What is RAISEonline data – and why should it be publicly available?

There’s a vast store of information about our schools, but access is limited.  Read about why we need to make it freely available…

What is it and who runs it?

RAISEonline is an online tool commissioned jointly by the then DCSF and Ofsted to provide data to schools to support their ‘self-evaluation’. It aims to provide a common set of analyses for schools, local authorities, inspectors and School Improvement Partners.

Although it is commissioned by – in their terms ‘produced by’ – DCSF and Ofsted it is in fact a product of RM Data Solutions part of Research Machines Limited and ultimately RM PLC.

RM was awarded the RAISEonline contract as part of a £16m education data services contract in 2006. Heroically RM won the work off RM. (RM-subsidiary Forvus had been responsible for producing the then DfES’ achievement and attainment tables from 1995 to 2006.) The contract has been periodically renewed since.

The total value of the contract with RM to deliver and maintain RAISEonline should be FOI-able, but I haven’t yet made a request…

What sort of data is it?

RAISEonline collates raw data about schools from a number of sources, though it’s not clear how many. It is the only source for this collated data, with RM acting as a publisher.

The information is in-depth and reasonably comprehensive, so for instance you can discover how many pupils in a school are asylum seekers, how many receive free school meals and compare specific schools with national averages.

According to RM Data Solutions:”RAISEonline…. has established itself as the main tool for analysing school performance data in England. It is used by 22,000 schools and 3,000 inspectors to support school improvement and school self-evaluation and the school inspection process.”

Here is a screenshot of kinds of data typically available:

Typical RAISEonline main index

It’s easy to see that there’s plenty of depth. You can get contextual information including detailed ethnographic data about those attending the school, the numbers taking Free School Meals, the numbers in School Action, School Action Plus and those SEN registered. There is up to date information on absence and exclusions. Detailed reports and data on attainment and progress, including small amounts of historical data. (Earlier data exists but is not incorporated.)

Here’s an example of the typical level of detail on numbers registered for Free School Meals in one school:

As far as I can tell there’s no API though the data sets are available in in CSV and Excel formats as well as pretty much useless chunks of TIFF and PDF).

When the data is so rich and informative about our schools why is it not available to everyone?

Is it safe?

Since 2009 the DCSF has granted school governors user-defined access to RAISEonline. The access for governors does not relate to pupil-named data and interactive functions. So the data is sanitized from a data protection point of view.*

As a governor I found the data from RAISEonline tremendously instructive. Governors are (or should be) taken from a wide cross-section of the community – they are just people who give up their time to try to help the progress of the local school. If this information is available to governors it should be available to all.

The information about state funded schools, paid for by the state is of broad public interest. Parents, pupils, prospective staff and a whole range of others would clearly benefit and because it already exists it would not cost any more money. So why isn’t it generally available?

Does anyone want it?

There have been initiatives to help people become more aware of school performance. One was Schooloscope which used Ofsted reports and DCFS league tables. The data for Schooloscope was tissue thin, (a lot of it not even data, only pre-digested report), the cutesy icons were cloying and the special measurement of ‘pupil happiness’ was feeble.

However, it was a valiant effort in the face of an absence of real data to try to inform people about what’s happening in schools in their area, choices they can make and what they might want to do about improving those choices.

Although it was weak, I loved and admired Schooloscope for the gracious reasons why they shut it down – they recognised the difficulty in keeping the site up-to-date, and tacitly that their data wasn’t good enough.

If Schooloscope had been powered by RAISEonline data it would have been a different much richer and more complete and sustainable animal. If RAISEonline had an API then the leg-work that exhausted Berg would be diminished.

The data will help everyone understand the state of local, regional and national education. It can be mixed and re-interpreted in relation to other data such as where the money for education is spent on any scale form national to individual school level.

There is a real appetite for this data – not only from individuals, but from companies supplying services to education and business intelligence to the education sector.

It’s impossible for the public to take part in the conversation about improving schools (or celebrating successes) if the information isn’t freely available. RAISEonline needs to be open so that we can all share in the data about what’s happening in our schools, data we pay for to be better informed.

