Forecasting, Excel and Tinkerbell

Anyone who has spoken to me over the last few months has probably learnt two things, I have been working on the Early Years Forecasting Tool refresh and my co-worker is a Tinkerbell obsessed two-year-old.

Although I could probably write quite long blogs on the six, yes six, Tinkerbell movies or working with a two-year-old, I’m going to focus on the Early Years Forecasting Tool instead.

This self-serve tool connects data to generate a childcare profile for every ward in Essex. It provides a picture of future demand over the next 5 years. It also includes insights such as childcare migration between wards, the proportion of children accessing free childcare, SEN data and funding information.

The forecast itself is based on current demand and uptake, estimated and projected populations, planned housing, family composition, funding eligibility and national demand rates adjusted with local intelligence.

The tool has a total of nine separate datasets feeding into it. I felt very much like Tinkerbell, who has visited our home almost daily in the last few months, breaking down, building up and combining elements from the datasets, local knowledge and National Rates into one useful tool. If only I had access to Pixie Dust!

The tool is in its second year and it fulfils the purpose it was created for. The impact of having the tool is noticed by the Early Year’s Team. It is used to write their Five Year Plan, it sits alongside and supports their Annual Report and it is referred to for information on a regular basis.

So why am I still working on it? The tool has the potential to be better. It is currently a long manual process to update. It is such a useful tool that it almost stands in its own way by needing the attention it does. Automating it, even partially, will enable automation of the main Early Years data sets, it will enable quicker report writing and it will enable conversations to be less about when and where we are sourcing data and more about what is the data showing and that’s when a whole new level of magic happens.

So much like the determined tiny fairy who has taken over my house, I have learnt that sometimes just because something is working, it can still be far from its full potential.


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