A science special with Learning Ladders’ partner Developing Experts

As part of our ongoing Fireside Chat series we shine a light on the fantastic work happening in education and who better to lead the way than our innovative curriculum partner, Developing Experts.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Developing Experts founder, Sarah Mintey, to hear how Developing Experts are breaking new ground in revolutionising the link between curriculum and industry pipelines. Sarah explains her drive to make real the abstract skills taught in science classrooms in an age appropriate way and in the process present options for future education choices within the wider world of industry.

The focus on engaging all stakeholders in students’ education mirrors our own approach to teacher, parent and student involvement in learning. And we’re extremely proud to have links to all of Developing Experts lesson plans and resources in our Curriculum Lab.  Schools can finally achieve impactful curriculum design with our flexible design tools coupled with engaging, real-world resources to bring the curriculum to life.

If you missed the live webinar, catch up with the recording to find out how this partnership is unfolding:


If you’d like to find out more about Learning Ladders’ curriculum design tools, get in touch with the team today.

For more information about Developing Experts, visit their website.

Developing Experts Fireside Chat Webinar Transcript

This is a computed-generated transcription of the webinar is below, for those who may find this useful. Please note these are automated and not checked, so we take no responsibility of errors, inaccuracies or oddities!

Matt (Learning Ladders): Welcome to this webinar from Learning Ladders and Developing Experts.  I’m really excited that we’ve got Sarah from developing expertise here. Sarah and I have known each other for several years and I’ve  always been super impressed by the work that they’re doing, and it goes from strength to strength, so it’ll be fantastic to hear all the latest from her and everything that they’ve been doing, so she’s coming up in a second.

For those of you who are not familiar with Learning Ladders, Learning Ladders is a system that I set up on the former teacher myself here in the UK, and it was a system that we built to try and help schools improve their tracking their data, but also their parental communication and their curriculum design. And that’s the link with Sarah and developing experts. So within the Learning Ladders platform, we’re super proud to have links to all of the Developing Experts resources so you can create your curriculum within Learning Ladders for every single subject and within your science subjects or indeed any other subjects. If you want to signpost your teaching staff to some fantastic resources which really, genuinely will help upskill both expert and non-expert science teachers, then you can embed the developing expertise resources into the Learning Ladders system into your own curriculum sequence. However, you choose to set up your curriculum across the whole primary, and you’ll be able to view those within the system and then track children’s progress in the normal way within Learning Ladders. So that’s that’s the connection between the two systems.

If you’re interested in understanding a little bit more about how that works, if you’re an existing customer and you want to switch on that feature, it’s called the Curriculum Lab within Learning Ladders. If you’re a customer already and you want to switch that on, just drop us a note support@learningladders.info And obviously, if you’re not an existing customer, contact hello@learningladders.info and we can get you set up very quickly as well. So that’s that’s the connection between the two systems.

This webinar and this sort of fireside chat is also part of an ongoing series that we’re really proud to do. So we’re passionate educators at Learning Ladders, like I said, former teacher here myself. So we’re really privileged that we connect with lots of amazing people across a huge spectrum, both in the UK and globally. And we really like to shine a light on some of the fantastic work that we think people are doing. So over the last few months, we’ve had fantastic sessions from a number of people covering everything from teaching, e-mail and linguistic diversity wellbeing in international schools, looking at data in a slightly different way in terms of thinking about children’s wellbeing as well. We’ve even covered classroom design and set up with Professor Stephen Heppell, as well other partners like High-Performance Learning. We’ve had Professor Deborah come on as well. So the recordings of all of those sessions are on on the Learning Ladders website, which is Learningladders.info/news.

