2 Using data to improve learning outcomes for all

Data collection about diversity within a school community has a clear goal: to improve all students’ learning and achievement. Some of this data collection and analysis requires school leaders to engage the school community in jointly planning, gathering, analysing and presenting data in order to encourage discussions about what the data says about the school and the varied experience of the students who attend. This collaborative use of data is vitally important to ensure that all members of the community understand the potential barriers to learning that exist for different sections of the community, but also the opportunities to enhance learning that arise from a diverse community. This will be explored later in this unit.

However, there is a strategic and longer-term use of data in the hands of the school leader, particularly data on attendance and attainment. Where individual teachers will need to understand patterns of attendance and attainment across their classes, and to identify individual or group strategies to ensure that all students participate fully in learning, school leaders need to analyse attendance and attainment in broader terms in order to understand the factors that affect student participation and achievement.

Activity 5: Analysing your data

Think about the data you have access to about attendance and attainment across the age range of students in your school. Spend some time listing the different ways you could (or already do) analyse this data to identify factors that may have an impact on students’ learning outcomes (for example, attainment in different subject areas by male and female students).

You are likely to have thought of categories such as gender, disability and religion, but there are many other factors that you could interrogate depending on the priorities for your school in addressing underachievement. These could include any of the factors that were discussed in the introduction.

The data will initially give baselines about the range of factors that can affect school attendance and attainment. The data may need further more complex analysis to determine if there are co-dependencies (for example, for female students who are undernourished and from a specific tribal group) between the different data sets that you have. There may also be other data that is needed to inform decisions about any specific work with parents (such as the dates of the harvest seasons, which mean that some students stop attending). In this way, data can be used to identify who is participating in learning and who is not.

Where the student profile is linked directly to attendance or attainment data, the school leader may want to develop specific action plans to build better learning outcomes for certain sets of students. In this way the data can give evidence of the priority areas.

Activity 6: Using your data analysis

Using your attainment data (probably exam results), choose one factor that you suspect might illuminate an issue that needs addressing (such as gender differences in attainment in science). Spend time collating the data and analysing the findings.

Using the data analysis you have done, answer the following prompt questions to complete a row of the action plan in Resource 1. An example entry is shown in Table 2.

  • What does the data tell you about the issue that you chose about the student learning in your school?
  • What do you suspect may be contributing to the problem in student learning in that area?
  • Identify other data that would be useful in order to do a cross-analysis of the issue. For example, identifying the female students who achieve well in science in relation to their socio-economic background or their attainment in maths, or those who have a particular teacher.
  • Identify the people you would need to consult in order to draw up an action plan and develop some strategies to improve the student learning in this particular group.
  • Identify what you would need to do in order to monitor this issue and ensure learning had improved. Note: this will need to involve more than just looking at next year’s attainment data.
Table 2 An example of an entry in a data action plan.
Data set Factors analysed Headline results Impact on learning Action(s) Monitoring
Attendance Gender during harvest

Male students’ attendance reduces by one third for two weeks

Female students’ attendances reduces by 10 per cent

Loss of five core subject lessons per week

Interruption to key exam preparation in science

Need to check data for patterns of final attainment against this group

Discuss issue with the senior leadership team and identify ways to discuss the issue with parents of current exam years as an urgent matter – delegate to deputy?

Gather data from the science department about the attainment of students who missed these crucial weeks last year

Discuss with all subject leaders about the impact on learning in their areas

Identify students in exam years most at risk from being withdrawn from school this coming harvest

Attendance during harvest

Attainment of group in exams


You will need to analyse your attendance and attainment data in many different ways, and develop an annual plan to build up an understanding of patterns of attendance and attainment over time. Along with this plan of how to analyse the data will need to be an action plan with clear priority areas. These may change over time as the data you collect becomes more sophisticated, but are likely to be longer-term issues that negatively impact on the learning of some of your students. You may know what these are already, but need to do the careful data analysis to ensure you are addressing them in the most effective manner.


This activity will have highlighted the intersection between data analysis and issue identification at a broad whole-school level, and then the subsequent drilling down to identify particular causes or factors that need to be addressed. This drilling down involves much more than just looking at lots of spreadsheets and working alone; it involves the whole school community and requires you to lead your staff (and possibly students and parents) in helping you collect and analyse the data that is needed to make a positive impact on the learning for all your students.

1 The importance of addressing diversity issues

3 Developing a complete picture of diversity in your school