*In a substantial breach of the Data Protection Act Governor access did originally enable pupil tracking (I was able to track my son and his classmates), but afaik this has not been the case since at least Feb 2010.

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9 Responses to What is RAISEonline data – and why should it be publicly available?

  1. D Sleath says:

    Are you publicly announcing that you used your position as a Governor to access information about individuals that was not part of your role as a Governor?

  2. Neil Aberdeen says:

    Governors are encouraged to use RaiseOnline to understand the evidence for judgements about school performance. When accessing RaiseOnline I was presented with data which identified pupils by name and this was inappropriate. It was not my choice to be presented with this level of data. I did not request it and was shocked to discover it. As a Governor using the service at all this is what you got. In other words the system was inappropriately set-up and jeopardised expectations of privacy and contravened the DPA. Please note that being able to do something is not the same as doing it – I have no special interest in the progress of individuals. I mention it to dramatise the point that although there is a lot of public value in RaiseOnline we have to be careful about what data is published. As far as I’m aware this privacy error had been corrected by February 2010.

  3. Joe y says:

    Have been trying to establish how targets are set for children at KS3 and have been told that they come from Fischer Family Trust Data. After researching this I am concerned about how ability demonstrated in KS2 SATs is adjusted for factors such as Free School Meals, Areas of deprevation, Gender (Boys being lower).
    On checking out the data used by ofstead, I have now been told that ofsted use RAISEonline and that schools should now also use this. Being a parent I have not been able to see anything that shows me the data available on RAISEonline so would like to know if this also adjusts KS2 SATs data resulting in lower targets for pupils?
    I have found this to be a frustrating exercise and agree that this should be more open.
    If only a few anonymous examples of data and its use.

  4. neil says:

    There are endemic problems with the processes behind school progress data: KS2 SATs being used as a bench-mark is amongst them. It’s been my experience that the KS2 SATs are regarded as works of fiction by secondary school teaching staff. In many schools, including the one with which I’m involved, KS2 results are treated with such suspicion that new assessments are made of those starting in Year 7. (These new assessments do not form part of the official body of data, but do help schools think more accurately about the real needs of a cohort.) Making RAISEonline data more open would not address essential problems of data validity, but it would make it possible to understand how the data is being used. It would also more widely expose how what was ‘Contextual Value-Added* progress’ was derived – and now, perhaps more simply, would show the gaps in attainment for different groups. In general it would be great to know precisely how targets are set nationally in relation to RAISEonline.
    *’Contextual Value-Added’ is gobbledegook for the amount of progress a school is able to deliver when factors such as Free School Meals and other indicators are taken into account. In some schools – mine until relatively recently – it would have been more accurate to have a Value-Subtracted figure.

  5. c henley says:

    My partner’s head teacher has used raiseonline as a tool to fail her threshold stating on P8 that raiseonline shows that she has ‘very poor’ GCSE results. How is this possible?

    • neil says:

      This is one of the many reasons why RAISEonline should be open. If it’s not possible to examine the data it’s not possible to judge how it’s being used or challenge its validity.

  6. Peter says:

    I submitted a FOI request to seek to understand what assurance OFSTED had for the accuracy of the calculations performed by RAISEonline. They sent me their test scripts. If you would like a copy of the response and test scripts to put up on the site, please send me an email address.

    I’ve worked in IT and IT Audit and the scripts are not as comprehensive as I would have expected.

  7. Alison Garner says:

    It’s infuriating when we know our daughter’s SATs results are not even sent to Raise as she came from an independent school and get that perhaps even though she is a level 5 SATs the raise online will probably be entered as a 4b as this is average and there is no data – as independents not obliged to submit any. Thereafter her new school will no doubt be judged on her performance from a 4b. It will look as if she is doing really well!

  8. Matt Appleby says:

    Presently applying for Headship positions at primary level and penalised as in interview have data exercise on Raise on line.As in independent sector can’t access an individual state schools Raise doc prior to interview only dashboard.What can do?

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