But today, like I said, we’ve got Sarah to MBE no less. So congratulations on that as well who’s joining us and she’s going to give us a bit of a a tour through developing experts and a bit of a sort of introduction to to their journey and stuff. So without further ado, Sarah, hopefully you’re you’re online and I can get you to reveal yourself in a big reveal. Thank you for joining us. I don’t think I’ve actually congratulated you on your MBE as well. It’s nice to have somebody, (I don’t want to be too political), but it’s nice to have somebody get a get an award like that in education for something that’s deserved rather than some of the recent controversy. And I won’t drag you into that one, but congratulations for everything that you do and have done in education so overdue.

Maybe the first question is maybe just tell us a little bit about your your journey in education and how you arrived at founding and setting up developing experts.

Sarah (Developing Experts): Thanks, Matt, and thanks for having me on today. Really excited to be here and delighted to see how the partnership is unfolding as well with Learning Ladders. Yeah, I was a former head teacher when I decided I wanted to set this company up and I was researching as one of my jobs and the need for setting up a free school in Great Yarmouth. And when I was researching it, this is back. In 2015, I discovered that every hairdressing vacancy that existed, there were 10 kids qualified. And yet for every level two engineering posts, there wasn’t a single young person in the town that have the qualifications they needed to access this opportunity, and it made me realise that there was a real disconnect between what we are teaching, what I was teaching in the classroom and what my colleagues were teaching in the classroom and what the needs were of a local economy. And so I wanted to do is actually create a solution that joined together the silos that exist in society. And when I say silos, I mean pupils, students, parents, trying pathway providers, employers and governments in order to enable them to talk to each other in order to make the whole system join up. And I thought if I was designing a solution that really met the needs of everyone in society, what would that solution look like? And I came up with a science curriculum for children ages four to 16 years and a careers platform for the whole family.

And just to illustrate it and put an industry slant on it. There are currently seven nuclear power stations in the UK. six of which are open and operational, and one of those is currently under construction. And Hinkley Point C is the largest construction site in Europe, has over 25000 employees on that site presently. And if you look at the average age of the station managers for those plants that are open operational, we know that the next station manager is currently age seven and they’re in year four at school. So what we do is product place, the industry of nuclear or whatever the industry is in order to enable career choice to no longer be left to chance for young people and their families to make informed choices about their futures. Now we’re working with an assortment of different sector bodies now, so we’re working with nuclear, we’re working with rail, we’re working with offshore wind, we’re working with horticulture in order to actually just showcase those industries. And if we take rail, for instance, I didn’t know much about this before I started the business, but there are 15000 different job disciplines in the rail industry alone. The average worker currently is 54 years old, and so that means that around nine years time, because they’re having to maintain a digital system, analogue system, the infrastructure in the UK alone, there is going to be a real need to recruit staff, and they actually don’t know where they will get that future workforce from. Covid has put a spanner in the works because it’s actually changed what the workforce needs are in the immediate future. But in nine years time, that problem does not change. And so, you know, when they were 15000 different jobs in the rail industry alone, how could anyone outside of rail sell rail to a young person to an adult, so they are making a choice about that industry?

And you know, I speak to some teachers and they’re trained as maths teachers or trained geographers, whatever that discipline is. And all of a sudden at key stage three, they’re having to be judged on how good they are teaching careers and to sell any sector that is a huge burden on the teacher on top of the day job. And so what I wanted to do is just enable teachers not only to teach the subject with confidence and ease, but do it in a way that enabled them just to deliver careers in a way that is super engaging.

So if I just share my screen with you. So here this is just our home page. So if we go in now, Covid sort of held up some of the plans that we had for the site because we’ve struggled to access the workplaces. So, over the next month alone, we’ve got 12 filming days with industry partners, and those partners include brands like Rolls-Royce, Network Rail, Sellafield. There’s some big brands in there. We’re filming down the Jurrasic coast as well. It’s a really exciting road trip month, to be honest with you. But when we design a unit, what we’ll do is actually make it really clear how the unit complements the Gatsby benchmarks and how the teacher can deliver those gaps with confidence and ease. And what we’ll do is actually feature the actual experts that appear in the lesson or unit of lessons. So we do it in a way that shows intent and in a way that builds the lesson, so it’s sequenced and then you’ll see that we’ve got a series of questions that we build on that we revisit in a way that just makes it super clear, but it’s like going to one of the lessons that comes with everything.

