Blog Post

Why data analytics with Microsoft Power BI might just be great for your school

You can use Microsoft Power BI to turn your in-house data into interactive data dashboards and reports. It’s now one of the top two or three business intelligence tools on the market and it’s a great solution for schools that want to get more value from the data they collect about students and learning.

Power BI is very accessible - it’s easy for the non expert to get started - and it is not expensive. With Microsoft Power BI you can:

  1. Get started for free - it costs nothing to download Microsoft Power BI Desktop and start using it to create rich, interactive data dashboards.

  2. Connect to a whole range of different data sources - from MS Excel to standard database applications like Microsoft SQL Server. The easy way to get started is to import data into Power BI from Excel spreadsheets.

  3. Build interactive dashboards that really bring data to life. Power BI’s drag and drop report designer is quick to learn and doesn’t require any specialist knowledge.

  4. Use the Power BI online service to share dashboards and reports securely with colleagues. Everyone gets a username and password and you can share different reports with different groups of users.

How could Power BI help your school? Any scenario where you think you can add value by getting colleagues to engage more often and more effectively with data is a good fit for Power BI - use it to create and then share interactive data visualisations.

  1. What about looking for patterns in student performance data within a subject department? You could compare cohorts with previous years, compare performance across teaching groups or compare end of Key Stage 3 scores with expected and actual end of Key Stage 4 results.

  2. Why not look at student performance across academic departments and encourage colleagues in those departments to do the same? It’s an opportunity to break down departmental silos and get more discussion between colleagues about why some students get quite different outcomes in different departments.

  3. Use Power BI to visualize Progress 8 data. Load up publically available school performance data and use it to to compare your school with other schools. Band schools by indicators like % free school meals and % pupils English not their first language and then filter reports to compare with schools like your own.

Power BI can be part of a more sophisticated data reporting solution. A multi-academy trust (MAT) might want to look a student performance across all of its partner schools. The ideal solution would be to create a reporting database that takes regular updates from different management information systems across the trust. You use that reporting database (designed from the start to make report authoring easier) as the data source for Power BI. A solution that sits across multiple institutions takes a little longer to set up but modern cloud based database technologies make it much more affordable.