Student mapping tool


The new Policy and Advisory Library (PAL) is now available. This page will be redirected to PAL from the start of Term 3. Make sure to update your bookmarks to the new PAL site.

The student mapping tool is a pre-programmed Excel spreadsheet which presents an easy-to-read selection of your school’s data held on the CASES21 database.

The tool:

  • highlights factors which have been shown to increase the risk of student disengagement and early leaving
  • maps the programs and initiatives being used within your school.

The data can be used to:

  • assess and plan for school needs
  • monitor individual student progress
  • evaluate the efficacy of the interventions being used
  • assist schools in reporting and student management.​


In order to get the most out of the tool, users need to be proficient users of Microsoft Excel. If you think you, your colleagues or your staff could benefit from improved literacy in Microsoft Excel, please consider undertaking appropriate professional development activities, as this will dramatically improve your use of the Tool.

Use the student mapping tool

There are different ‘levels of engagement’ with the tool. Most schools begin simply and move on to richer and more sophisticated uses over time. Guides have been designed to support schools through a series of 6 ‘levels of engagement’.

The levels are not sequiential steps and you can choose your own path through the levels. However, you should engage fully at levels 1, 2 and 3 before moving on in order to get the most out of the tool.

Level 1: Obtain your own school's data

The Student Mapping Tool is most effective when it is managed by a member of your school’s leadership team – i.e. the Principal or an Assistant Principal.

  • Only a member of the school leadership team can ensure that the data in the Tool is used to inform medium and long-term strategic planning.
  • Only a member of the leadership team has the authority to request data from all staff involved in brokering or delivering the school’s support programs.
  • Only a member of the leadership team can decide who is authorised to view the data, and under what circumstances it can be shared with external agencies.

Download your data

With the following step-by-step instructions, you will be able to download your school’s data from the CASES21 database. You only need to use these instructions once. After that you can update or ‘refresh’ your data with the click of a button.

Get started

  1. About half-way through the step-by-step instructions you will be required to enter a Seamless Views password. Before you start the download process, please email the DEECD Service Desk using your school’s email account and request the Student Mapping Tool password (N.B. The password changed with the introduction of Version 44 of CASES21, but has not changed since).
  2. Familiarise yourself and those who will be working with the Tool with the Student Mapping Tool Privacy Guide (Word - 1 (doc - 1.51mb). There are important privacy considerations associated with using the Student Mapping Tool. The CASES21 database contains personal and health information about students, family members and staff. Access and/or disclosure of information held on the CASES21 database should comply with the Privacy Guide to Student Mapping Tool, the Department’s Information Privacy Policy and the Code of Conduct for the Victorian Public Sector.
  3. You need to be on a workstation (computer) that is linked to CASES21. This usually means the computers in the Principal’s office and the main administration office. The person downloading the data should be someone with authority to enter and view data on CASES21. If you encounter any difficulty in using the Tool, the DEECD Service Desk will only deal with someone with this authority.
  4. Download the Extraction Guide (PDF - 5 (pdf - 4.73mb). It is easier to follow this Guide if you have it printed out in hardcopy beside you. The Guide covers the following:
    • Does my workstation have the software I need to use the Student Mapping Tool?
    • How do I download my school’s data?
    • What other steps do I need to take to download NAPLAN data and VASS data (if applicable)?
    • Do I have to go through all this every time I want to update the data?
    • How do I get help if I need it?
    • How do I print my spreadsheet?
  5. Follow the instructions in the Extraction Guide (PDF - 5 (pdf - 4.73mb) around downloading NAPLAN and VASS data.
    • Schools should see the Extraction Guide for detailed instructions on downloading NAPLAN data. The instructions include information on downloading data from the NAPLAN web site, unzipping the files and saving them with the required naming convention.
    • Secondary and P-12 schools will need to speak with their school VASS Administrator about downloading VASS data for the Tool, as per the instructions in the Extraction Guide. Once the downloaded file has been saved, you will need to follow the instructions to save the date with the required naming convention.

If you find at any time that the data in the Tool is not refreshing properly, follow the instructions in the Extraction Guide (PDF - 5 (pdf - 4.73mb) to re-install Seamless Views on your server. This should remedy the problem.

You are now ready to download your school’s information into the Tool’s Excel spreadsheet. Remember that once the information has been extracted, you are no longer linked to CASES21. Making changes on the spreadsheet will not change the data held in CASES21.

