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D2I news for March: workforce, welcomes, and lots of upcoming work...

Dear Data to Insight colleagues –

Please find below another bundle of news, within which I hope you’ll find something of interest. As always, if you want to talk about this stuff, or have ideas for how we can do useful things – or how you’d like to get involved – then reply to this email and let me know what you’re thinking about.

  1. ChAT and BMt updates

  2. Early Help data standards

  3. Apprenticeships cohort #3

  4. Quality CSC Data

  5. CSC Demand Modelling

  6. RIIA dataset revision

  7. D2I code library and possible website reorganisation

  8. Credits

1. ChAT and BMt updates – including workforce data and some new charts

ChAT and BMt have both been updated this week with the recent Children’s Social Work Workforce data from DfE. The Benchmarking Tool also has an extra Charts (3) tab which allows you to quickly contextualise your LA or region against the background of various greyed-out comparators. The image on the left below shows an LA compared to the other LAs in their region; the image on the right shows an LA, region and England with grey lines behind showing how the other regions compare.

Finally, please note that the CIN/CLA Outcomes publication date has been set for 31/03/2022 – look out for another update to ChAT and BMt shortly after that data release. In the meantime, if you are working with either tool then do let us know about any bugs or unexpected behaviour you find so we can put these right for all users.

2. Early Help data standards – invitation to book a user research interview

We recently welcomed two new colleagues to the D2I “office”, and both will be working on the Early Help data standards project (for which we won funding via DLUHC with the backing of five regional groups plus two London LAs). This is a huge and exciting challenge, and we need to hear from as many people as possible about their local/regional contexts and what they think matters in this area.

So the first phase is user research; what this means is us talking to as many people as possible over the next couple of months and then pulling all those conversations into a synthesis document to report back to stakeholders and agree an approach which we all think will work. The user research output will only be as good as the conversations we are able to have with LAs, so please pass this on to your service leads in Early Help as well as considering contributing yourself.

We’ll chase partner regions for contributors if we don’t hear from enough people in any given region, but we’re also keen to keep people outside the five partner regions in the loop too –please do send us details

3. Apprenticeships cohort #3 – applications opening in April

We’ve been conducting a feedback exercise with learners on the first two cohorts of our Children’s Services Data Analyst L4 apprenticeship, and we think we’re in a position to advertise for a third cohort. We know there will always be some frustrations with a course like this, but we think we’re making headway both on the technical side (helping people get software installed or use web-based alternatives) and the content side (looking to bring in more tailored talks and expanding the variety of datasets to work with). We are also running a monthly management meeting with the provider to ensure we keep the focus on constantly refining and improving the course as it continues to run.

The key details about the upcoming third cohort are:

  • Aiming to open applications in April, with briefing sessions and more email comms

  • Aiming to start learning in June

  • Offering a repeat of the L4 Data Analyst course, targeted at people in data roles looking to expand their skillset and gain a professional qualification in data analysis methods and practices in a children’s services context

  • Supplementing with a L3 Data Professional course, targeted at people who need to work with data in their roles and better understand data visualisation and interpretation, but who may not need the top end of the technical aspects of data analysis, automation, etc. contained in the L4 course

  • As before, both courses are targeted at LAs using Apprenticeship Levy funding so the cost is learning time (approx. 20% of your working week over the duration of the course), not money

  • We are still investigating the possibility of running a part time cohort, but lack numbers currently to run this, so please get in touch with me directly if this would be of interest to you, but please also accept my apologies in advance if we can’t garner enough interest to make it commercially viable for our provider

To register for further updates and direct contact about this when we open applications, please provide your email address at Data Science Apprenticeships | Local gov data science

4. Quality CSC Data – project continuing

Our project to collaboratively develop a Python data cleaning tool for the SSDA903 dataset is live here: SSDA903 Validation Tool ( The team tell me that all the rules we scheduled for development are now coded, so this is a great time to check it out as a complete product – especially if you’re looking to get ahead of the SSDA903 return going live in April. You can use this tool to clean your current year’s SSDA903 dataset mid-year, rather than delaying until the DfE make their return site available, and I’d definitely recommend looking at building it into a monthly process through next year.