If I go into one of the units and just scroll down a little bit, you’ve got talking heads embedded in the 360 and what these talking heads do is just answer six questions and they unpack what a typical day looks like in industry. And then the experts, what they’ll do in another following slide, they will talk about the applications of the concepts being taught in that lesson in the world of work. So if a child finds the topic of magnetism fascinating immediately, they can say what how it relates to the world of work. And if I come out of there, the bottom of each lesson what we’ve been done to make it really clear, we then actually signpost into our careers library. So we’ve got over a thousand different job career profiles featured in the careers library. And that’s what we do is basically enable a young person in a specific postcode to see what training pathway they need to take and what courses that are that are relevant to them in that area. What small/medium enterprises in the area have jobs that relate to that particular expert that features within that lesson. Now there is tons of stuff within the platform, and possibly I can look at that in other areas, but I hope that answers your question.

Matt: Thank you for that. I was reading this thing, I remember seeing early early doors when you launch and stuff and just falling in love with the name of Discovering Experts, I think it captures kind of a lot of a lot of what you guys do. I love the idea of being able to find an expert who can just really make real those somewhat slightly abstract skills.

How do you go about finding experts for such a broad curriculum?

Sarah: We we do it in two ways now. And so we were actually commissioned by the rail board, for example, and they’ve got around 20 table companies that work with them. And as part of the contract with that sector body, we are asked to showcase. So when we take on a new filming partner, what we do is we’re in the process of overhauling everything again. So we really want to keep content fresh to renew it frequently. And we write a series, our unit of lessons. We then script everything and say, we’re looking at how we can revisit the keywords, the specialist language through that, you know, and interweave it through that series of lessons within a writing with scripts to make sure it complements and uses that key language. And we’re making sure that the language used in the scripts for the lessons is age appropriate. So to actually prepare for a day of filming is is quite a big task for us because we actually do so much planning now to make sure everything is interwoven in a way to make sure that teachers, parents and pupils are learning alongside each other.

We have heads now come back to us and say it feels more like a CPD material because it’s upskilling teachers knowledge as much as pupils and parents knowledge. And and that’s what I want to do from the outset. I mean, when you look at some of the data, 25 percent of kids are actually making choices based on what the parents are advising them to do. So if a parent is a doctor, what are they going to do? They’re going to push what they’re familiar with. And it’s a bit like me as a former teacher, and I’m sure you are the same. I’m a graduate. I’m familiar with that whole graduate training pathway. And yet there are amazing apprenticeship pathways that I know nothing or knew nothing about before I started this industry in rail or any of these sectors that I’m working with there. You have an amazing process of training where you actually do a rotation around several industry partners somewhere abroad, somewhere in the UK. Had I seen what that training experience looked like, have I been able to listen to some of the experts? We’ve not got the privilege of of filming before I chose to be a teacher, even though I loved teaching. I probably would not be a teacher know because it was never explained to me what that pathway looked like. So we spend a lot of time now working out how to tell the story. And so and it’s all down to the planning to make sure that we make that system and make those links for the viewers.

We’ve also got a tagging system as well. So for any content that we’re producing on the platform, what we’re doing is tagging career profiles and then links to other 360s. And we’ve got a huge upgrade that we’re launching this summer. And as part of that, what teachers will be able to do is actually create their own content on the platform. But then tag it or we tag it (the system does it automatically for you), and it automates that Gatsby benchmark delivery. So it’s actually really focussing on how to make those connections with employees, how to link with the curriculum, how to showcase those training pathways. The system does it for the teacher, but does it with bells and whistles in a way that I could never have done as a teacher. Because when we when we speak to industry partners, we’re saying, right, we want you to give us, give us employees that are really good storytellers that know the industry insiders. But then we were also wanting that message of diversity to celebrate the breadth and depth and aspiration of the industry as well so that young people have the role models. They need to think, Oh, I can do this, you know, and some of the work we’re doing now, which has been contracted by Bose to deliver a piece of work that looks a hand to support adults and parents to transfer from one sector to another sector. So if their career starts his or career changes, there’s a whole range of things you know that we’re doing and upgrading this summer that will really make this a very powerful tool, not just the teacher, but also for a parent and and young person,