Download the current version of the Student Mapping Tool:

Level 2: Understand what the data can tell you about your students

When you have successfully downloaded your data you can begin to ‘read’ it - to scan, compare and cross-reference in order to understand what it says about your students and about your school.

Skills needed

Your capacity to get the most out of the tool will grow with your knowledge of the Excel program. If you are not strong in this area, you may wish to ask someone to support you informally when you first start to work with the Tool. It is better to learn than to delegate, because it will allow you to spontaneously seek answers to new questions as they occur to you.

The examples provided in these pages, related to the various ‘levels of engagement’ with the Tool, will take you step-by-step through a real enquiry.

Your Region’s CASES21 Training staff offer a session that will develop the specific Excel skills you need to work with the Tool.

What the columns mean

You can download a full description of the column headings (Word - 91Kb). You can also run the cursor over the small red triangle in the corner of the cell containing a column heading to obtain further information.

Reasons why the data might not be complete or accurate

The data on the spreadsheet in front of you is the latest data that your school has entered onto the CASES21 database or VASS (if applicable), or data from NAPLAN testing. Your school may hold more up-to-date information, but it has not yet been entered onto CASES21 or VASS.

The most common examples of data errors and possible reasons for these when schools first use the new version of the Tool are:

  • We are receiving an error message. There are some common error messages you may encounter:
    • Run-time error – Please follow the instructions in the Extraction Guide to refresh your connection to Seamless Views
    • Type mismatch – Please contact the Service Desk on 1800 641 943 or email:
    • Application-defined or object-defined error - You may be using a filter within some part of the spreadsheet. Please find the filter, and clear it, then refresh the Tool using the green button.
  • There is no attendance data, or it is significantly out of date. Your attendance data has not been transferred from third-party attendance packages onto CASES21.
  • There is not enough attendance data to assess which students are poor attenders. It is too early in the year. The data that appears in the Tool only covers attendance from the start of the academic year. By the end of first term or first semester, you can refresh the data and get a better sense of attendance patterns.
  • Some of our good attenders are showing a high number of unapproved absences. Your school is possibly recording students on work experience, Structured Workplace Learning and School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships or community service as ‘absent’. In primary schools, your school may be entering Prep students (who only attend four days per week in first term, for example) as ‘absent’ on the fifth day.
  • There is no suspensions data. Your school is not using the ‘reasons for absence’ coding option on CASES21 to show that a student is absent because they have been suspended (code 401).
  • There is no internal suspension data. Your school is not using the ‘reasons for absence’ coding option on CASES21 to show that a student is absent from the classroom (but not the school) because they have been directed not to attend (code 400).
  • Some or all of the literacy and numeracy achievement levels shown are out of date. Assessment results from mid-year have not yet been entered onto CASES21.
  • The SFO (Student Family Occupation) column is full of ‘U’s. Many of your families have not provided family occupation information on the enrolment form. This should be resolved as soon as possible, because SFO level is a key risk indicator and you may be missing out on funding to which your school is entitled.
  • I know that some of the SFO ratings for particular families are not accurate. In many schools, families are only asked once for medical, family occupation, eligibility for aide assistance or other data - upon enrolment - which means it is six years out-of-date for your oldest students. Some families may also, quite reasonably, wish to present themselves in the best light and may write ‘company director’ instead of ‘plumber’, when both of which are technically true. Educating families about how the SFO is used by DEECD and by your school might assist with this phenomenon.
  • Some of your Koorie students are not shown as K, T or B. Some Koorie parents do not identify their children as such on enrolment forms, because they are unsure why a school might want to know this, or in what way their child will be treated differently because of it. Remember that this unease is likely to stem from their own childhood experiences. A growing trust relationship between your school and its Koorie families, and accurate information about what impact identification as a Koorie will have on a student’s experience at school, should lead to more accurate data over time.
  • Some of the students who have left the school do not appear as ‘exited’. Your school has not yet entered transition information about these students onto CASES21.
  • NAPLAN data does not appear. 
    • Make sure you are using the latest version of the Tool. There are NAPLAN sheet tabs at the bottom of the workbook.
    • NAPLAN data will only show for those students who sat the most recent round of tests. The data must be downloaded from the NAPLAN website, and saved as per the instructions in the Extraction Guide in the Student Mapping Tool folder on your school's U drive. Please follow the naming instructions exactly, as data will only load from the exact file names noted in the Extraction Guide. 
    • If you are receiving the error mesage "ImportDate-Naplan-Error viCols>256 or viCols<19" the data download from NAPLAN website was incomplete. Please re-download the data from the NAPLAN website and try again.
  • VASS data on Year 11 and 12 achievement does not appear.

