Guest post: How important is it for a school to have a good understanding of its pupils’ opinions?

Damian Mawdsley is relationship manager of Me and My Pupil Insight Software and believes it is essential for schools to really understand the views of their students as well as being able to demonstrate this to inspectors. In this article he outlines the key areas that need to monitored and gives some insights into how his products can help…

Ofsted recognises the importance of self-evaluation as a crucial part of schools’ ongoing cycle of review and improvement planning. Concise evidence is required when the school makes judgements about each key area of their work and the opinions of pupils, across all demographic groups within the school, should support this. The Ofsted School Inspection Handbook also outlines to inspectors the importance of taking into account the views of pupils.

Pupils’ achievement – The learning, progress and attainment of pupils have to be scrutinised and it is important that pupils are heard alongside this and judgements are not based on observations and paperwork alone. Teachers and the schools’ understanding of this area could be strengthened if they were secure that pupils felt like they were being encouraged to keep improving and make good progress.

Quality of teaching – Promoting learning and raising achievement levels is the most important role of teaching. Inspectors will consider areas such as how challenging the work is and how prepared pupils are for the next stage of their learning. A school needs to know if pupils are aware of what is needed to secure the next steps in learning and whether work is appropriately pitched to ensure continuous improvement.

Behaviour and safety – The attitudes and views of pupils shape the understanding of behaviour and safety within a school. Attitudes to learning and how they assess and manage risk will all be considered by inspectors. To evaluate and improve this area a school should know whether pupils understand the consequences of poor behaviour, know the school rules and, importantly, know who to go to if they have a concern.

Leadership and management – Inspectors examine and evaluate the impact of leaders within the school and how efficiently and effectively the school is managed. To fully understand the impact of their leadership a school should be aware of pupils’ opinions on how effectively the school is managed and, perhaps most importantly, whether pupils would recommend their school to friends.

PE and School Sport Premium – The introduction of the PE and School Sport Premium has led to increased focus on the PE and Sport offering at Primary Schools, with inspectors focussing specifically on participation levels (across different demographics as well as overall levels), sporting provision matching pupil demand, and evidence that the least active pupils are being re-engaged.

In an ever competitive environment for schools, this shows that the voice of pupils is perhaps more important than ever. A system for understanding the opinions of all pupils, across all demographic groups, can significantly improve the school’s reputation and raise self-esteem.

Gathering data and listening to pupils’ view

Me and My Pupil Insight Software provides both primary and secondary schools with a series of online survey tools and reporting mechanisms to help capture and interpret pupils’ views. It supports schools with developing a concise self-evaluation, understanding sporting preferences and exploring other areas of school life. Compatibility with school information management systems allows the results to be instantly cross referenced against demographic pupil data. Staff can then analyse the pupils’ responses and view automatically generated reports across demographic groups supporting schools to identify and reduce any inequality gaps.

The Pupil Voice Survey supports schools to gather whole school and subject specific evidence for a concise self-evaluation summary.  Questions are designed in conjunction with the Ofsted assessment framework and a supporting document provides a simple template allowing schools to insert responses to questions into this document as evidence against each framework area.

The Sport and Health Survey informs schools about pupils’ participation in sport, physical activity and understanding of healthy lifestyles.  It also provides primary schools with vital support in both using and evidencing the impact of the PE and School Sport Premium.

Finally our Survey Builder provides a platform to manage all pupil feedback with the ability to generate unlimited surveys about any aspect of school life.

Me and My Pupil Insight Software has been purchased by 100 schools since being launched in November, and to date has had over 12,000 pupils uploaded, and over 3,500 have completed the survey.  The software allows for benchmarking of an individual school’s results against other schools using the software, and also promotes collaborative approaches to school improvement through sporting participation and activities.  The 12 month licence gives a school unlimited access to surveys which they can run as many times and for as many pupils as they require.

Reaping the Rewards

“The software provided us with a great platform to support our understanding of our pupils. Results from the surveys were immediately available for us and were provided in a format that allowed us to easily drop them into our self-evaluation.  It is a really efficient way of gathering pupil voice data and identifying areas for improvement.” Alastair O’Connor, Vice Principal, Charnwood College

“The Ashby data is being used to shape our future delivery of core PE.  We were debating on whether to revert to some single sex groups, or even single ability groups, and we wanted feedback from our students on this matter.  The software provided us with the platform to explore this in detail and help us to shape our offer to meet our pupils’ needs.” Ian Gibson, PE Teacher, Ashby School

“We used the tool to help with our internal departmental review.  It gave us powerful information to back up our judgement from a small interview conducted with a student panel.  The results focused on the Ofsted framework and were very useful in that they helped us to adapt our curriculum offer and highlighted areas where pupils wanted us to develop links outside of school.  We are now looking to use the software to cover the whole faculty and not just PE.” Ian Smith, Head of PE Woodbrook Vale School

The software is available for just £500 for a 12 month secondary school licence and £150 for a 12 month primary school licence.

You can visit the website, www.meandmylifestyle.co.uk, for further information

If you have any insights on the value of monitoring student opinions or questions for Damian please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

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