Matt: Me as the son of a university lecturer who went into education, I think if you do a teacher type survey, I’m sure they’ve done it before actually, how many serving teachers have at least one parent who is a serving teacher? The numbers are very, very high.

I can see some people starting to get involved in the chat. If you have a question for Sarah, then put it into the Q&A and I’ll cover those off live and weave them into the chat. One of the other things I wanted I noticed I can just see from recognising some of the names we’ve got people from from around the world so do add in the conversation because I know the materials are relevant.

The other thing, I suppose from my point of view and I just wanted to touch on is a lot of the schools that we were the Learning Ladders, as well as being in the sort of state sector in the maintained sector in both both sectors now have different challenges. One of the things I suppose touching on, possibly just after Women’s Day as well, which is always a good one in terms of showcasing diversity to different types of children within the schools. And I know that’s something that you’ve looked at before, just looking at some of these things and without sounding overly patronising, probably as a as a well known female founder, is that something that you guys try and weave in there as well? Because there’s always a constant sort of general simplistic conversation, not enough girls in stem type stuff, you know, is this going to help schools address that as well?

Sarah: It’s actually one of our limits. And so the offshore wind sector deal, they’ve actually got a target of creating two hundred seventy six thousand jobs by 2030 and 40 percent of those employees, the jobs they’re having to create need to be BAME female. And so what we do as part of our unit and showcase for that industry and what we do is make sure that it’s aligned to the aspirations of the industry and the targets.  So there are six industry experts positioned in the unit. What we’ll do is make sure at least two of the six are BAME female to make sure that the role model is there and if we can push them. So it’s even higher than that because you need to compensate to get to that target and we will do so. That is something that we always ask our partners because we’re very mindful that we need to just encourage school girls to show them what is possible and show them that this is the norm and this is OK for them. And so, yeah, it’s definitely one of my priorities.

Matt: That I know will be super important to our members as well, because whenever we do a webinar to do with the diversity or multi-lingual cultures, it’s always incredibly well attended. And another friend of ours, you may know Dr Ger Graus from KidZania, really interesting company of sort of activity centres in shopping malls, but they have an education department, which is what he runs, and he always says that they have flight simulators and all the boys always turn left to the cockpit, and all the girls always turn right to the to the body of the plane, if you like. And I think they have a phrase that children can’t aspire to be something unless they know it exists. So this kind of work, I think, is fantastic.

Sarah: One of the things that we’re doing because we’re using a product overseas now, we’ve got transcripts that we’re overlaying on all the films. And although the functions not there by April, it will be it’s going live shortly. You can actually just select the language that you want the transcript to appear in and then it will just, yeah, translate and convert. It’s the language of choice.

Matt: That’s fantastic. We have the same in Learning Ladders, but I it’s one of the most popular features, particularly for remote learning with parents. So if you know, if they’re accessing something like this in English is not their first language. They might have great conversational English, but the terminology may be quite specific and first time they’ve encountered in this stuff. So that’s fantastic.

Another thing I wanted to ask. I remember again being really impressed right in the early days is the very, very high production values. I remember your early promotional videos looked very much like a BBC sort of nature documentary, and you had your fantastic scientist guy at some of the exhibitions and stuff. Are you still managing to keep those values as high now? You’re growing, and there’s so many things going on?