Complete the ‘map’ – shading cells yellow

You will have noticed that some of the cells in the spreadsheet are already shaded in yellow. This is because the Tool will automatically highlight known risk factors, such as an attendance rate of less than 80%, or the fact that the student qualifies for the use of an Integration Aide.

There are several areas in which you will need to ‘tell’ the spreadsheet what you consider to be a risk indicator – i.e. number of days of unapproved absence, and literacy and numeracy achievement levels. Following the steps below will enable you to quickly shade in yellow all results that you believe might be of concern. 

For unapproved absences, the number of days that you will consider acceptable will depend on your school and when you download or refresh the data. For example, at the end of first term, you might consider more than 6 days of unapproved absence to be a concern. At the end of third term, you might consider more than 20 days to be unacceptable. In a school with excellent attendance, you might like to look at all students with more than 3 or 4 days of unapproved absence.

To show you how to proceed, let’s assume you would like to draw attention to all students with more than 6 days of unapproved absences.

1.       Select the column by highlighting the column of data you wish to format: e.g. click on the cell at the top of the column, and while holding down the "control" and "shift" keys, tap on the down arrow.

2.       On the ‘Home’ tab, in the Styles’ group, click on ‘Conditional Formatting’

3.       In ‘Highlight cell rules’, select ‘Greater than…’

4.       Type ‘6’ into the first box, and choose ‘Custom format’ in the second

5.       In the ‘fill’ tab, select yellow as the background colour

6.       Click OK and OK again

Your spreadsheet should now have highlighted in yellow all cells in that column with a number greater than 6.

Ask the questions that interest you

The Student Mapping Tool is only useful if you ask it the questions that matter, and use the answers to inform your decision-making. Remember that data does not explain WHY things are the way they are. Don’t leap, and don’t let your staff leap, into believing you know why some Koorie students are poor attenders, or why low income students are under-achieving in numeracy, or why your students do better in Year 7 NAPLAN testing than Year 9. The data, when it is accurate and sound, can tell you what is. Only an intelligent investigation will tell you why.

However, once you understand the kinds of the questions the Tool can answer, you will be able to access better evidence to support internal school discussions and planning. The questions below can be answered as soon as you download the data, before you enter any additional information into the Tool.

Remember that you, as a member of the leadership team, do not have to do all of the data analysis yourself. If you are trying to improve literacy, email the Literacy Coordinator a copy of the Tool and ask for a report based on what it contains. You can make a copy, delete all of the rows except the Year 9s and send that version to the Year 9 coordinator. Don’t forget to specify the questions you are particularly interested in! And don’t forget to provide your staff with the support they need to develop their Excel skills.

Some examples of questions the Tool can answer are provided below.

Literacy or Numeracy Coordinator/Head of English/Head of Maths:

  • What proportion of our students are achieving at age appropriate levels according to NAPLAN results?
  • What proportion of our students are achieving at age appropriate levels according to teacher assessment?
  • What proportion of our students are achieving at least one year above age appropriate levels?
  • Does this proportion decline or increase when you compare students across Year levels?
  • What proportion of our students are achieving at below age appropriate levels?
  • Does this proportion decline or increase when you compare students across Year levels?
  • Is there a significant discrepancy between teachers in their assessment (e.g. do some rate all students as achieving at levels appropriate to age, while others rate a significant proportion of students as below or above expected levels of achievement)?
  • Who are the students you believe to be under-achieving? What proportion of students do they represent?
  • What proportion of under-achieving students are homeless/from low income families/Koorie/recent arrival refugees/have an attendance rate of less than 80%?
  • What proportion of under-achieving students have been internally or externally suspended since the start of the academic year?

Student Wellbeing Coordinator:

  • What proportion of our students are homeless, from single parent families, from low income families, Koorie, recent arrival refugees or have a disability?
  • What is the correlation between each of these groups and academic achievement? (E.g. 10% of all students are underperforming academically, but 45% of students from low income families are underperforming academically.)
  • Which students have exposure to multiple risk factors (according to the Tool)? Are all of these students currently ‘on the radar’ of wellbeing staff and other relevant staff members?
  • After looking at the data showing the risk factors, how many of our students do we consider to be at risk of early school leaving? See Level 3 notes to assist answering this question.