The even better news is that we’ll be working to further develop this tool over the coming year. The existing project team and LA analysts will start scoping this out over the next month or so, but we’re also really eager to draw in anyone else who’s interested either in designing/testing or in learning some Python and chipping in on the coding side. This has been a great way for some people to learn new skills for an hour or two each week working with data they know well, and it’s produced one tool already which we think will make a big difference to our data quality work.

The goal for the end of the project will be a more configurable/re-purposable data tool from which analysts can take “building blocks” to create new functionality quickly and share it back to other D2I users. If that doesn’t sound exciting to you, it might be better to say that the first key deliverable will almost certainly be a CIN Census version of the 903 tool.

To read more about the tool and the project, check out the blog I’ve posted here.

5. CSC Demand Modelling – project continuing

The CLA placement modelling tool has seen a couple of tweaks earlier this year, and we’re still looking at how to make it more useful. One of our key bits of learning from the first project was that the Placement Modelling Tool wasn’t intuitive enough, so we were spending a lot of time supporting LAs to get up and running with it; another was that many LAs were more interested in regional capacity than capacity within their own LA’s border. For the next phase of work, we’re therefore looking to focus on turning the Excel tool into a more intuitive and flexible web tool, and also finding a way to get some form of regional support model in place.

Just in case you didn’t already know enough about D2I to last you a lifetime, you might be interested in this blog post I wrote for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ LocalDigital “Council Spotlight” series, which focuses on this project in particular.

6. RIIA dataset revision – a quick heads-up

A very brief note to say that the RIIA quarterly regional dataset is undergoing a revamp – we’re helping document the work being done by colleagues at ADCS, DfE and the regional performance groups, which will hopefully very soon result in a tweaked dataset for this collection. This should make it more useful to service leads and also open up the opportunity to compare your LA’s data to that of LAs outside your immediate region. The main ask from D2I for long-running support is to update the “RIA” tabs in the ChAT to automatically calculate as many measures as possible, and to provide some clear guidance and a FAQ document to help LAs align in their interpretations of the new measures.

More news on all that soon.

7. D2I code library and possible website reorganisation – new web stuff on its way

Another very brief note to say that I’m conscious the outputs from D2I are slightly outgrowing the website we set up in late 2020, so I’m looking to reorganise at some point soon – though not change the location (and there will definitely still be a “Tools” link on the front page and a really obvious way to download our Excel tools).

We’re also looking, with colleagues at Bristol Council, at establishing a code library which can be accessed through the website. This will be for things like snippets of code you’ve written against a CSC management information system/data warehouse, which other LAs might find useful to “borrow”, or report schemas for particular reporting tools that others might find useful. If you have any such bits and pieces that you’re particularly proud of, do feel free to let me know, or just have a think about any preparatory work you might need to do if you wanted to share them, and I’ll write again soon when we’ve finished setting up the right sort of home for them.

8. Credits

Credit for recent improvements to our data tools, and project contributions, is due to colleagues in:



Waltham Forest



City of York





Brighton & Hove



Bath and North East Somerset



Cheshire East


Credit for coding and testing the SSDA903 Validation Tool is due to colleagues in:


Milton Keynes






West Berkshire

Social Finance

And credit for other design work and support on the SSDA903 Validation Tool is also due to colleagues in:




North East Lincolnshire

Brighton and Hove



Isle of Wight


East Sussex


Greater Manchester Combined Authority


Department for Education

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Credit for getting the next year’s funding together is due to colleagues in:

All nine regions, with special thanks to East Sussex for continuing to host the project

Credit for the successful DLUHC bid for the early help work is due to colleagues in:

South East Sector Led Improvement Programme (SESLIP)

East Midlands Data Leads Group (EMDLG)

Association of Directors of Children’s Services North West (ADCS-NW)

Eastern Region Early Help Assistant Directors Group

Association of Directors of Children’s Services North East (ADCS-NE)

Waltham Forest


That’s it! If you have any comments, queries or ideas that you want to share, just let me know.

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