September and October are always the busiest time of year for the EBE team and this year has been no different. As the approved training provider for the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University, we visit schools across the UK, and worldwide, to help colleagues to get the most out of the data at their fingertips. Term began with the first INSET visits of the year, followed by even more throughout September as schools started to receive this year’s feedback. After a further seven school visits in the last week-and-a-half, I’m finally able to reflect on the discussions I’ve had with countless staff over the last month.
The primary conclusion from those conversations is how collaboration is key in assisting teachers with many aspects of their practice. We live (and teach) in an information-rich age. There are Teachmeets popping up across the country; ResearchED hosts events that bring leading academics into the same room as practitioners; and a multitude of blogs and Twitter conversations allow insights and opinions to be shared freely. Last week, we hosted our fourth regional CEM training workshops in Solihull at Saint Martin’s School, and were joined by colleagues from over 15 schools across the midlands. After each of our workshops, those that attend often tell us that hearing from other delegates – particularly about what they do in their schools – is one of the most useful aspects of the training.
This extends beyond the workshops that we host to the training we carry out in schools. The most powerful discussions often involve identifying good practice that already goes on within the school and sharing this with colleagues. Almost every school will have staff that are already well-versed in interpreting the data that CEM provide, and often their colleagues are unfamiliar with who these people are. Simply highlighting those points of expertise within the school and beginning to scaffold a support structure for staff is crucial to their ongoing development. Furthermore, hearing from colleagues about practices that are already ongoing in their school often alleviates many of the concerns that staff have about the data, and about embracing change more generally.
Since the beginning of this academic year, we’ve worked with over 50 different schools across the workshops, INSET visits and our ongoing support packages. One of the privileges of my role is chatting with hundreds of staff, hearing about their various trials, difficulties and successes with CEM data and sharing the collective wisdom from all the schools who’ve been in touch with us. CEM data doesn’t have to be the mysterious entity, only understood and used by the school data manager. It can provide powerful insights into pupil abilities and has value for all school staff. Knowing who to speak to when uncertainties arise is the first step towards drawing the full potential from these data.