Exclusive: SFA will improve new interactive data dashboards following complaints

Exclusive: SFA will improve new interactive data dashboards following complaints

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has said it will improve its tool for viewing qualification achievement rates (QAR) following complaints from providers — but is unable to say when.

The twice-delayed QARs were finally made available on April 5 via new interactive dashboards on the SFA’s online hub.

However, the dashboards did not include the facility to view national averages for individual qualifications – information that has been available in previous years, before the introduction of the interactive dashboards.

A number of providers took to the SFA’s FE Connect forums in the days following the QAR publication to vent their frustration at the missing information.

“As the dashboard does not have the detail that we require it will mean that MIS staff across the country will have to do a piece of work to bring their own figures and the national averages together at the qual/framework level – this is what providers and Ofsted will want to see,” said Paul Taylor, systems and MI manager at Skills Solutions.

“I did not expect that we would have to do this and therefore this is very frustrating,” he continued.

Another provider with the username anixon wrote: “I’m not happy that not only can I not get national rates at learning aim level, there also doesn’t seem to be a way to get national rates by level for the various qualification types – eg. Diploma Level 3.”

“Not only that, but I’m yet to see a way to get overall rates for retention or pass rate, just the various drill downs,” they continued.

Another user, nicolah, said: “Would still like to get the dashboard to behave so that I can see some national levels separately for English and Maths and not just lumped together.”

When asked by FE Week if the missing information would be made available, a spokesperson for the SFA said: “Since the interactive dashboards were published we have had some very constructive feedback.

“In responding to that feedback we are developing an additional interactive dashboard that will give providers national rates at aim and framework level for comparison.”

However, the spokesperson said they were “unable to give a timeframe at present” for when this additional dashboard would be available.

In addition to comments about the missing functionality, providers have also been expressing their general dislike of the new interactive dashboards.

“I must say I was also very unimpressed with the whole thing,” anixon also wrote on FE Connect.

“Overall it seems to be a case of lots of style and little of substance. Looks to me like a step backwards and not at all what I was expecting, especially given the 3 month delay,” they concluded.

Another frustrated user MartinL stated on the forum that “it looks like a very expensive step backwards”.

Another provider, who only called himself Neil, commented on FE Week’s article earlier this month about the QAR.

He said: “You cannot download the data tables in PDF form and when you try to in Excel of pivot tables they are full of errors in the presentation that make them unusable.

“All in all a thoroughly disappointing experience that has prioritised graphical imaging over actual useable data.”

When asked by FE Week to respond to the criticism, the SFA said: “The new interactive dashboards were developed and designed in consultation with the sector and Ofsted which meant we could incorporate suggestions made by providers.”

Although national rates not yet included for individual qualifications, they are there for type and level. Commenting on this, the spokesperson said: “National rates are available in the dashboards and they can be filtered in any of the charts to give a more detailed view at qualification type, age band or level.”