UKGovcamp 2012 – The Ofsted Project

It’s UKGovcamp time again and this year is a little different. It runs over 2 days, with the Friday being the traditional unconference. The Saturday event is a hackday of sorts. And the organisers are looking for suggestions of projects to be developed. And I have a good idea.

There has been loads of opendata published in the schools arena in recent years with the initial Edubase data release being a key part of the data.gov.uk launch. And last year the DfE released a new school comparison site (together with all the comparison data !!!) that does a really good job.

This means we now have 3 government sponsored schools data sites, Edubase, the comparison site and the DirectGov site. And there is one thing that’s missing from all of them. The judgement of the Ofsted inspectors during their last visit. The reason why that is missing is worth discussing but not right now.

Suffice to say I think it would be useful for prospective parents (and others) to see at a glance how Ofsted view each school especially in relation to its neighbours. So I propose that we build one on Saturday.

And it’s not as if the information isn’t available. All of the sites mentioned above provide links from each school’s page to an Ofsted home page for that school, listing the inspections of that school. But to find out the judgement of the inspectors – a very important piece of metadata – you need to open a pdf file and read through the report. If you are not familiar with Ofsted reports this is not an easy task. But Ofsted do actually store this metadata somewhere in their internal databases, but they don’t expose it on their website. It is published in a series of Excel files which Ofsted publish on a regular basis and have pointed to in response to a number of FoI requests.

The problem with these spreadsheets are twofold:

  1. the spreadsheets are poorly structured for data access
  2. they have a termly lag-time i.e. they are published termly in arrears

And this leads to the full proposal ….

The Pitch

I want us to build a prototype web service that will allow 3rd party sites (including .gov.uk sites) to grab some very useful Ofsted information in format(s) suitable for web use and display it on their site. The information to include:

  • the date of the last Ofted inspection
  • the overall judgement of the inspector(s) on the school at that date
  • a link to the schools Ofsted homepage, in order to provide context to the user if the want/need it

The second part of this project is for the non-geeks. It’s a policy/engagement issue. I’d really like to get some talking heads to put together some ideas for how we can engage with Ofsted and persuade them to do some or all of the following:

  • take over the hosting and publishing of the service
  • reduce the latency of the published data by included ALL recent inspections in the service
  • publish the source data in more open and accessible formats rather than the current cumbersome Excel files

There’s something there for everyone – developers, data bods, policy wonks, as well as the persuaders. I look forward to seeing you there.

Postscript

I’ve hacked the spreadsheets previously and cobbled together a combined datasheet of all the relevant inspections from 2000-2009 and uploaded them to my public dropbox folder. That can be used as the source data for a prototype.

If also had a couple of thoughts on data structure and I guess I’m thinking that the returned data should probably be available in xml, json and perhaps (x)html.

An XML snippet might be something like:

<inspection urn="123456">
     <date>2012-01-20</date>
     <judgement_grade>2</judgement_grade>
     <judgement>Good</judgement>
     <comment>This information should be interpreted in the context of the full report which is available from the Ofsted page below</comment>
     <ofsted_uri>http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/123456</ofsted_uri>
</inspection>

Continue reading

Tech development in school

It is generally agreed that there is a real need to move forward with coding4kids agenda now. We’ve done the talking, now is time for action. So my action pledge is to develop an idea for structural change at the top of educational foodchain.

My idea is to require that in every English school (the devolved governments can make their own structural change), one of the performance management (PM) targets for the headteacher, will have a technological focus. Every year.

The governing body of each maintained school appoints 2 or 3 of it’s members as the PM committee whose role is

  • to set 3 PM targets for the Head for the current year
  • monitor and evaluate the Head’s progress towards those targets
  • make recommendations to the GB at the end of the year about salary uplift for the ead

If we can get government to recognise the tech deficit, then surely an overall programme of tech awareness, understanding and adeptness will begin to pay dividends. And our schools can be the cradle for this innovation, just like they were when that first BBC Micro arrived at the school reception 30 years ago. But we will need some subtle pressure and oversight to ensure it happens. So the Heads PM rules need to be tweaked to give our headteachers one of the lead roles in driving the country forward.

The tweaking needs to ensure that at least one of the PM targets for every Head will have a tech development focus. But that doesn’t require us to turn every Headteacher into a geek. On the contrary, many schools will probably need to look at their own tech infrastructure and resources – including human resources – rather than at the tech curriculum. At least in the first instance.

So let’s outline some examples of possible targets as a starting point:

  • To undertake a tech skills and resources baseline assessment of the entire school community (pupils, staff, parents, local community, at school, at home, in public buildings) and to publish the results back to the whole community in a 21st century format within the current academic year
  • To partner with local businesses and community to start a Computer or Coding Club and ensure it appeals to a wide cross section of pupils, parents and staff before the spring half-term
  • To take school website maintenance in-house and reduce the cost of maintaining a web presence by 70% in the next financial year

Each of these examples are SMART. I’m sure the dev and activist communities can produce another 10 example SMART targets within 24 hours.

If the government can commit to making this change to the PM rules, then the quid pro quo from us would be to create a free support and advisory infrastructure for Heads and Governing Bodies to enable them to make this work. A starting point would be some simple wiki pages, but that will need to expand into a database of local geeks able and willing to lend a hand in devising appropriate targets and in measuring success. But the will exists to do that now, so lets harness it now.

Barcamp? What’s that for?

I was inspired to start the blog today. Its still January, so maybe this could still be a New Years resolution. Its been on my mind to do so for a couple of years.

The inspiration was spending the day at Google with a bunch of really interesting people. The UKGovWeb barcamp was intended to try to drag the Civil Service kicking and screaming into the 21st century (only kidding, guys!).

The 80 attendees were split evenly between Civil Servants and Joe Public. There was lots of wibbi-stuff, lots of staunch defence of government and the civil service, plenty of leading edge stuff. But mostly the day was about an exchange of views. Listening hard, exploring options, and coming up with solutions.

For me, waiting 10 years is not a solution, although most of the roadblocks will have retired by then. Our government needs an “e”, and the sooner the better.

A great day, so good in fact it inspired me to finally start the blog. Thanks guys!

Special thanks to Jeremy & co.

%d bloggers like this: