3 Developing a complete picture of diversity in your school
Understanding diversity within your school relies not only on attainment and attendance data, but also on data about the intake and school experiences of your students. To address issues of inequality, you need to engage others in building a positive school culture that embraces diversity. When data gathering is part of this goal, you will need to motivate staff, students and parents to gather the information that you need, giving a goal or purpose that has obvious benefits – people may be suspicious that this data could be used to discriminate rather than to include. The sensitivity in collecting this data not only relates to its use, but also to its storage and safety. You need to have a way of saving it responsibly so that it cannot be misused or shared without permission. You will also need to inform those given their information about how it will be protected.
Activity 7: Gathering data collaboratively
Now look at what data about attainment can tell you about diversity in your school, and how you could use it to improve learning opportunities for your students. What else do you need to find out to be sure to take the right action?
Take around 15 minutes to identify further data that should be gathered by:
- you, entirely by yourself
- you and your teachers
- your teachers and your students
- the SMC
- the local community and parents.
List the information, skills and knowledge that your staff and students will need in order for them to undertake the data-gathering. Assess the capacity of your staff and students, and write down in your Learning Diary the names of the staff and students who might be involved in this exercise and for what form of data-gathering. Also write down what you are going to do to develop the capacity of those staff and students not involved in this first round. It is also worth considering how this data-gathering exercise could be built into the curriculum (for example, for data analysis in maths lessons or for writing questionnaires in language lessons).
Having made a decision on who is going to be involved in the data-gathering exercise, it would be best to now share your idea and how you arrived at these decisions. This is also a good time to sit down with the relevant staff to compare information that your school has already collected as part of reporting (as required by government regulations).
Activity 8: Planning together: why, what and who
You have started to identify what data you already have and thought about who might be involved in collecting any further data that you require. You now need to think about how to communicate this to your staff and students. Think about how you will make a persuasive case for introducing the data-gathering exercise that will provide you with baselines from which to plan and monitor with others if you think that doing this with them will help. List four or five selling points in your Learning Diary. Remember to include the policy drivers (NCF and RtE) as well as the benefits for the school, and you may find Resource 2 a useful guide to inclusion.
You could take these ‘selling points’ to the staff during a staff meeting or invite the staff to an assembly that includes the students. You probably do not expect the staff to immediately accept what you are proposing as a data-gathering exercise, so it is good to think ahead about what reservations others may have so that you can either answer their questions or address their doubts and criticisms.
As well as the selling points, you need to have a proposal about the specific factors that you want to gather data about. This will probably be different for each school and indeed may change in a school over time as well. You may choose fewer factors or add others that your colleagues suggest.
The third part of the planning that you need to share is how it will be organised and led. If you have identified who will lead this project, you might announce this or ask teachers for volunteers or nominations. At the end of the meeting, do remember to thank everyone for their willingness to work with you on this project. You will first need to motivate the students and staff so that they – guided by you – willingly gather information, think deeply about its implications and apply their knowledge to suggest how the information can be used to improve the students’ learning and attainment.
By opening the discussion about data collection, your staff and students will not only know the reason for the project, but will have been able to discuss their queries and fears, as well as add their ideas to your list. There could well be a buzz in the school about the project and your team would be identified.
Read Case Study 2, about a school leader and her team talking about how she divided the work between team members and created a format to monitor the plan that they had put together.
