The Welsh Government has commissioned Social Finance to carry out research into data and information needs and uses across the school system in Wales. This was a commitment in the October 2020 update to ‘Our National Mission’ and is part of the ongoing development of new evaluation, improvement and accountability arrangements.

The research will provide an evidence base to help define a new data and information ecosystem for the school system in Wales to support the ambitions of Curriculum for Wales. When we refer to data, we are thinking in the broadest of terms, encompassing statistical and qualitative data, big and small, from national to the most local level. The project will consider the range of evidence needed by the different tiers of the system (including schools, local authorities and regional consortia) to inform the 3 functions of:

  • effective self-evaluation for improvement
  • accountability
  • transparency for the wider citizen

It will look at what data would be most useful to fulfil these purposes, including assessing the usefulness of data that is already available within the school system, and what else is required or would be beneficial. The research will also identify how data would best be sourced, provided and accessed.

There will be extensive engagement with a broad and representative range of partners from throughout the school system across Wales, including but not limited to:

  • schools
  • local authorities
  • regional consortia
  • diocesan authorities
  • Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA)
  • Association of Directors of Education in Wales (ADEW)
  • Estyn
  • Qualifications Wales
  • Careers Wales
  • Welsh Government policy and analytical leads

Engagement will be fundamental to the success of the research and ensure that recommendations produced are informed by the users of the data. Engagement will take place using a variety of methods including interviews, focus groups, workshops, surveys and webinars.

In addition to considering how the ecosystem could contribute to the achievement of the policy aims and objectives of the many partners in the school system, the research will also examine any effective practices in internationally comparable contexts.

This project is one of a wider programme of evidence and research work and is separate to the ‘Curriculum Reform Evaluation: Scoping Study’ being undertaken by Arad Research, which is looking at preparations among schools and the system for Curriculum for Wales, and how best to monitor and evaluate implementation and impacts of the reforms over the next 10 years. The 2 projects are running concurrently and will be making connections where the scope overlaps.

Research into the data and information needs of the school system is a key strand of the development of new evaluation, improvement and accountability arrangements. The Welsh Government recently consulted on a published school improvement guidance, which sets out the principles and approaches that will underpin these arrangements.

Ensuring that these new arrangements align with, and support, Curriculum for Wales is crucial to its success. Essential to achieving this is a high-quality, relevant and timely evidence base and an intelligent use of data to better reflect the context and performance of schools in the round, broadening focus beyond a relatively narrow set of school performance measures based on attainment outcomes.

Our aim is to make the most useful data and information available to providers to inform self-evaluation within their own context, to ensure only the most suitable evidence is used for accountability purposes, and to improve the range of appropriate data and information available publicly. This will allow evaluation to become more contextual, raise standards, and assist providers to evaluate their approaches to implementation and realisation of Curriculum for Wales. 

The project began in May 2021 and will conclude in autumn 2022. The extensive engagement and co-construction with partners from throughout the school system and across Wales will be crucial to the success of the research, drawing upon our stakeholders’ valuable and differing experiences and insight.

An indication of the broad timeline for engagement activities is provided below.

  • June to September 2021 – initial scoping and engagement with stakeholders to understand the landscape and ambitions of the system
  • October 2021 to March 2022 – extensive fieldwork across the system to build an understanding of needs and issues
  • April to July 2022 – review international practice, wider literature, develop and prototype possible solutions
  • August to September 2022 – appraise options and develop recommendations

Following the outcome of the research the Welsh Government will consult on proposed solutions.

The Welsh Government is hoping to secure a high level of participation to ensure that as many voices as possible can contribute to the research. Social Finance will be approaching many stakeholders over the coming months to invite participation at various stages.

Updates on the project will be shared and will also feature in the Dysg newsletter, alerting stakeholders to any wider opportunities to participate.

‘School improvement guidance’ consultation

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