Within School Variation and School Improvement
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Within School Variation and School Improvement. Aim of presentation: to examine the nature of WSV to provide a perspective on how measures of WSV contribute to a view of a school’s performance to look at how simple-to-use tools can support teacher-level research into comparative achievement. •.

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Within School Variation and School Improvement

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Within School Variation and School Improvement

Aim of presentation: to examine the nature of WSVto provide a perspective on how measures of WSV contribute to a view of a school’s performance to look at how simple-to-use tools can support teacher-level research into comparative achievement.

What is Within School Variation?

Within School Variation

“In schools where overall progress is broadly similar, there are significant variations in pupil progress between subjects and between

different pupil groups.” - Fischer Family Trust

"We have always known that there is a difference in performance between schools. But what can make a bigger difference is the experience that children have within one school. So a child can do really well in one subject and not do well in another subject. And that can make an even bigger difference to children's life chances than differences between schools."- Jane Creasy, Assistant Director of Research, NCSL

Within School Variation

Within School Variation is the variation in provision as experienced by different groups of learners

How big is the problem?

Source : DCSF

Within School Variation is over 4 times greater than ‘between school variation’. WSV is over 14 times greater when allowance is made for free school meals and prior attainment.

“WSV is now understood to be one of the biggest barriers to school effectiveness and improvement. In many schools there is not consistency in terms of learning and teaching across the whole school. WSV is one of the biggest challenges to school leaders. “How do we guarantee that every student receives an appropriate and effective access to learning across their whole curriculum experience?“It is not about blanket uniformity. It is not about blind consistency. It is about eliminating inappropriate variation.“In our own private lives we do not accept inconsistencies in services; in restaurants, in shops, from the doctor, the dentist, the garage; and there is no reason either why a school should tolerate inconsistency”.

Prof. John West-Burnham, Senior Research Adviser at the NCSL

speaking about Within School Variation

Is WSV just about teaching?

What is the relationship between teaching and learning?



Teaching and Learning don’t have a direct relationship. Many contextual factors can hinder or enhance the impact of teaching on learning.

What is the relationship between teaching and learning?






It is more like this.1. Learning that occurs concurrently with teaching (planned)2. Teaching that isn’t making an impact (not good)3. Learning that happens when the teacher isn’t there (good)

What is the relationship between teaching and learning?



This is the model that schools should aspire to

What is the relationship between teaching and learning?




It is teaching quality, learner disposition and context which influences the effectiveness of learning

How are schools judged?

A key school inspection question

What does the RAISEonline data say about the school?

A key school self-evaluation question

Which local contextual circumstances are influencing learning effectiveness?

What is the better basis on which a school should be judged?

What advantage does the data-confident, self-evaluating school have?

“Schools that are proactive in showing inspectors the evidence of their own pupil-level analysis and research tend to do better in their inspection.”

- Dr. Mike Treadaway, Fischer Family Trust, Naace ‘Making Information Work’ Conference 27.04.07

How should schools judge themselves?

Top Down or Bottom Up?

Data analysis is not just something done by the few and passed down to the many – but should involve all teachers finding out about the impact of their teaching on different groups of learners.

Two sides to the same coin

Enable teachers to investigate the impact of their teaching

Find out how good every teacher is at teaching

(Top Down) (Bottom Up)

Investigating the impact of teaching

“Projects which look at differences in the impact of teaching require a climate of openness, trust and collegiality.”- NCSL WSV project report

How Data confident is your school? Take the test at: www.4matrix.org/toolkit

Data analysis tools can support action research into local contextual factors

What are the professional tools of the teacher’s trade?

  • A largely oral tradition

  • Where are the equivalent tools to a doctor’s stethoscope and blood pressure monitor?

What have headteachers said about this approach?

"Wow! We have been bowled over by the power of the data and the information 4Matrix has given us just in the first few hours today. “My data manager was so impressed that he insisted on taking over the first part of our meeting this evening with a presentation of what 4Matrix told us about our data. I only gave it to him at 11.30 this morning!”“All my team who saw it immediately realised its potential and were asking probing questions about pupil performance.” - Ged Ward, Headteacher, Macclesfield School, Cheshire

"4Matrix is a brilliant product. It has helped take the sweat out of working with student data and its level of interactivity is superb.” “We have been able to research differences between comparative performance for student groupings of our choice in a way that our school's information management system simply can't.”“The use of 4Matrix has helped us plan coherent change to make a difference to teaching and learning and hence standards“- Allan Foulds, Headteacher, Cheltenham Bournside School

"Attainment scores on their own don't do justice to schools successfully working with disadvantaged students, refugee children or non-English speakers.4Matrix levels the playing field between schools with

differing profiles of attainment by looking at comparative student achievement.”

“Using this approach, a school that has a higher-than-normal profile of disadvantaged students can feel confident that its efforts to raise achievement will be properly recognised in the system that judges schools.”

- Barbi Goulding, Principal of Paddington Academy

What have teachers said about this approach?

"Wonderful system!  Paints a very clear picture of ability compared to achievement."

"An amazingly simple-to-use-for-us-technophobes piece of software - which is highly informative and an extremely useful tool in analysing exam data. Really recommended." - MFL Dept

"An easy-to-use tool that enables department evaluation and the opportunity to develop strategies for improvement."

"4Matrix has provided us with a very useful tool in evaluating our pupils' examination performance.  It has helped identify our strengths and weaknesses and should enable us to improve teaching an learning."

"4Matrix provided me with a clear, no-nonsense evaluation of my results." - Geography Dept

How can we measure variation?

A drag and drop tool

Data tools like the above can measure comparative achievement and group variationas well as support action-research

How might this graph be explained?

Automatic commentaries turn the visual picture of comparative achievement into a numerical commentary

In the new version of 4Matrix the group residual for every teaching group can be displayed.

Data Confident schools don’t wait for Ofsted to judge them. They know themselves well and will have key data about the performance of the current year 11 – not just about pupils that have now left the school.We can use tools that can show the impact of teaching. We can use an action-research approach to school improvement. We can find out what specific local circumstances impact on the work of particular groups of learners.

We can use tools that don’t make us feel you have to be a statistician to use them. We can make ICT talk our language.

Some thoughts about using performance data

“Having lots of data is not what self-evaluation is about. What counts is having the right tools to make top-level judgements on that data.”- Barbi Goulding, Principal, Paddington Academy


1. How important is WSV as a focus for standards in school?2. What are the key characteristics of the data-confident, self-evaluating school?

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