AT A CONFERENCE OF
                LONDON, 11 FEBRUARY 2004

This is an important time for the education system in England.
International studies show improvement; domestic reports by
Ofsted show signs for optimism; but some question whether
improvement in primary schools has reached a „plateau‟, and
whether secondary schools can overcome the old English
problems of class and socio-economic disadvantage.

I want to argue today that the changes of the last six years
provide a platform for further advance; and that we will build on
that platform if we take seriously the implications of the
increasingly rich data the presents itself on every student,
school, class and LEA in England.

The Platform for Progress
It is worth reminding ourselves of the platform on which we can

  - more teachers than since 1984: 25,000 more than six years
     ago, and over 90,000 more support staff

  - ICT transforming teaching and learning in primary and
     secondary schools

  - national strategies at KS2 and KS3 that command the
     confidence of fair-minded people as the best of
     professional practice

  - more than half of the schools in the country designated as

  - investment in infrastructure that in 2005/6 will top £5bn a

  - and an increasing culture of rigorous partnership,
     embodied in the Workforce Agreement of every teacher
     and staff member, the Compacts for every LEA and the
     cooperation in EiC and LEPP.

These ingredients of success are reflected in the test and exam
results. Third best in the world at age 10; improvements in every
subject and every level at KS3; GCSE and A level performance
rising steadily, reflecting the facts of better teaching and harder
work, not the English curse that “more will mean worse”.
But the success notwithstanding, the data commands that we are
humble about underperformance, as well as proud of

  - a quarter of 11 year-olds leaving primary school still
     struggling to read, write and count well

  - within school variation more than four times between
     school variation at secondary level

  - 75% of middle class youngsters getting 5 good GCSEs,
     25% from working class backgrounds

  - in schools with the worst record for value-added, roughly
     one lesson in five is wasted. In other words, a pupil could
     lose a year‟s progress between the ages of 11 and 16.

So the data demands that all of us engage seriously with the
needs of youngsters born equal but educated unequally. It is a
challenge to raise quality and equality in our education system.
It speaks to moral purpose as well as to practical policy. And it
demands action at every level in the system.
The Power of Data
My starting point is simple. The job of Government is to seek
for every pupil what any parent would seek for their child. RH
Tawney said that seventy years ago, and it is no less true for the
genome generation than for those born between the wars.
Wanting the best for your child means wanting an education that
meets their needs, nurtures their talents, broadens their horizons
and develops their humanity. It is what the Prime Minister calls
„personalised learning‟, and forms the judge and jury of
education policy in the DfES.

Personalised learning does not mean every child learning on
their own; it is not a return to child centred theories; it is instead
a determination to put high expectations at the heart of our
strategy, and determine to put together the education to fulfil

It starts with data: the strengths and weaknesses of every child,
in every class.

It extends to every teacher: their performance management, their
professional development.

It reaches every school: how it is doing, where it is trying to do
better, where it needs support.
And it demands action from LEAs and DfES: a synchronised
engagement between public bodies and the schools they serve.

Let me address each of these points in turn.

Assessment for Learning
For every child, data is the foundation of progress. It is the
essence of Assessment for Learning (AfL): ongoing assessment
to diagnose strengths and weaknesses, stretching every sinew to
deliver them their entitlement to an education that develops
them to the full.

AfL lies at the very heart of good teaching and learning.
Assessments, along with our system of national testing, are not
pass or fail evaluations. They provide a measure of a child‟s
progress, giving parents and schools a reliable picture of how
much children have learnt and understood. This information also
helps teachers and parents compare children of the same age,
against national standards.

Successful AfL practice gets straight to the heart of good
teaching, by helping teachers identify the next steps in their
pupils‟ learning; engaging pupils themselves in the process.
Research shows that AfL improves pupil motivation, helping
them to develop as independent, proactive learners.
National tests also provide a consistent external benchmark
against which teachers can validate their professional

A vital indicator of educational success, when the vigour
brought by national testing is lost, the evidence from the history
of the English education system is that pupils in the poorest
communities suffer most. We know the danger of low
expectations. National achievement standards must be the ladder
of opportunity for all students, irrespective of class or

Performance Management and Professional Development
For every teacher, the progress of pupils is the purpose of their
vocation. They have a right to performance management and
professional development on the basis of that data.

The starting point for me is the high degree of variation in
achievement within schools; in all the debate about choice
between schools this tends to get lost, but it is the key to success
for hundreds of thousands of pupils.

That is where performance management and CPD are critical.
We shall only reap the rewards, in terms of raised standards of
pupil attainment, if we get performance management right.
To make it work, we need heads who themselves - as leaders of
the profession - embody the openness, and willingness to
challenge with a firm commitment to reflection and professional
development, that inspires public confidence. It is heads who
will be the architects in their school of a successful performance
management system for teachers, and the guarantors of that

For the performance management system to be successful, there
must be effective monitoring, observation and review. There
must be challenge, rigour and hard evidence. For example,
classroom observation: both observing and being observed –
with the right degree of preparation, support and follow up – is
something that can benefit every classroom teacher. That is how
teachers‟ strengths can be documented and areas for
development properly understood and acted upon.

I know that some teachers embrace this approach very readily.
They see that performance management can help them become
even better teachers and keep them up-to-date on classroom
practice. They see it as a right because without it they would not
have their development needs appreciated; and, as a result,
would be letting down their pupils.