MIPs/Careers coordinator:

  • What is the correlation between exposure to risk factors and early school leaving at our school? Which risk factors were present for most of our early school leavers?
  • What can the Tool tell us about students who leave our school to go to another school? (E.g. what % were under-achieving in literacy or numeracy, were high achievers, were Koorie, were from low income families, had been suspended internally or externally?)
  • What can the Tool tell us about students who leave our school to engage in work or training, or to go to ‘unknown’ destinations?

Year Level Coordinator / Student Wellbeing Manager / Leading Teachers:

  • What proportion of your students will need additional support in literacy or numeracy to achieve age-appropriate standards?
  • Are there any risk factors which are present for many or most of these students?
  • Which students are presenting with early attendance issues?
  • What proportion of our students will need extension programs of some kind?
  • Do our high achieving students have any common characteristics or preventive factors?
  • How many Koorie students are in your year level / home group and how many have developed Individual Learning Plans (through discussion with teachers and their families)?
  • Are there high achieving Koorie students who we should be supporting to reach their potential?

The questions you start with will be shaped by your current priorities. Remember that the Tool was designed by a long-serving Victorian Principal for you, to help answer your questions and dispel some of the ‘accepted wisdom’ that could be reducing your school’s effectiveness, constraining your student learning outcomes and wasting your staff’s time.

Get your first answers

Using some of the questions above, look at how you could use the Tool to obtain the answer. Once you have found the answers to one or two questions, you have all the skills you need to really understand your student cohort and to identify the students who have been exposed to some of the known risk factors for early school leaving. ‘Using the Tool’ means using the same skills over and over again – mostly conditional formatting and filters.

Level 3: Understand what Your school is currently doing to support your students

In the section on Level 2, you learned how to read and use the data that appears when you download or refresh the Tool. In this page, you will learn how to identify which students are likely to be at risk, and how to complete and use the columns on the right hand side of the spreadsheet.

How to identify which students are at risk of early school leaving

When a student is exposed to one or more risk factors, it does not mean they will leave school early. It does indicate an increased likelihood that they will leave school early, but they may have other preventative factors in place which support them to succeed at school and complete Year 12. For example, students from one-parent families are more likely to leave school early, while students with a university-educated parent are less likely to leave school early. How might one assess the risk for the child of a university-educated, single parent?

The life experiences of some students might also have led to an increased resilience and capacity to deal with set-backs and obstacles. Such a student may succeed despite the presence of several risk factors in their lives.

So, a yellow warning sign on the Tool is only that – a warning sign for the school to consider. At some point, the staff of the school will have to decide who really needs extra support in order to succeed. The “Risk Level” column allows you to record the results of these staff discussions.

You might have a different team of teachers filling out this column for each year level. In primary school, the junior unit teachers plus specialist teachers might examine the data in the Tool and, using their own knowledge of the student and their family, make a judgment about whether the student is at risk. In secondary school, the group might include the year level coordinator, form teacher, English and maths teachers, welfare coordinator and MIPs coordinator. As a school leader, you might place question marks in the ‘Risk Level’ column for all students with poor attendance or low levels of literacy or numeracy, and ask the relevant staff to consider them closely.

How your school uses the ‘Risk Level’ column is up to you, but the red flag in the heading shows a simple approach.

How to fill in the columns on the right hand side of the spreadsheet

The right hand side of the spreadsheet is where you can enter information about any interventions or support the school has provided to the students. This information will remain visible and linked to the correct student even when you refresh the spreadsheet.

Don’t worry yet about whether a particular student should be receiving support. You are simply trying to create a map of which students are being provided with additional support.

The headings across the right hand side of the spreadsheet describe the aim of an intervention or support, not the name of it. This is important as it will enable you to more easily read the ‘map’ later.


These columns show student participation in school-wide programs that involve many or all students. This includes Vocational/VET programs in secondary school, or alternative learning programs in primary or secondary school. There is also a column to record whether students have a current MIPs plan. You could also use this column to record when an Individual Learning Plan has been developed with students and their families.


These columns show support that is provided for students with particular needs, and are self-explanatory. You might wish to give key staff the responsibility for keeping a column up to date.

Case Management:

With a small number of students with entrenched difficulties, schools may undertake intensive case management. In these cases, other agencies or partners are frequently involved. While the Student Mapping Tool is not the place to record details of these matters, it can be used to ensure the school leadership maintains an overview and ensures the school is meeting its responsibilities.