Sarah: Our brand name really embodies the aspiration of the company as well developing experts and to develop those experts for the future you need to showcase the experts in the present. And so, Mike Lindley, you’re referring to? Yeah, he was one of the first scientific advisers, totally inspirational guy. And we still work with him. And he’s just a great storyteller because he used to work for the BBC and with the Muppets and all sorts. So this portfolio is amazing. But what we’re doing now is really, Professor Launa Dawson is one of the experts that appears in Soil Scientist in year 6, she is a forensic soil scientist for the Scottish Government. When you listen to her tell her story about how she became what she became you want to become a soil scientist. So we are very much about that because what we’re trying to do is just get some great sales people on the platform who are real experts in their industry that can sell the industry in a way that brings it to life.

Because parents will sell teachers, they will sell what they’re familiar with. And so what we’ve got to do is infiltrate that circle of influence in a way that enables parents and teachers and young people to see what’s possible beyond what they see around them and say for us, we’ve got to really make the facts that tell that story in a way that’s totally inspiring and engaging. And I know some of the people that we’re filming with this month, I’m looking forward to visiting the lessons

Matt: I think it’s so critical as well. You know, when you’re inspiring the next generation, you’ve got to you’ve got to showcase the best of the best. So that’s that’s always been an amazing thing. Probably what would be useful, I think maybe for the people on the on the session as well as let me just go back to being a classroom teacher and put my hat on here. I may feel slightly confident teaching certain elements of the curriculum, but if I’m what would be my journey if I’m if I’m looking at a curriculum topic, then I’m not quite so familiar with and I’m not quite so confident, sort of almost from from start to finish with the support of the developing expertise resources.

Sarah: I’ll log in and just show you how easy it is to set up a course because it’s it’s very simple as a teacher just to and the site’s intuitive as well. So what we’re looking to do is just make the whole look in and setup process super easy that we partner with Wand in order to enable schools to integrate their their data with the click of a button. So if you are using one, does the school already. You can simply click that button immediately. Your pupil info, teacher info and class info just imports a click of a button.

If you go into the units and you’ve then got all the groups there for science, so it’s really easy. And if you’re wanting a particular unit or group, you literally just press and it’s all sequence, all aligned to the national curriculum. And that will then basically bring up your class so you can actually select the class that you want to assign that course to and then it’s hooked into the class. Now, if I go into a class, here’s what I compared earlier. What you can then do is once you’ve set it up, you can actually change the dates. So if you don’t want if you want the pupils to access before or after, depending on whether you want to flip them or not, you can do. So it’s really easy to make sure you control when the content is released.

If you want to share via Google Classroom, you can do it just by clicking the button. But once you’ve taught the lesson, it’s then assigned into the pupil zone. And so it’s just all there and all of the previous lessons that have been assigned to the pupil. Immediately, they can see all the historical lessons and, you know, we’re just looking at how we can just gamify this more and more. So we’ve got a whole range of features going like this summer. But you know, why don’t you go into an area, then this is what the kids can access from home.  So it’s reallythe same, you know what you see in the classrooms, the teacher, it just makes it super easy if they want to go to the lesson plans that parents can see what’s been taught, how it’s been taught, it’s there. If they, you know, use the dog ate my homework, their excuse can’t be used because they can click the button and then download the feature. But then they can actually do the interactive quizzes. And the great thing about the quizzes is it immediately feeds into the teacher dashboard so you can see whether and who in the class is actually completed, the task and how they’ve done immediately.

Because we place a focus on literacy and one of the things that we do as part of science. If the question is answered incorrectly, it will take people back to the point in the story terms. Is it the answer in context? So you immediately have an idea of what their grasp is, how to spell the words. We’ve got games, we’re adding to that this summer, but you can actually take part in competitions across a whole class, across your school, across your country in order to gamified that whole experience. And from the area, they can go into the crazy science. Now we’re delighted to have formed a partnership with Microsoft Learning, who have given us access to our 11000 assets that are free via our platform that not we paid for and that linked in resources. So it’s just a great way to give your pupils access to a huge range of world leaders through that link. But then we’ve got the rail links as well showcased as well as the the grey zone. If I go into the grey zone from from this area again, they can dig and look at the database so they can actually see the files and different profiles that we’ve got and within. That’s what it will do is provide and showcase complementary careers as they’re scrolling through job vacancies, events they can attend. So there’s a whole range of ways that we just make it easy for the teacher. Once you’ve actually signed and hooked up that course, you’re good to go. It’s that’s easy and we actually have a man chat as well. So if you need support to talk through, if you’ve got questions, you’re not sure how to quite set. You just pop your question in the chats and someone’s there to answer.

