Our high-stakes accountability system has weaponised school data to such an extent that its core purpose – to improve children’s learning opportunities – is often suffocated by league tables, inspection, competition, comparisons, judgements, labels, blame, workload, stress, burnout. None of these are reasons I, nor I suspect anyone else, became a teacher. None are why I left classroom teaching to scale an idea born in my own classroom to help students, teachers and parents (now Learning Ladders).
But I still love data – why?
Because without good data, you cannot have good information. Without clear starting points, you cannot build. And without accurate reflections, you cannot fully grow.
There is a better way. And it’s already happening.
Imagine a school where students are fully involved in their own assessments. They have clear objectives and they know what they need to do to achieve them. They prompt conversations with their teachers, who validate their self-assessment or scaffold their learning further. The children are taking ownership of their assessments (after all, the word itself literally means, ‘to sit beside the learner’). They discuss them and they’re more flexible, resilient learners as a result. This takes much of the burden from teachers. They’re no longer searching for evidence to justify a judgement, they’re reflecting upon great conversations about learning that happen organically.
Imagine in this school that parents and teachers walk hand in hand. Parents know exactly what their children are working on each week (via the online portal). But, they’re then upskilled remotely, on-demand by the system, so they know exactly how to help. Imagine this happens with zero workload for teachers and in over 100 languages. 24/7. The school culture is to talk about signposts. Not labels, flags, not facts, to create ‘great learning conversations’, driven by data insights, professional experience and simple human connections. And of course, we know that such a culture is more likely to lead to wider, deeper, more sustainable success for our children.
This is the school I want for our children. This is why I built Learning Ladders.
At Learning Ladders, we’ve built a platform and way of working that helps create the conditions for this school to exist, for any school to become this school. A platform that includes everything teachers, students, parents, and school leaders need, all in one place, connected, working together. Learning Ladders is probably best known for our super-intuitive assessment databasing and visualisation, but our mission is much wider – to improve conversations about learning and ultimately learning itself. The system makes it possible to gain insights from internal and external assessments: formative, summative, or diagnostic, to build a complete and comprehensive picture of every child, class, year group and school. It makes it simple to customise your teaching and learning. From curriculum design to planning, moderated work, and a database of thousands of resources from partners like BBC Bitesize and Oak National Academy. And we know it works. As well as winning ‘Teacher’s Choice’ Awards, schools tell us the system helps improve attainment, close gaps in learning, and saves money. A study by LSBU showed schools switching to Learning Ladders achieved 100% higher KS2 SATS results within a year.
There is a better way to look at data in education.