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Blind data? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 2 May 2018

May 2, 2018

Blind data?

We seem to live in a data-conscious, even obsessive, world. I am amazed when watching premiership football on TV to hear the commentators tell us how many yards someone has run, the number of minutes since a team last scored a goal away from home and at a particular venue and then to give us the percentage shots on goal of each side (and then divided up between strikers). There is a whiff of superstition in some of this: just because a team has had an unbeaten run for so many games and hasn’t achieved this for, let’s say over ten years, there’s almost a sense that this can’t happen again for another ten years – at least not when playing in their away strip in the same week they also had a Cup tie to play and when they were on their third manager of the season.

Data image

Has the world gone data tracking mad?

Has data tracking gone mad?

It’s clearly providing a great number of researchers, timekeepers, mathematicians and even historians – let alone commentators, data crunchers and (possibly) mystics – in work. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for meaningful employment and some interesting statistics and comparisons…but so much of it?

Schools and data…and GDPR

Schools, of course, are also full of data. I am about to attend my seventh GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) meeting in almost as many weeks tomorrow, as we seek to meet the 26th May deadline to come into line with the requirements of the new Act.

Many of us will have been receiving communications from charities, banks and online firms of late asking us to opt in to continue to receive their emails and offers. (If you haven’t been receiving these then either you don’t have many ‘business’ contacts online or, alarmingly, the contacts you have are ignoring the impending deadline and the potential threat of crippling fines!) This is actually a heaven-sent (actually Parliamentary-sent) opportunity to let some persistent business emailers know, politely, that you don’t want their services and that you actually never asked to receive their emails in the first place.

Let’s get away from it all (sometimes)

So, what’s my point?

I am not so naïve as to think we shouldn’t keep some data nor use it, perhaps at national level, to plan road and hospital, school and defence requirements. It’s also quite interesting (at least some of the time) to listen to sports’ pundits tell us how many times Tiger Woods has missed the ‘cut’ in golf or how many years, months and days (even minutes) since England last won the World Cup (in anything) – sorry, in Association Football. However, I do hope that like in some diabolical blind date, we don’t get so obsessed with the next set of statistics, that we become uptight and nervous about stepping out of the door, going online to buy something and end up as quivering wrecks.

Life, it seems to me, is more than the next set of weather stats, stock market report – even inflation figures. It’s also, even in schools, more than the next set of test results, assessment figures or data-driven labels.

Weighing scales

Numbers can be fun!

Numbers can be fun, as my grandson taught me last weekend when he discovered kitchen scales and so needed to weigh jars, packets and tins (he is only 4 years, after all).

Numbers, statistics and data, however, are only so much information which can often be open to a great deal of interpretation. Let’s get out into the countryside / the world nearby and far, ignore the temperature stats or the rainfall percentages on our mobile devices and take life a little less seriously and superstitiously and look for the simple and the serene.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster) – just about to sort out some data for an exam…oh, dear!

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Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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