How Power BI offers schools and trusts a data makeover

dot abstract pixel modern edge | How Power BI offers schools and trusts a data makeover
By Anthony Wolny | 13th January 2023 | 4 min read

How do you analyse vast amounts of data so your school or trust can make evidence-based decisions?

It’s an essential question for every leadership team.

Picture this scenario: you’re in a meeting reviewing recent performance data, and your colleague hands around a printed sheet which isn’t particularly easy to read, and you notice some schools missing – an incomplete picture.

The meeting begins, and you are reviewing performance across humanities. You notice some worrying figures provided for one school in particular.

You want to compare to previous data to see whether this is a gradual trend, relates to one particular class/teacher or seems to be a dramatic decline, perhaps due to another reason.

You can’t drill down into the data, so will have to wait until the next meeting to possibly get those insights.

Another incomplete picture!

Good data is the key to school improvement and trust growth, but to make data easy to work with, it needs to be:

  • Well-sourced – giving schools and MATs a picture of national and local statistics
  • Well-prepared – accurate, absent of errors and in real-time
  • Well-structured - so the numbers can reveal need-to-know information in a few clicks

Unlocking stunning statistics with Power BI

At IRIS, we harness the graphical and data-handling capabilities of Microsoft’s Power BI within our  IRIS Central reporting software. This means users have access to outstanding visualisation tools when looking to consolidate data from multiple sources and gain a real-time, trust-wide view.

In the right hands, with data that is well sourced and properly prepared, Power BI within IRIS Central helps you bring numbers to life. Our customers love it because it enables them to examine complex information in an easily digestible format.

Taking national data and putting it on the same platform as your live figures makes for a powerful combination.

Different from the usual static, top-level reporting that many schools and trusts have to currently settle for.

You can draw on a variety of stats, compare them and share them with colleagues – so quickly that if anyone has any questions while you are presenting the information, you can drill down and give an answer there and then.

However, capturing data, so it’s ready for interrogation, isn’t always straightforward.

The problem with UK education data

Almost every school leader we speak to tells us data analysis is a major issue that impacts their workload.

Why do so many say this is the case?

It’s because not only is there a lot of information to work through, but much of it is stored in different places. The clock is constantly ticking, and it doesn’t take long for some of this information to be out of date.

Feeding data into IRIS Central, however, makes it easy to read and allows users to drill down into information that would otherwise remain invisible. This can then inform major decisions, from new mergers to understanding if your school or trust must double down on tackling issues like deprivation.

How Power BI enables intuitive insights

Let’s give you a sense of what we do to ensure data works for our users.

National benchmarks are useful comparisons, as it’s helpful to know how your school’s doing compared to others in the face of the current socio-economic challenges, for example.

Statistics, like school attendance and the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI), can be displayed in pie charts, bar graphs and birds-eye-view maps in IRIS Central, so that trust leaders can benchmark themselves alongside others, based on the number of students or other characteristics.

In education, where everything is based on a zero-sum game where we are compared to the mean, this level of data manipulation paints a much more contextual picture and is useful when OFSTED come to visit.

All of this information can, of course, be filtered in conventional ways, such as dropdown selections – but you can also use more intuitive methods.

Let’s take the overhead map. With a couple of clicks, you’ll be hovering over your area and can see other schools nearby. You can select any of these to get facts and figures about what is happening in your area.

You can even drag a box which will bring schools from the area together in one custom analysis, so you can compare things like the progress of your students to those who live in a similar socio-economic setting and discover targeted areas for improvement.

The future of education data analysis

The aim behind such an approach was not just great functionality, but it was about moving away from looking at one data point in isolation. The ambition is for our customers to be able to take one set of facts and correlate it with another, revealing the real narrative underpinning the topic.

When you draw data together as one picture, for several schools at once, it can be particularly enlightening.

Say goodbye to spreadsheets, manually copying data and paying for expensive analysis – IRIS Central will change the way your trust uses data. Dashboards present information that is easy for trust leaders to digest, helping you understand the story your data is desperately trying to tell you.

To learn more about IRIS Central and to book a free demo, click here.