The academic performance of disadvantaged pupils can be boosted if data literacy among school governors and teaching staff is improved, researchers claim.

In a report from the Department for Education, researchers compared the performance of schools in London and those outside.

They found that outside London in lower performing primary schools there’s a different approach in practices and cultures.

Among these is a belief among governors and teaching staff that data can be used to benefit individual pupils and not just serve a system of accountability.

The report, ‘School cultures and practices’, is aimed at boosting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and highlights that in high performing schools at secondary and primary level, the school leaders ensured staff are confident in handling and using data to help inform practice.

Improving teacher training in primary schools

The report was put together by the think tank LKMco, which also recommends improving teacher training, particularly in primary schools, by highlighting that using a range of data will help inform classroom practice.

The data can help, for example, teachers with ‘monitoring and planning pupils’ individual support needs’.

The report authors also highlight that the Department for Education should look at how it can boost school governors’ data literacy which will help improve governance.

The report says that local authorities and schools should encourage governors to attend development and training programmes that are linked to data literacy.

Teachers in lower performing primary schools

Researchers say they found that teachers in lower performing primary schools outside of London are less likely to provide rapid and early support for those pupils who are falling behind and less likely to use peer support among pupils in lessons.

These schools also pay less emphasis on supporting those youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities.

The poor performing primaries also had few strategies for helping and engaging with parents to support a disadvantaged pupil at home and were also less likely to have a high expectation of a pupil’s behaviour.

Among the reasons for this is a struggle with recruitment and teacher retention and also with staff turnover, low parental expectations and funding cuts.

The quality of its support staff

However, high performing schools, in and outside of the capital, are able to help pay for extra-curricular activities and trips for poorer pupils and place a higher emphasis on the quality of its support staff.

They also monitor the impact of interventions that help support their disadvantaged pupils.

Among the report’s recommendations is for the Department for Education to commission more research on how to ‘build a shared sense of purpose’ in a school and also collect examples of those schools who effectively practice and engage with parents successfully.

They also highlight that the moves to support retention and recruitment of staff across the country should focus particular attention on lower performing schools in disadvantaged areas outside of the capital.


More information

The report, ‘School cultures and practices’, can be found on the Department for Education website.