Management Information and Statistics

The session of the Education Select Committee held this morning was an interesting one. Clearly, the mention of TeachVac www.teachvac.com  as a data source in both a question and answer will help draw attention to the team’s  aim of creating a free vacancy web site for schools that helps free-up cash for teaching and learning. To that end, the TeachVac team are delighted with early take-up of the new free Vacancy Portal announced last Friday (see earlier post). This is especially useful to primary schools that have no place on their school web site to list any vacancies.

However, to return to the issue behind the title of this post, the difference between management information and statistics. The DfE is very good at collecting statistics and there was much discussion among the witnesses at the Select Committee about the data in the School Workforce Census, completed every November by all schools. Much of it is available to everyone and the 2015 data should be published next month. However, the data down to individual teacher level is rightly only available to bone fide researchers. By its very nature this data is of historical interest in terms of the labour market because, by the time it is published, schools are well into a further recruitment round. By comparison, management information seeks to identify what is happening in the here and know. For example, it is useful for shops to know what they sold a year ago, but to reorder they need to know what is happening to sales now. Most have sophisticated point off sale information systems.

Now, if the labour market for teachers is stable from year to year using statistics to help decide how many teachers to train next year is fine. It doesn’t matter if the data is out of date so long as it is accurate. But, if the market is changing, it might help to know what is happening in the current recruitment round. Hence my question in yesterday’s post about the business studies and PE trainee numbers providing a shortage and an over-supply. You cannot easily aswer those questions from the Workforce Census data, but you could from the ITT destinations data. Joining up the information still seems to be something of an issue between different parts of the DfE.

Without the data, you often don’t know the questions to ask. It wasn’t until I started monitoring leadership vacancies that I discovered the difference in re-advertisement rates between Roman Catholic schools and community schools. Similarly, TeachVac has brought into sharp focus the regional differences in adverts placed per school during the recruitment round. Turnover could be deduced from the Workforce Census, but did anyone every bother to do so and then match need to regional allocations even though, as the witnesses accepted this morning, much of the teacher supply market is very local in nature. Incidentally, I don’t think head of department posts are a sub-regional market, but are mostly constrained within a travel to work area. It is only for leadership vacancies at the more senior levels that I think significant numbers of teachers are prepared for the upheaval of a house move.

So, both statistics and management information have their place and their uses. It just seems to me we have lots of the former but not enough of the latter in education.

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