Blog Post

Using Microsoft Power BI in Schools

Schools that want to use the data they collect to raise teaching quality and improve learner outcomes may face particular challenges:

  1. Schools generate a serious amount of data - marks, attendance records, exam grades, output from lesson observations etc. Sifting through all that data and finding the value isn’t always straightforward.

  2. Data is often stored across multiple systems - that often makes reporting difficult.

  3. Many schools are now in Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) - it’s even harder to get a joined up picture of what’s going on. Data is in different systems in different schools.

  4. Schools have to report to stakeholders and other statutory bodies - reporting requirements that create additional pressures and perhaps don’t leave time for using data in more innovative and strategic ways.

Microsoft Power BI could be a way forward. Power BI is a powerful suite of business intelligence tools - it’s low cost, is easy to get to grips with and it gives schools all the tools they need to create and share interactive data dashboards.

sample school dashboard

How should a school that’s interested in Microsoft Power BI get started? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Get someone in your team to download Microsoft Power BI Desktop - start building in-house expertise.

  2. Point them towards the support documentation on Microsoft’s Power BI website:

  3. Choose 1 of your internal systems as initial source of data. Can you get a read only connection to the database (your school MIS supplier may be able to help)? The alternative is to create some initial data sets in MS Excel (perhaps using reports from your student information system) and then use that as source data.

  4. Identify a problem or challenge on your school where better access to data might be part of the solution. Perhaps you want a better view of predicted attainment across all departments? Or you want to do some analysis why learners seem to underperform in some areas but not others?

  5. Produce an early proof of concept/prototype and share it with colleagues. The point here is to introduce people to Power BI and gather feedback and ideas.

  6. Do further development of the prototype further. Look to extend it by bring in data from other data sources.

The Power BI drag-and-drop reports designer gives you a huge amount of control over the way your reports look. It’s surprisingly easy to build sophisticated interactive reports once you’ve got access to the data.

Sheaf Digital has produced a number of school exemplar reports that you can use as a starting point for your Power BI journey.

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