This column ensures that students do not leave school without some effort to connect them to a positive pathway. Schools and Regions that are working together in Regional Youth Commitments might wish to collaborate and choose consistent codes for this column.

Within each column, you should use colours and/or codes to show the types of interventions and support programs with which each student has engaged. It is useful to use colour for large-scale programs, such as blue for the students who have completed/reviewed their MIPs plan for the current year. You can enter more than one piece of information in each cell of the spreadsheet. For example, there may be three different literacy support programs operating in your school. These should all be shown in the ‘Literacy Support’ column, but coded differently. A whole-class accelerated literacy program might be coloured green, Reading Recovery might be ‘RR’, and peer-support by older students might be ‘PS’. A single student might have been involved in all three.

See how one school decided to code its range of interventions and support services (Word - 76Kb). Feel free to use these, or invent other codes that suit your needs.

It can take time to obtain lists of the students in each program or receiving each kind of support, especially in a large school with lots of different kinds of support on offer. You then need to work out suitable codes, and a process for entering the data. You can spread the responsibility across a large number of staff by placing the spreadsheet on the shared drive of your intranet, but it will important that you facilitate a clear, shared understanding of the task. For example, a teacher who is entering the codes for their leadership program must ensure their codes are added to, but do not replace, entries that have already been made by someone else in the relevant column. (It is also very important that staff understand that, although they may have access to the Tool, they are not free to divulge the information it contains without your express consent.)

In addition, you can add columns containing extra data on the right hand side. Some schools have used this facility to record internal testing data, for example. However, if you add too many columns you will lose the ability to ‘scan’ the spreadsheet easily for meaning. To add new columns:

  1. Give the column a heading, ensuring there is no blank column in between the existing spreadsheet and your new column. (A blank between column headings breaks the programming link that ensures all your entries stay with the correct student when the data is refreshed.)
  2. Enter the data for each student, either manually or cut and paste the cells from another spreadsheet which has the students in the same order.
  3. To add a filter to each column, highlight the row of column headings by clicking on the 7 at the far left of the page.
  4. Click on the ‘Data’ tab
  5. From the ‘Sort & Filter’ box, select ‘Filter’ – this will clear all of the filters already in place.
  6. Repeat step 5 (ensuring all the headings are still highlighted), and you will have re-set the filter to cover all column headings, including the new ones.

Explore the relationship between student needs and support provided

In a large school, it is difficult for leaders to obtain an overview of the complex web of student needs and support. Programs are introduced progressively, issues that initially apply to a few students suddenly expand to a larger group, and capable staff take responsibility for a program and ‘get on with it’ without detailed reporting or review. The Student Mapping Tool was designed to be a ‘map’ – low on detail but providing a useful overview.

Engaging with the Tool at this level will tell you a great deal about the processes by which students at your school are identified for support, and the relevance of the support offered. In this activity, you are looking for the relationship between whole cohorts of students and the programs or interventions the school has introduced to assist them.

For example, your school might have introduced a culturally-specific Koorie attendance program. After using the filter function to show all Koorie and Torres Strait Islander students, you look across to the right hand side and see that all of these students have received the materials associated with the attendance program. But if only 45% of the students had poor attendance, why were the others included in the program?

In another example, after using the filter to show all Year 8 students who are under-performing in numeracy, you look across to see who has been receiving maths support or interventions. It becomes clear that most of the students in the ‘Wednesday maths tutorial’ program are from only two classes, and that some of these students are progressing satisfactorily in maths and don’t appear to need additional support. There are almost no students from the other classes, though some of these students are performing at a very low level. This is not an unusual scenario, as some teachers are more proactive than others about recommending support programs to students and their families.

Identify students who need interventions, and students who are ‘over-supported’

In this activity, you are exploring what the Tool can tell you about individual students. This task might be delegated to Year Level Coordinators, Unit Leaders and wellbeing coordinators, who are asked to report back to you with recommendations arising from the information.

For each student that your school has identified as being at risk of early school leaving, scan across the right hand side to identify whether:

a) they are receiving any support

b) the support they are receiving is relevant to their needs. For example, a common result of this cross-referencing between the left and right hand side of the spreadsheet is the discovery that secondary school students with low literacy are offered leadership programs, behaviour management, individual learning plans and pathways planning support…but not literacy support

c) the support they are receiving addresses their most urgent primary need. For example, a student who is homeless might be best served by a referral to a housing support service rather than attendance, literacy or speech pathology support. Remember that you cannot identify a student’s primary need without discussion with the student and/or their family. An intervention will always be more effective if the recipients choose it, and feel it is addressing their primary need

d) their learning progress is not being undermined by too many supports and interventions. In larger schools, several departments or teachers might recognise that a student is at risk and offer whatever support they are in a position to offer. This should be coordinated, so that schools address the most urgent issues first, and do not overwhelm the student and their family with multiple programs and interventions.

