Collecting and using data

18 Mar 2011 by Karl Hallam

One of the cuts that the public sector might welcome would be to their data collecting budgets. Especially if it meant they had to do less of it. The trouble is that more often than not, what is done is it is collected, but not used. Or more accurately it is not used effectively. Of course this not just a public sector issue. Priavte companies and the third sector tend to have more excel sheets than they know what to do with either (great Radio 4 Bottom Line on this recently). 

This week we have heard how secondary schools struggle to make good use of their tracking data and sometimes end up employing someone to do it in their school (salary £20K +). Is this a case of localism gone mad? Does it illustrate a real contradiction in the simultaneous moves to devolve and yet achieve back-office shared service savings. So while setting schools 'free' may have some advantages, wouldn't it still be useful (cheaper?) to have a local body (call it a LEA for arguments sake) that collected all the data and processed it. The trouble is it is easy to see what might be wrong with local authority 'interference' in schools, but are there things they do that the schools should not be doing, as they distract from the core business? And, for LEAs you could substitute PCT and schools GPs?

Third sector organisations we work with are all trying to get to grips with data now so they can demonstrate their impact. The pressure for them to do this is quite high, as they need to do it to allow them to bid for contracts issued through the new commissioning world that is emerging. Can third sector infrastructure support organisations help them? We suggest that in many cases they cannot, but are business link type organisations appropriate either? Many people switch off when data is mentioned, but how it managed is going to be the key to the survival of so many organisations (and therefore the success of the Big Society), whether they like or not.







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