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How to reduce your data management workload

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Schools collect and store data to help them understand their students and make strategic decisions. But sometimes, this data is poorly organised or takes significant effort to manage.

Rather than starting with what is possible in collecting data, IT managers could challenge SLTs on what data will be useful and for what purpose. That way, the school collects and manages the minimum amount of data required to make individual and school-wide evaluations, and meet compliance requirements. But how is this rolled out in the infrastructure, networking and devices that your school uses?

Under the GDPR, the requirements about how your school processes data has increased significantly. Now, your school must have secure, reliable technologies in place, and must evidence how they are processing this personal data.

But when it comes to data management, the workload still needs to be minimal for the data collection to be valuable. The majority of school staff, naturally, are focused on teaching and have little time to crunch data. But what can you do — in a more technical capacity — to give the school access to the useful (and compliant) data they need, without the excessive effort of managing, extracting and analysing it?

Does your school have a data manager?

The role of a data manager in schools is becoming increasingly crucial to keep track of and analyse all the data you are generating. Data managers are tasked with taking the guesswork out of data processes and presenting the data in a way that makes it easy for the school community to use.

In some cases, the IT manager is also responsible for data management, working and alongside the leadership team to provide technical recommendations and effective management in the development of pupil data and reporting systems.

What role does infrastructure play in data management?

The integrity and reliability of your digital infrastructure is increasingly central to schools’ high-level priorities, according to our annual report. In 2017, under 19% of deputy and head teachers stated that tech played an integral role in their schools’ strategies. Last year, the number jumped to over 27%.

But according to our research, there is a gap between IT managers’ and school leaders’ perception of the technology in their schools’ strategies; half the number of IT staff confirmed it was a priority compared to heads and deputy heads. Do you think that is still the case, or are school leaders more aligned on improving the reliability and tenacity of your network?

What devices do you manage?

Your school’s fleet of devices can have a large impact on how your school collects and processes data. Does your school use personal, handheld devices, just one front-of-class display, or a combination? Are pupils permitted to use their own devices on your network, and what data vulnerabilities does that pose?

Also, do pupils have unsupervised use of your interactive front-of-class displays, or are they given restricted access? This would have wider implications about harvesting data, as well as safeguarding; controls or restrictions are advisable.

Do you offer data training?

The Department for Education outlined that staff, as well as pupils, should be taught about online safety as part of schools’ safeguarding procedures.

Do you ensure that staff understand the risks of online content and the school’s policies covering acceptable and secure use of systems? If your school uses social media or other online platforms, are there regular training sessions to ensure staff and students are aware of the implications on personal data?

Anyone who takes on a data management role should receive adequate training to help with this. But it’s also important that all staff understand their responsibilities when it comes to processing personal data. The ICO has a wealth of information to help your senior management put adequate data protection policies and training in place.

Ultimately, compliant data processing is a critical juggling act for schools. Does your school tackle data management through infrastructure maintenance, network access and a secure fleet of devices? Which tools and training have you found to be the most useful for minimising your data processing load? Have your say in our annual survey.

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