Overall, performance management is an approach where
teachers‟ understanding of pupil progress is informed by rich
sources of data on pupil performance. Where everyone in the
school is homing in on why particular pupils are doing well or
are doing not so well; and on how this information can be used
to tackle the severe problem of in-school variation.

School Profile
For schools, data should present a rounded and searching picture
of collective achievement. That is the purpose of the School

I recognise that raw test and exam scores, and even value-added
scores which represent a big step forward, are a proxy for school
performance, and can miss out important aspects of what a
school does. But the answer to the limitations of raw and value-
added data is not to restrict their flow, but instead to enrich the
debate about what the data means. That is why development of
School Profiles is so important.

Replacing the annual statutory report to parents, the School
Profile would contain standardised comparative performance
data – about a school and its students - to supplement the data
contained in performance tables, and the school‟s own view of
its priorities and performance. It will be light on bureaucracy,
easy to access and powerful in impact; placing new and
challenging information in the public domain.

We want to see the Profile become an important part of
educational discussion in the home and the school, as well as in
Whitehall; and, in the next month or so, will begin consulting on
the contents and compilation – as it is vital to get these right. By
September 2005, we want schools to have a short and accessible
document setting out – what we currently see as - the following

  - data on students‟ attainment and progress, set against
     benchmarks for schools in similar contexts

  - how the school serves all its students, not just the average

  - the most recent assessment by Ofsted, set against the
     school‟s own self-assessment

  - what the school offers, in terms of the broader curriculum

  - how the head and governors see the priorities for future

  - what the schools offers the rest of the system
Single Conversation
So much for data in schools. Data also makes the system go
round. Our responsibility is to make it go round in a way that
raises standards, rather than confuses or distracts teachers and
school leaders.

Schools are right to complain that too much data collection is
duplicative and / or bureaucratic; and they are right to say that
multiple accountability mechanisms and delivery partners can
distract them from the core business of teaching.

The truth is that schools are all at different stages in the
improvement cycle. As LEAs or the Department we need to
recognise that difference, and respond to it. Just as personalised
learning is vital to youngsters, so differentiated and appropriate
support is necessary for schools. The foundation is agreed data;
the key is synchronised engagement from LEAs and the

We need to ensure that the DfES and LEAs adhere to this new
relationship – based on partnership and trust – to actively
identify LEAs‟ own key delivery priorities; drive forward
improvement in schools; and achieve system-wide change.

To refine the model, we intend to develop with five or more
LEAs the concept of a „single conversation‟ - as an extension of
this new relationship. A key feature will be to appoint an
experienced practitioner, in each secondary school, to act as a
critical friend; authorised to approve – on behalf of the LEA and
DfES – the performance targets set by the Head and governing
body. They would also be available to debate and offer advice
on priorities; and, where necessary, assist with implementation

None of this will be simple or easy to accomplish either for the
Department or for LEAs. It will be important that these
proposals are developed in close discussion with national and
local partners, particularly at headteacher and LEA level; and
ideas tested before being implemented more widely.

The purpose of this single conversation is to integrate DfES and
LEA support for secondary schools – drawing on the proven
expertise of those in the field. As part of the process, DfES and
LEA school improvement programmes could be re-engineered
to dovetail with this new arrangement; reducing the multiple
accountabilities and reporting requirements that too many
schools face.

Performance Data Framework for LEAs
But, above all, the most valuable currency in school
improvement, is the effective use of data; supporting schools in
setting clear targets – against national targets – and based on
rigorous self-evaluation and local needs.

Good analyses – delivered by LEAs to a standard framework –
will help schools to improve standards. Many LEAs already
provide such information and there is much good practice but,
overall, quality does vary.

The Performance Data Framework for LEAs launched today,
sets out the principles and good practice which LEAs are
recommended to follow to ensure that all schools receive a
comprehensive range of quality performance data. The
framework does not specify the actual data which should be
provided to schools; this is left to LEAs to determine locally.
But it does set out the minimum standard that schools can
expect in terms of performance analysis. And will encourage
those schools that have not previously used their LEAs‟
analyses to make more use of the data.

The Data Protocol
This reciprocal process of data sharing needs to be information-
rich and workload-light.

The Data Protocol, also announced today, enables us to establish
a system where data are collected just once - in a manner that
involves much less bureaucracy - and used many times. New
Common Basic Data Sets will give schools the information they
need, without the onus of duplicate items. The data other people
want will be moved easily from schools to a data warehouse or
warehouses. LEAs, the partners to the Protocol and others will
get the data they want direct from the warehouses, without
having to ask schools. There will be regulation of new data
requests and regular reviews of the data schools collect on
behalf of others.

Our aim is that this new system should be fully implemented by

I wanted to speak at this conference because appropriate use of
data, pinpointing teaching style to individual need, raising
teaching quality to tackle underperformance, matters to so many

Think of this. We know that the strongest predictor of GCSE
performance is achievement at 14. If every year, every KS3
teacher helped one pupil in every class move from level 4 to
level 5, then by 2008 an extra 100,000 students would be
reaching level 5. It is about clarity of purpose, singularity of
focus, and synergy of resource. That is why it matters.

We have it in our grasp to build a system true to the principles
of excellence and equity. None of us can do it alone, neither
teachers nor LEAs nor the DfES. But together we can make a
difference. Data helps us do it. That is why this conference is
important, why I look forward to your questions and comments,
and why I look forward to making progress with you in the
months and years ahead.

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