Matt: For schools who are using that, who are looking at it within the Learning Ladders platform, that’s what you will get directed to. So you will put through the Curriculum Lab. You will be able to see all of the Developing Expert resources, which will be filtered by the various topics and various year groups. You can link them into your curriculum over your existing curriculum or a different sequence if you’re looking at it, and then it will pass you over to Developing Experts and you can do all this great stuff within developing experts. Still within whatever sequence, whatever curriculum and obviously all the resources are benchmarks against various different curricula.

Same as in Learning Ladders. If you’re a British curriculum, that’s fine. If your American curriculum, Indian curriculum, that’s that’s all fine. So we get asked quite often when we when we talk about the fact that you can do this with with developing experts. From our perspective, most of our schools want to create a curriculum framework, so they’re really interested in the science as an example. You know what? What’s the sequence of learning around the broad topics and the objectives that they have within the Learning Ladders system will be summary objectives around relatively be top line objectives that I know this particular thing or I can do this particular skill. But then in terms of actually bringing that to life, this is this is our sort of recommendation to really do have a look at the developing experts resources rather than ferreting around the internet, trying to reinvent the wheel or find something because all the work has been done for you to a very, very high quality and you can then link them back through. So that’s kind of how it works between the two platforms. That’s why we invited Sarah, and I think it’s really good for people to actually see because sometimes when we talk about it, I think people think the resources might be, on the on website or the odd quiz or something like that. I think it’s really good to show you quite the depth and breadth of and quality of stuff that’s available there.

Sarah: So I think it’s worth mentioning maths as well. But schools can actually subscribe annually to the service for £100. That’s the flat rate. And so what we’re trying to do is build the best curriculum product at the cheapest price in order just to support schools. So you can set up as many teacher accounts, parent accounts, pupil accounts as you want for out. So it’s yeah, it’s all about just making a commitment to using the resources rather than selling resources.

Matt: It’s a no brainer. As a former teacher who struggled with the odd science lesson here and there, it’s a no brainer. And it’d be really nice as well to to see different things in different ways of teaching different things. As I suspect as primary teachers, we tend to default to the same ways of teaching certain topics and stuff time and time again.  I’m going to give everybody a last chance to ask any questions. I know sometimes people are shy on asking questions, and once the first one comes in, then there will be inundated. So we’re going to probably close this off in a couple of minutes if nobody has any questions. How can people get hold of developing experts or yourself afterwards if they want to follow this up?

Sarah: I’ll put the web site address in the chat.

Matt: We’ll send it around. So afterwards, everybody who’s been on the webinar we’ll send it around as well. So if you’re watching a recording of this, if you scroll down to the bottom will put a link on there as well so you can get through to those people and teachers.

Sarah: Schools can set up free accounts, try before they buy. We want to make sure there’s a good fit for the school, so there is no hard sell at all. This is about making sure that this is a product of teachers who feel confident using.

Matt: I think I’ve done more of a hard sell than you ever do, so hopefully they will get some people over to you. And that was that’s that’s really useful. I’m going to draw that to a place that was really useful, and I can’t believe that there are fourteen thousand nine hundred ninety nine jobs, I should have trained as a driver in the rail industry.  Really, really interesting to chat. As always, thank you so much for giving up your time.

If you want to activate the Curriculum Lab or be shown how that Curriculum Lab works, which has resources from developing experts, also from BBC Bite-Size, from Oak National Academy in there as well.



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