The Student Mapping Tool provides school leaders with the unique opportunity to map and understand the complexities of personalised learning and wellbeing support.

At the next level of engagement you can use the tool to inform planning for the future.

Level 4: Identify student needs and plan for the future

In the section on Level 3, you entered information about your school’s support programs and interventions on the right hand side.

Undertake a gap analysis

If you have worked through Levels 1, 2 and 3, you now have the skills and information you need to take a strategic overview of your students’ needs and your school’s responses.

The question driving the gap analysis is simple – “Are there support needs in this school that we are not currently meeting?” Arriving at an answer will be a challenging process engaging you and your leadership team.

By scanning the data in the left hand side of the Tool, using the filter function, you will gain a broad understanding of the extent of your school’s issues with attendance, behavior management and learning, and the disadvantage your students experience as a result of disability, or socio-economic background. You will be able to identify whether the issues are particularly significant for students of a particular age, gender or cultural background (e.g. refugee, Koorie).

You can then make a judgement about which of these issues effects the most students, or is the greatest obstacle to student learning. You might develop a priority list in order of importance or greatest impact on learning outcomes.

Then scan across to the right hand side and consider whether the school’s response to these issues is proportionate and reflects your priority list. If the school has a high number of internal and external suspensions, you might consider whole-school behavior management to be a greater priority than student leadership programs. If the school’s performance in maths is a cause for concern, does the school offer any remedial support? If too many students are leaving to ‘unknown’ destinations, or disengagement from learning and employment, is the school investing in skilled pathways support?

In the end, this will be a subjective judgment by you and your leadership team. You will want to test your thinking with other staff and possibly with your Senior Advisor for Regional Performance and Planning. However, these conversations and debates will be informed by the ‘hard data’ provided by the Student Mapping Tool which can successfully address anecdotal evidence and common misperceptions.

At the end of this process, you should have developed a priority list of support needs and a parallel list of what, if anything, the school has in place to meet them. Do not jump to ‘how will we fix this’ until this list is complete. Problem-solving too early will distract you from the task of developing a shared understanding of priority needs.

You might also create a list of support programs currently offered that do not address priority student needs. No matter how worthy or longstanding these programs might be, you may wish to consider discontinuing them and transferring the resources to areas of greater need.

Plan for the future

As school leaders, by the time you reach this stage you will already be thinking about what it means for the future. What will you stop doing? What will you do more of? Where are the gaps?

(At this point, you might like to collect information about the costs to the school of each existing support program or intervention to further inform your thinking. Remember to count time release for staff as a cost.)

You may not have the expertise within the school to address some of the very challenging issues confronting your students. You may consider your current programs or responses are not proving as effective as you would like. You are now in a position to seek targeted, strategic assistance. You know what issues you want to tackle first, and you are looking for interventions or support programs that have proven effective elsewhere. Introducing a new support program is not the aim – you want to introduce an effective new support program.

The Effective Strategies to Increase School Completion Report (PDF - 1.3Mb)  was commissioned by the Youth Transitions Division and developed by Associate Professor Stephen Lamb and Dr Suzanne Rice from the University of Melbourne. The Report identifies proven effective intervention strategies to improve student engagement and increase rates of school completion that are within the capacity of Victorian schools to deliver. A Guide to help schools increase school completion (PDF - 1.3Mb) has also been developed that documents how the effective intervention strategies identified in the Report can be implemented by schools. The Guide explores how schools can plan and implement the strategies to improve student engagement and increase student retention and how to put these effective strategies to work in the school and community. The Australian What Works and Dare to Lead programs contain an extensive body of research into educational and support programs that have proven effective with Indigenous students.

If you decide to implement something new, there should only be two options:

  • You choose a program or intervention that has proved effective elsewhere, and you put in place processes to review its effectiveness in your context, or
  • You choose a program or intervention that has no evidence of previous effectiveness, but which you believe is likely to succeed. In this case, you must approach it as a pilot or trial. Before you commence, you put in place processes to review its effectiveness.

