Exams analysis

For most Data Managers, the last days of summer are spent under a stack of Excel spreadsheets churning out the school's exams analysis - and usually with a nagging feeling that Facility should be doing much more of the work. The appearance of new qualifications, the dataset-based nature of the Facility reporting engine, and the fact that all schools have different ways of setting targets does make it difficult to produce a standard set of reports to meet every school's needs.

However, for this project, the aim was to do exactly that - for the school able to generate all the reports directly from Facility on exam results day. To achieve this, a variety of techniques were used to overcome the traditional limitations.

Creating user-defined assessments to store additional exams data

Some qualifications - like OCR Nationals and Adult Literacy and Numeracy Qualifications - are not included in the 'Convert results' routine in Facility that copies exam results into the assessments module, where they can more easily be reported on. User-defined assessments were set up so that results could be entered manually using Result entry control templates - some extra data entry, but worth it in the long run.

Target grades

Providing accurate comparison to target grades can be tricky, because few schools set up their target assessments with the level of detail required to take account of the various points score regimes of the different qualifications. Rather than re-vamp the internal assessments, a lookup table was built to store the points scores; the reports referred to this table rather than the points attached to the assessment criteria. This even allowed us to resolve issues where teachers had mistakenly set an A*-G style grade for a qualification where Pass, Merit and Distinction grades were awarded.

Residual calculations

To offer greater insight into subject performance, the traditional residual calculations were updated so that subjects were only compared to other subjects where the same qualification was being studied. Another alternative removed low-achieving students from the calculations so that the figures were not swayed by one of two individuals.

Historic school and National data

Because Facility is not able to retrieve data for students who are not present in the current dataset, providing a year on year comparison within a Facility report requires some lateral thinking. Again, lookup table were the answer here with tables used to store whole school and subject level figures for a variety of baseline comparisons - A*-C rates, average points scores and so on. A report was created that could be run in each dataset to extract the data required for the table; the output could then be dropped into Excel and then imported as a lookup table, making the process as swift as possible.