?
Think about the sources of data:
- Book samples (everyday work)
- Tests/Mock exams
- Involvement in extracurricular events
- Amount of time spent in ‘time out’ or ‘toilet breaks’ (you’d be surprised how often a paediatrician will ask how many times a day a student visits the toilet!)
- Anecdotal evidence from (eg) dinner ladies which is invaluable when looking at your SEMH and ASC students.
Alongside timing your data collections to coincide with school data collection you might want to consider scheduling observations and book scrutinies to coincide with when these naturally occur in the school cycle. You might also consider asking other staff to support you. For example, a TA can copy pages of a book for a quick scrutiny or can be given criteria under which to take an observation.
It’s a bit of a SENCO problem that we tend to hoard things too! Remember that specialist assessments are only valid until the next one is conducted, and you should only ever quote the most recent test results (or the change between them).