Using the Tool to review the effectiveness of an intervention or program is covered in more detail in Level 5.

Reach out for assistance

When you consider your list of priority needs, it is important to start with the assumption that your school does not have to ‘fix’ these problems on its own. Armed with your priority list, you can approach

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments fund a range of children’s services and youth support programs. Understanding all of them is a big job. Finding those that can help you with your immediate priority needs should be more manageable.

Do not forget to ask for evidence of past effectiveness before you engage with an external provider. You owe it to your students to be a discerning consumer of services – even if they are free. All external providers should also be made aware that you will be monitoring the impact of their support on particular students and/or the school. Describe clearly the impact you are seeking and explain that, unless that impact has been achieved after a reasonable period of time, you will be withdrawing from the program/partnership.

Level 5: Evaluating the effectiveness of support programs and interventions

If you have worked through Levels 3 and 4, you will understand your school’s current provision of support programs and interventions, and you will have developed a priority list of support needs that you wish to address as a matter of urgency.

Focus on impact rather than activity

Schools do not have the financial or human resources to do everything they would like to do. It is vital that the resources you do have are directed at effective solutions.

Feeling the weight of staff or family expectations, or conscious of Regional Office scrutiny, school leaders can feel rushed to ‘do something’. They might introduce a program, enter into a partnership with an external agency, or arrange a referral. With their huge workload, it is not unusual for schools to then consider that task ‘done’ and move onto the next.

Stopping to consider the impact of these actions can be seen as ‘time consuming’ within an already busy workload. But what if the staff time, financial resources and administrative workload associated with one of these programs is not achieving anything? An investment of time in review and evaluation can lead to a dramatic return – less to do, and more of it proving effective.

With this in mind, you can use the Tool to evaluate the impact of programs or interventions if they relate to the risk factors it contains. The most basic example of this is to look at the students who have undertaken a program, and compare this list with the outcome the program was designed to achieve. Some sample questions might include:

  • Of our students who undertook Reading Recovery in their early school years, what proportion are achieving at age-appropriate levels by the end of Grade 3?
  • Of the students involved in our hands-on, action learning program, how many have continued to be poor attenders or have been suspended this year?

If the program is having a strong impact on outcomes, you can continue with it – or possibly expand it – with confidence. If it is not having an impact, you can explore why. Perhaps certain key success factors are missing in your context: communication, teaching quality, parent engagement, program leadership, etc. You can choose to review and improve the program, or use the resources to implement a better solution.

A program is not a success because ‘the students like it’, or ‘we don’t have to pay for it’, or ‘it shows that we’re serious about this issue’. These might be bonus outcomes of an effective program, but a program is only effective if it ameliorates or resolves the original problem.

There are three ways to use the Tool to monitor change over time:

  • Using the data you have entered in the right-hand side
  • Taking time-based snapshots
  • Storing data on the right-hand-side for future reference

Use the data you have entered on the right-hand side

Let’s take the sample question above to illustrate this approach. “Of our students who undertook Reading Recovery in their early school years, what proportion are achieving at age-appropriate levels by the end of Grade 3?”

All students engaged in the Reading Recovery program should have had this recorded in the right-hand side of the Tool. Perhaps your school placed the letters RR next to their name in the ‘Literacy Support’ column. Remember that this information will stay on the Tool unless you choose to remove it.

To identify the proportion that are achieving at age-appropriate levels at the end of Grade 3:

  1. Use the filter in the ‘Year Level’ column to select all students in Grade 3.
  2. Use the filter in the ‘Literacy Support’ column to select all options containing the letters RR
  3. You now have a list of all students in Grade 3 who were engaged in Reading Recovery. Check the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to see how many there are.
  4. Use the filter in the ‘Reading ENG REA…’ column to filter by colour, and select the white box. (You will only be able to do this if you have identified under-achieving students in yellow by conditional formatting.)
  5. You now have a list of all students who were engaged in Reading Recovery who are now achieving at age appropriate levels.
  6. Divide the answer at step 5 by the answer at step 3 to discover the percentage.

Wherever you have identified students involved in a program or intervention on the right-hand side, you can later consider the attendance, suspensions, or learning outcomes of that particular group.

Take time-based snapshots

Every time you ‘save’ the Student Mapping Tool it will create a dated copy in the folder you have created. If your school is refreshing the Tool frequently, to monitor attendance for example, this folder will soon be full of versions of the Tool.

For the purposes of time-based comparison, the following approach is recommended.

