In his ‘think piece’, Are we failing children and young people due to a lack of vision?, Michael Pain poses a few questions that MATs should be asking themselves, one of which was:
“Is your school or MAT (including leaders, governors, staff and community) actively engaged in conversations around how it can protect childhood, provide the space and opportunity for essential childhood experiences, and ensure children’s health, happiness and wellbeing?”
This is a deep question, because it is concerned with more than just compliance. Yes, compliance is crucial, of course -- failure to comply with Safeguarding regulations for example is unlikely to please Ofsted, to put it mildly -- but it should be regarded as a minimum requirement, not the only one.
Indeed, it was reported in Schools Week in December 2017 that Lee Northern, an adviser on inspection policy, expressed the hope that Ofsted would move away from regarding Safeguarding merely in terms of a checklist:
“There’s a lot of effort in schools that goes into demonstrating compliance,” he said. “Yes, that’s important, but it really should be about what those policies are doing.”
What this means in practice is that having software in place like Groupcall Emerge is necessary, but not sufficient. Ideally, schools and MATS will be proactive in attempting to spot trends and, especially, of spotting someone who may be about to ‘go off the rails’ before they actually do so.
Another question posed by Pain was:
“Is your school or MAT engaged in conversations around how it can equip children to engage with technology in a way that enhances their life satisfaction and develops skills for the future?”
This is interesting in a couple of ways. First, it talks about ‘life satisfaction’ -- but does not define the term. The way is left open for the school or MAT to come up with its own definition or criteria. Secondly, and following on from this implication, it is an invitation to be proactive rather than reactive.
Pain recommends that pupils and parents are involved in this process:
“Provide a meaningful way for stakeholders to engage in this process – your children, parents, communities and staff must have ownership in developing the vision and will provide a perspective that leaders simply can’t!”
While programs like Emerge and Xporter are second to none in their ability to spot pupils who are, or who may be about to, fall off the rails, they are not enough on their own. Just as a school may create a cadre of pupil champions to assist teachers with technical issues, why not expand their role to include advice and suggestions on matters such as online safety?
This was an approach adopted by the Wildern School in Hampshire when they decided to go down the Bring Your Own Device route. Instead of writing an Acceptable Use Policy and then imposing it on the kids, they asked the pupils to come up with one themselves.
As you can read in a case study of the school, the pupils investigated the objections to a BYOD scheme, and then came up with an Acceptable Use Policy that addressed them. The key benefit of their doing so was that they had what the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as “skin in the game”. That is to say, the students were the ones who wanted the school to adopt a BYOD policy, and so they had the most to lose if anyone abused the privilege. In effect, the AUP was a statement of peer pressure, which is often much more effective than threats from “on high”.
What is required is a three-pronged strategy to improving statistics like attendance, punctuality, grades and behaviour:
- Create a group of pupil champions who can advise the school on what issues ought to be addressed, and who can be counted on to help address them.
- As a school or MAT, decide on a set of non-negotiable minimum criteria for areas such as attendance.
- Use data management programs to pick up on pupils who are not meeting those criteria, and to spot trends that will help you identify pupils who may be about to slip through the net .
Using pupils and parents as well as data management programs should enable the school or MAT to implement an intervention strategy that will, hopefully, avert a crisis.
Previously-published articles you may find useful are:
Enlisting parents, in which we looked at research into the benefits of sending alerts to parents;
Get your statistics as soon as possible, which considered how frequently you should gather your data;
And finally, in Learning from the best examples in schools we considered the benefits of being able to compare and contrast schools from within your Trust using a tool like Xporter.
Armed with a strategic approach to data and Groupcall’s specialist tools, you can turn a mass of data into useful information with a few clicks of a mouse.