Welcome back to the series on data-based decision making in ECE! We’re looking at how data and analysis coupled with our own professional intuition and insight can inform better decision making in early childhood education. (Missed part one? Check it out here).

In utilising data-driven decision-making to tackle childcare problems, Ernst and Young, highlight its importance, “comparable to finding that missing piece of the puzzle, using data can bring clarity and direction in the initiative to increase access to and the quality of childcare.”

So maybe you’ve decided you want to look into data-based decision making but don’t know how to get started or feel like you want to refresh your understanding of the process?

There are four key steps to data-based decision making in your ECE business, and as you get familiar, they’ll get even easier to implement.

One – Define your objectives

What specific problems, upcoming decisions or even hunches do you want more data on? Pausing to really understand what you are looking for (and vice versa what is not part of your focus) will help set the scene once you start gathering data. You might have key performance indicators (KPIs) – indicators of your services’ progress toward an intended result in areas such as:

  • Curriculum implementation
  • Revenue per child
  • Employee turnover rate
  • Staff to income ratio
  • Meeting licensing standard
  • Family engagement levels

Some services may also find ‘SMART’ goals a helpful way to guide goal setting and objectives. This ensures they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, ‘I want to lift the use of routines across at my organisation, ensuring by next quarter all services are recording routines for children in their care.’

Two – Identify your potential sources and collect data

You may have an idea of some places where you already collect data – like regular family surveys or attendance tracking spreadsheets but be sure to ask yourself a few questions first to make sure you use all available resources.

– Do the sources you already know about address everything pertaining to your objectives or will you only get part of the picture?  It may be that you and your organisation are ready to invest in tools that can give you a more holistic picture. Or there may be new tools available now that are more suited to the needs of ECE organisations rather than generic business intelligence software.

Storypark Insights for example is a new tool tailored to the needs of ECE leaders, bringing organisation-wide data into one space that supports decision making and tells a story. Dashboards including heat maps, comparison charts and high-level overviews display usage in meaningful ways, no matter your role and interest in Storypark.

– Will my team(s) have more ideas? Consider asking your team(s) as they are likely to know different areas and data sources aligned with your objectives that you may not be aware of. This also helps bring together everyone on your organisation’s data journey.

– What industry resources or sources outside my organisation do I have available? ECE industry resources can be particularly helpful for benchmarking. This is the process of measuring your organisation’s performance against external sources. This could be national, state or provincial standards for curriculum use, staff retention or literacy skills for example.

Three – Analyse your data and come to conclusions

Once you have the data in front of you, how do you make sense of it and ensure you aren’t imposing your own bias? Also what role does your own professional intuition and insight play?

In Google’s guide to building a data driven culture they note, “the best outcome from gathering lots of data is for it to be available, whether through graphics, reports, or baked into everyday business workflows. That combination of data and human knowledge and understanding can bring new ways of looking at business plans and projects, and spark new insights and ideas.”

Similarly, we suggest two ways we’ve found helpful for analysing data when coupled with our own insights:

Data Visualisation: Create or access visual representations of your data, like graphs, charts, and plots. Histograms, scatter plots, and box plots are particularly helpful for identifying trends, outliers, and distributions. If you’re using a tool like Storypark Insights, the work is done for you with uncluttered, easy-to-read layouts that support investigation, to get you to the data you need whether for compliance, oversight or evidence.

Pattern Identification: Look for recurring patterns or trends in your data. Are there seasonal fluctuations? Sudden peaks or drops? Identifying these patterns can offer valuable insights.

At each stage continue to engage your professional intuition, numbers do have a story associated with them, and your interpretation and knowledge will always be valuable here! A drop in number that might initially look like a cause for concern, could be related to a term break. Similarly you might be able to attribute changes to policies your organisation has implemented, changes in regulation or even new staff coming on board.

Four – Plan your next steps

Actionable insights are the best! Where possible, plan your next steps based on what you’ve covered while it’s still fresh. You might implement new training initiatives for your educators or simply start a conversation about a particular pattern you’ve uncovered.

Creating a narrative or story around the data can be helpful for shared understanding within your team or wider organisation – especially if you do want to use it as a jumping off point for conversations. Open ended questions and statements like “what I’m seeing is…,” and “can you tell me about..?”  allow the data to frame conversations without it being the sole focus.

Keep the data easily accessible, so that anyone in your team can return to it but as Nicol Russel from Teaching Strategies also mentions, “beyond the collection and storage of data, any high-quality program makes analyzing, interpreting, and acting upon data a routine part of their continuous quality improvement process.”

Consider committing to going back to your data sources at a regular cadence, following the steps to data-based decision making, as well as stopping to celebrate your organisation’s wins along the way!


Storypark Insights is Storypark’s new tool tailored to the needs of leaders who want to make data driven decisions. Storypark Insights makes data more intuitive and interactive, so that you can easily see connections, identify problem areas and services of excellence, acquiring valuable insights to grow your business. See the solution that means less time wrangling spreadsheets and manipulating data.

Posted by Bernadette

Bernadette is part of the Storypark team. One of her earliest memories at kindergarten is declaring to the class that reading was too hard so she wasn't going to learn - whoops! She really enjoys helping educators and families get the most out of Storypark.

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