Case Study 2: Mrs Kazi delegates work among her team
|Mrs Kazi||I want to thank all of you for putting your heads together to make the final list of information we need to gather about our school community. I am looking forward to the process of gathering the data, especially as we are involving the students in this process and the data will be used in class by us. Also, it will finally enable us to track our 1500 students to ensure they all get the most out of being in our school.|
|Today we have 20 minutes to decide which of us if going to be responsible for one or two areas so that the data can be gathered simultaneously but without burdening any one person. We should all be able to identify one person who we can use as a reminder – a sort of alarm system to remind us to stay on the job, as well as someone to discuss things with when we are stuck or surprised by what we find out.|
|Mrs Mehta||Yes, thank you, Mrs Kazi, I am happy with the areas that have been allocated to me. I have noticed that you have kept my interests in mind. I would be happy if Mrs Nagaraju agrees to be my reminder.|
|Mrs Nagaraju||Of course, Mrs Mehta. I would be happy to. Regarding the allocation to me, Mrs Kazi, I am fine with gathering data on languages, but I am not sure I can do any investigations in the neighbourhood since my father-in-law has recently been hospitalised and we all have to take turns to look after him. I know we will get the students to do some survey work, but I would like to look personally at some of the places they talk about just to be sure … and I’m not sure I can.|
|Mrs Kazi||Oh dear! I wasn’t aware of that! I thought it should be given to you since you come to school on your scooter and could use that to do the survey. We really need to understand our students’ language use at home as there are a number of us who feel this is a major factor in determining educational outcomes in this school but I have no data to prove it! We need to find a solution to this one …|
|Mr Behram||Well, I could do that on my cycle, Mrs Kazi. Why don’t I take on the neighbourhood survey? I find the idea quite fascinating. And I would like to give Mrs Nagaraju in return the job allocated to me to find out the religions of each of the students and the staff. I’d also like Mrs Nagaraju to be my reminder, since that way she could tell me about places she has seen and I don’t know about.|
|Mrs Nagaraju||Thank you Mr Behram – I would be happy to make the exchange and be your reminder! Mrs Kazi, would you like to be mine?|
|Mrs Kazi||Well, that was quickly sorted – what a relief! Yes, Mrs Nagaraju, I can be your reminder. Is there anyone else here who has any difficulty with their area of enquiry?|
|Mrs Chadha||I’m not too sure how to get real data on socio-economic status. Do you think students and teachers will really know? I’m not sure about my husband’s income and how to assess it, since he is a professional who earns on a project basis.|
|Mr Sharma||Don’t worry, Mrs Chadha, we are not doing an exact survey. Look at it in terms of the impact it would have on learning outcomes of our students. So if we make three broad bands that indicate a student is well-off and able to afford more than the basics of food, clothing and shelter, we could put them into band A.|
|Mrs Kazi||And I suppose the students who are sent to school by their parents just for the midday meal would be band C. It’s them I’m more concerned about and feel we may miss paying enough attention to. We are really good at looking after the students who come to us and ask for books and pencils – could it be that many students do not? Maybe they are too embarrassed or shy. Let’s find out as they may be part of the group of students who are underachieving at the moment.|
|Mrs Chadha||Mr Sharma, if you become my reminder I could come to you for help when I’m stuck!|
|Mr Sharma||Of course, Mrs Chadha! And Mrs Mehta, I’m counting on you to be my reminder.|
|Mrs Kazi||Well, now that everyone is sorted, can I check if we all remember that each area of responsibility is allocated – each of you has a buddy and each of you also has to involve the students and non-teaching staff, and parents, if possible. In our next meeting, we will discuss how the information gathered can become a part of our class work. Thank you, everyone.|
|All||Thank you, Mrs Kazi.|
Activity 9: Reviewing Mrs Kazi’s meeting
The discussions between the teachers show a high level of cooperation and also a shared agreement about the purpose and value of the data-gathering activity. Make a note in your Learning Diary of what you felt helped the meeting to move forward until the planning was complete.
You heard Mrs Kazi recount how she planned her data collection – her clarity about the task and its purpose helped keep the team on track. She offered support to the teachers who felt unsure and helped them to support each other. You also heard teachers choosing areas for themselves that suited their interests so they felt more comfortable in the task. By the end of the planning meeting there was no confusion in her team about accountability, since everyone knew who was responsible for the work and it had been divided to everyone’s satisfaction.
School leaders who help their teams understand why data should be used, and how to interpret and use it, are more likely to succeed in developing an equitable learning environment. Do not just issue orders and stand back – stay involved. Find out what the members of your team are thinking and feeling, and let your team know that you are always available to them and that the earlier they approach you, the more you appreciate it. Follow up on the ones who are not in regular contact with you. In this sense, ‘staying involved’ is part of your role to lead, motivate and monitor the work that is being undertaken.
The interest you show and the questions you ask will be important signals for your staff and students. This is especially significant when collecting data. Collecting data without any interest in emerging trends may appear to be an administrative task alone. Support your staff, students and parents through this task by demonstrating your interest in it. Always reiterate that its purpose is to improve learning for all.