How to spring clean your school's data

How to spring clean your school

I’m the type of person that once I get started on something all order goes out the window.

The mess starts off small and then next minute I’m surrounded by stacks of paper, a coffee cup (or two) and an ocean of sticky notes.

It’s no secret that a well-organised workspace increases productivity and makes it easier to work efficiently.

So, what if this ‘workspace’ was your school’s database, and over time it has accumulated out of date, inconsistent, duplicate, or incorrectly formatted data?

With Spring upon us, now’s the perfect time to give your school’s database a well-deserved ‘Spring clean’.

To keep or not to keep?
When cleaning out your wardrobe, it’s common practice to sort your clothes into two piles; keep and throw. Well, the same concept should apply when cleaning out your school’s database.

Decide what data you do and don’t need and find out what is just clogging up your database. There’s no point keeping data that is no longer relevant or referenced.

If you’re having trouble sifting through your data and making those hard decisions, consider reaching out to your software provider to see if they can help with identifying data sets that are no longer in use, or custom fields that were once needed but have since been made redundant.

Booking a database audit or what we at TASS call a “Health Check” is a great way to find out if you are recording and using your data effectively.

Keep things Consistent
Seemingly small data inconsistencies can be catastrophic to database management and can make reporting and using your data difficult.

Common inconsistencies to watch out for include capitalisation, abbreviations, address formatting, missing fields, incomplete records, and naming conventions.

With staff entering data, slight variations are unavoidable, so consider creating a data entry policy to provide staff with guidance on what they should and should not be doing, helping to avoid errors and reduce inconsistencies.

Burn the spreadsheets
While it is true that Excel is a familiar tool, relying on it is the easiest way to mess up your database, as the data is often updated in a lone spreadsheet and not the school’s central database - creating data disparity and distrust in the accuracy of data.

This, along with the lack of security features in Excel can be detrimental to your school’s records.

To reduce risk, it’s important for data to remain within one, central and secure system wherever possible.

Have you ever sat back and looked at how many software systems make up your school’s technology stack?

The more extensive that your stack grows, the more databases you need to maintain, making integrations and reporting difficult (not to mention increasing your workload).

Add a review of your software stack to your Spring clean list, and ensure you understand what your software providers can support and integrate with.

Keep things neat
The key to long-term database management is consistent tidying - it is much easier to maintain a clean database than it is to clean up a messy one.

Don’t let issues pile up and ensure any new data being entered is correctly formatted.

We recommend scheduling a clean every six months – review your data, find gaps and inconsistencies, and then address these with your staff. It is important that everyone understands what is and isn’t working.

Happy Spring cleaning!