Access to high-quality, accurate and timely data is crucial for schools and trusts to make informed decisions and get the most of their available resources. Benchmarking and comparison with peers can be a powerful tool for change and a driver for improvement in any sector. For schools and trusts, knowing how they compare with similar schools and trusts can help them to identify where they are doing well, where they might be out of step with others and where there is potential room for improvement.
Comparing data with similar schools and trusts can provide a crucial evidence-base for schools’ and trusts’ strategic planning. It can also empower governors and responsible bodies in their role to hold schools and trusts to account on how they manage their resources. To improve accessibility of data and transparency of information for schools and trusts, the Department for Education provides a variety of different tools and guidance.
School and trust leaders need to know how well their allocation of resource support pupil progress. The efficiency metric provides a useful starting point for that. It compares a school’s achieved outputs – measured as the progress 8 score or an average of KS2 progress –with the funding they receive. The metric compares these results with a group of schools that are similar in terms of their level of deprivation and special educational needs (SEN). This gives schools an indication of how efficient they are, compared to their peers.
The school resource management self-assessment tool can help identify potential areas for improvement The tool’s dashboard enables schools and trusts to see how school data compares to set thresholds across a number metrics that are key for good resource management and outcomes, including spending patterns and school characteristics such as teacher contact ratios and average class sizes. Objective RAG ratings give an indication of where the school is performing well and which areas require action. In addition, the tool’s checklist prompts schools to consider if they have the right systems, structures and processes in place to ensure excellent resource management.
Schools and trusts can build on these insights and use the schools financial benchmarking service to compare their expenditure and workforce data in detail with similar schools. The tool provides schools with a comparison set based on high-level school and pupil characteristics through the quick comparison function. By using the detailed comparison function users can find schools based on the characteristics which are similar to their unique circumstance. These include a wide range of school, pupil, workforce, performance and SEN characteristics. Trusts can also use the tool to compare themselves with other trusts, based on number of pupils, number of schools, total income and school phase.
This helps schools and trusts to consider if, where and how they can make changes to their spending to achieve better value for money. It also promotes the sharing of best practice and peer support. While each school is unique, the challenges they are facing are often similar. The benchmarking service makes it easy to identify schools facing similar issues and to get in touch with them to learn from their experience.
At the Schools and Academies Show, the Department will be demonstrating some of the benchmarking tool’s more advanced features. DfE will also be available in the Government Education Village throughout the day to discuss and demonstrate some of the other data tools. We look forward to answering any questions you may have about the tools and hearing your views on how we might improve them.