Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Review: Insight Tracking system for primary schools

There are loads of tracking systems available for schools now; and like the Ofsted judgements they seek to achieve (or avoid) they range from outstanding to inadequate. Many primary schools are now turning away from desktop-based systems (usually Excel) in favour of online solutions. Some of these online tools started life as a spreadsheet and it shows: they are clunky, messy and unintuitive. Other systems are extraordinarily complex and powerful but perhaps lack the support required for many primary schools, particularly smaller ones, to cope. And some are a bit odd, providing data that doesn't really seem to make much sense. The best systems are simple, easy to use, visually arresting and built ground up for the web. Insight definitely fits into the latter group.

Before I go any further with this review, I should point out that I have no link to the company other than getting to know Andrew and Sarah, the people behind Insight. I'm just a fan. It came to my attention over a year ago when I was searching for a system that would meet the needs of some of our smaller schools. It certainly does that. In fact it would meet the needs of a 2 form entry school as well as it does a village primary with 50 pupils. What I like about it is its elegance and ease of use. It's neat and I admire that. Insight is a new kid on the block and has the look and feel of a startup product: bold, different, innovative, cool even. Not exactly punk - Andrew and Sarah are too polite for that - but if Insight deserves a musical analogy it'd be Bowie circa 1972. I don't give that comparison lightly, believe me.

Right, that's enough gushing. You get the idea. On to the functionality. What does it look like? What does it do? Some screen shots are required. Data is made up, by the way. No pupils were harmed in this review. 

Once you've contacted Insight and got your log in, you can access the admin page above. Here you can upload all sorts of stuff, including the all important SIMS file with all your pupils, their year groups, classes and characteristics. You can also send Insight excel files containing historical assessments, which they can import into the system and match to the relevant pupils, saving you time. I've been in schools recently where we've managed to get the system up and running in an afternoon. That's fairly amazing. Here you can also easily set up additional users, tweak the system and send secure messages to the team (see top right). 

Next up, analysis! Here's a view of a data table. Not hugely exciting and much like others, but colour coding relates to age-related expectation comparison, rather than progress, so ahead of the game in terms of the new curriculum and assessment without levels.

This table is for Y5 maths and it shows progress for each pupil per year and then gives more detail for current year. You can filter the table for particular groups, or split the table to compare groups. Average progress is provided at the bottom of the table but this is also provided in other reports. One neat feature is the ability to add in extra columns, to modify the table to meet your needs. For example you could add in end of key stage predictions, targets and an on track indicator. If you wanted these to appear by default, Insight will set that up for you.

Teacher assessments, by the way, are entered, surprise surprise, by clicking the Enter Data button. Select teacher assessments, then the year, the term and subject, and enter the data using simple dropdowns as follows:

As you start to type the level, it will filter down to available options that match, so type 1 and only L1 options will be visible. Again, a neat touch.

Now, onto some reporting tools. First up, the key groups summary report. This report provides a fantastic summary of headline data for a cohort; and is great for Governors, staff and Ofsted. As a fit for purpose test, see how quickly and easily your current tracking system provides the following information:

I've known schools spend days trying to put together a table like this from their systems. Insight provides it at the click of a button. Invaluable. And it includes RAISE-defined ability bands, too. A real bonus.

The next screen shot needs no introduction but these progress matrices are based on end of key stage 2 predictions, in this case for Y4:

The prediction uses a least squares regression model (I think that's right), and so is based on an extrapolation of actual progress to date, which will recalculate as and when new data is entered. It is not based on an assumption of progress, which some systems use.

Now onto attainment and progress overviews. These provide data, in terms of percentage below, at or above age-related level; or making less than expected, expected or better than expected progress, and present it as a simple horizontal bar chart. Segments of the bar can be clicked on to reveal the associated pupils, i.e:

This screenshot shows the attainment breakdown for Year 3 in reading, writing, maths and science at the end of the Spring 2 term. It will also allow the user to look back at the cohort's attainment at any assessment point. A really useful feature is the ability to select more than one year group and compare them. You could, for example compare the end of Y4 attainment of current Y5 against that of the current Y4, so you are comparing 2 or more cohorts at the same assessment point. Useful for school improvement evidence. Note the drill down to pupil level, by the way. Pupil names can be clicked on to access the individual pupil data. More on that in a bit.

The following image shows the progress overview report:

Here, I'm looking at the progress of Year 4 from the end of key stage 1 to summer 1 term, Year 4; and I've selected 6 points as my expected rate of progress over that period. Again, the user can drill down by clicking on the segments of the bar. A wonderfully simple yet powerful report.

And finally, ladders. I love these and encourage schools to make use of them. They show a cohort's in year progress on one page and pupils can be clicked on to reveal their progress journey:

This is a Y4 ladder with a pupil selected. You can instantly see the bands the pupil has moved up through; and again, you can drill down to pupil level here as you can elsewhere in the system. The next shot shows what happens when you click on a pupil name and access their page:

This shows the progress over the year for the pupil in maths (reading and writing are just beneath), and provides additional data in simple statements. You can access previous years' data by clicking the relevant tab, and get the entire KS1 and KS2 journey by clicking the KS1&2 tab (obvious, huh?). You can add assessments and targets using the dropdown and switch between pupils via the list on the right. Simple!

So, that pretty much wraps up this review/tour of Insight. As stated above, I'm a fan of this system, and get rather excited about it. It's simple, intuitive, backed up by first class support, and is relatively inexpensive, too. Feedback from schools is excellent and it's very Ofsted friendly. Definitely worth a closer look.

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