  • Select and schedule two times when you will refresh the Tool each year. It is probably most useful to do this early in Term 3, after the mid-year academic results have been entered, and in December when academic results are in CASES21 and attendance/suspensions data has not yet been cleared for the start of the new year.
  • Ask all staff to ensure the columns on the right-hand-side are up to date before you refresh at these two regular times.
  • Only bother to thoroughly colour in the ‘map’ using conditional formatting after these two refreshes.
  • Save these two versions of the Tool each year in a separate folder – perhaps called ‘Tool Archives’.

Now you can use all the skills you learned in Level 2 to compare groups of students across time.  This will be effective for an individual student (how have they progressed in a particular area in the last two years) or a program (the targeted students began our new maths program with an average VELS assessment of x, after a full year their average VELS assessment is y).

Store data on the right-hand side for future reference

If you wanted to monitor the progress of a group of students involved in a maths support program, for example, there is another way to do so. When the students first commence the program, capture their last recorded VELS results.

  1. Enter the code for the support program in the ‘Maths Programs’ column. Let’s call it MC for Maths Champions.
  2. Create a new column on the right-hand side titled something like ‘Maths Champions baseline Feb 08’
  3. Use the filter on the ‘Year Level’ column to select the Year Level(s) at which students are able to participate in the program.
  4. Place the cursor in the first cell in the ‘Number MAT’ column, hold down ‘control’, ‘shift’ and ‘down arrow’ together. This will select all of the cells in the column.
  5. Right-click on the selected cells and choose ‘copy’
  6. Scroll across to the right-hand side, past all of the columns already in use, and place the cursor in the first cell below your new column heading.
  7. Right click on the cell and select ‘paste’.

You now have this baseline data stored for future use. In this instance, you stored the data for the whole year level so that you can easily compare the average VELS progress of those in the program with the average VELS progress of those not in the program. In February the following year, say, you can compare the baseline data with the refreshed data on the Tool.

If you decide to use this approach, you may find the Excel ‘freeze panes’ function useful.

  1. Place the cursor in the first cell of the column TO THE RIGHT OF the one in which you are interested. If you are interested in the ‘Number MAT’ column, you would place the cursor in the first cell of the ‘Progress ‘at risk’ summary’ column.
  2. Click on the ‘View’ tab at the top of the screen.
  3. From the ‘Window’ box, select ‘Freeze panes’
  4. Select the ‘Freeze panes’ option.

As you scroll across, you will find that everything to the left of the column you selected remains on screen while everything to the right scrolls past. You can now position your ‘baseline’ column right beside the ‘Number MAT’ column on screen.


It is strongly recommended that you copy the NAPLAN data for each year level one at a time, and using the techniques above, paste it on the right hand side in a column labelled 'Past NAPLAN'. In this way, past data can be saved from year to year to compare the progress of each student over time.

Remember you can hide these additional columns containing baseline data until you wish to review them.

Report your findings

Every school has a ‘story’ – if you ask the staff, the students and the parents, they will tell you the ‘story’ of the school. Their versions might not all be the same, but there will be some common elements - the school is strong in certain areas, faces particular challenges, is clearly trying to improve in some areas, and is ‘in denial’ about others.

Data is one of the only ways you can change the ‘story’, or the way people perceive your school and its challenges. If you share what you learn through the Tool, you can show that some perceived issues are illusory, some are being successfully addressed, and others are expanding and need urgent attention.

For most audiences, it is important that you do more than quote the statistics. They will need you to include the statistics in a story about the school and its direction. The information will also be more readily absorbed if it is released in small, themed portions.

If you have worked through all the levels of engagement to this point, you are now able to extract an enormous amount of information easily and, as you become familiar with the Tool, rapidly.


Maintain privacy

At all levels of engagement, you must consider the privacy issues associated with the information contained in the tool:

  • Who needs to see the spreadsheet and who just needs to receive whole-school statistics? 
  • Who needs to use the spreadsheet but doesn’t need to see individual student names? 
  • Who needs to see information about all students, and who only needs information on a certain group of students (year level, Koorie, refugee)?
  • Under what circumstances can you share what information in the tool with another organisation? 
  • Your use of the Tool should always comply with the privacy guide to the student mapping tool (Word - 1.5Mb)

Care needs to be taken that the tool is not used to publicly label, stereotype or reduce the school’s expectations of a particular student or group of students.

Get advice

If you need further assistance with the tool, contact: