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Improving children’s lives

For the last six years, the Office for National Statistics has been measuring the national wellbeing of children in the UK.  In their 2020 (pre-COVID-19) analysis of children’s perspectives on future happiness and wellbeing, the main areas raised included living in a country at peace and where children’s needs are considered by those in positions of power.  
Across many of our research themes we have been working to highlight the potential of data science to generate policies which better consider children’s needs.  
Over the past year, we have been working with local politicians to highlight inequalities in free school meal provision and have developed an open classification for English primary schools to encourage better collaboration and more nuanced benchmarking. 

Enabling better collaboration and more nuanced benchmarking in primary schools  

England has statutory regulations in place that ensure state-funded schools deliver broadly the same curriculum.  

However, there still exists a wide range of contexts in which this education takes place including: the management of schools; how the schools choose to spend their budgets; individual policies in regard to staffing, behaviour and attendance; and perhaps most importantly, the composition of the pupil population in the school.  

Given these contexts, one outcome of interest is the attainment profile of schools, and it is important that this performance is judged in context, for the benefit of pupils, parents and schools.  To help provide this context, CDRC researchers, Dr Stephen Clark, Dr Nik Lomax and Professor Mark Birkin, developed a new classification using contemporary data for English primary schools.   

The classification allocates schools into one of 32 sub-groups, allowing them to compare their performance, either academically or financially, with similar schools. These groupings allow the identification of “families of schools”, to act as a resource to foster better collaboration between schools and enable more nuanced benchmarking.  

Users are able to search by location to view schools in their area. 

Working with local politicians to highlight inequalities in free school meal provision  

Data Scientist Interns, Alex Dalton and Tom Albone, have been working closely with CDRC Health and Wellbeing theme lead, Dr Michelle Morris, to explore inequalities in the local Bradford area.  One of the pressing issues affecting this local community (as well as families nationally) has been Free School Meals (FSM).  
Alex and Tom collaborated to explore FSM from a national perspective and used data from the Born in Bradford Better Start (BiBBS) COVID-19 Survey to provide a local context.   
Jo Pike, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Shipley Constituency, highlighted the research as an “excellent blog using data to show that children in some areas are hit much harder by the effects of food insecurity”.  
Later, during the national controversy surrounding the provision of FSM during the pandemic, the parliamentary candidate used the local analysis, which drills down to a neighbourhood level and shows a stark contrast between affluent and deprived neighbourhoods within the Bradford region, as the basis of a press release to local media.   
Read more here – Free School Meals through a local lens – Bradford