Girl writing in book at school

Which region has the best schools for your children? Power BI can help you decide

Parents and teachers across England can now easily access information on schools in their region thanks to a tie-up between Microsoft and the Department for Education (DfE).

The Government is using Power BI to turn tens of thousands of pieces of data on schools around the country into easy-to-read graphs and charts.

These include the number of teachers in a region, the pupil to teacher ratio, the percentage of unqualified teachers, the number of vacancies and the average number of days lost to teacher absences, among other information.

Isi Avbulimen, Statistical Officer at the DfE, said: “The data is currently published within a large, complex non-machine-readable Excel file comprising of over 20,000 rows, making it largely inaccessible to the general public who do not have expertise in data manipulation. This Power BI dashboard will allow users to pull out the information they are interested in and perform their own analysis.

A Power BI chart showing education statistics in England

One of the DfE’s Power BI charts

“The dashboard will allow users to examine time series data for a range of different measures at the click of a button; for example, users can easily examine how the headcount of teachers within the schools of York has varied over time.”

Power BI is Microsoft’s suite of analytics tools that help organisations turn large amounts of data into accessible graphs, charts and reports to make them easier to understand. It is being used by manufacturer Rolls-Royce to help airlines improve fuel efficiency, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to understand the impact of their work.

The UK government makes data available to help people make informed choices about public services and hold central and local government accountable for spending and outcomes, as well as enable the private sector to develop new services. In its 2012 Open Data Whitepaper, politicians “committed to making open data an effective engine of economic growth, social wellbeing, political accountability and public service improvement”. To date, they have published more than 40,000 datasets on the website.

Research by Deloitte in October revealed that Transport for London’s open data policy is improving journeys, supporting innovation and creating jobs, boosting the capital’s economy by up to £130 million a year.

Speaking in response to that report, Jeni Tennison, Chief Executive of the Open Data Institute, said: “Open data is changing our everyday lives and how organisations like Transport for London work. In fact, data is becoming as important as other types of infrastructure, such as roads and electricity, which means building strong data infrastructure is vital to economic growth and wellbeing.

“The rewards can be enormous. For example, it’s been estimated that by using open data effectively, 629 million hours of unnecessary waiting time could be saved on the EU’s roads and energy consumption could be reduced by 16%. By investing in the provision of real-time open data, TfL has been able to save people time, support innovation across the UK, and provide a wider range of services than they could on their own.”

Click here to see the DfE Power BI charts.