The ‘Good’ of school data, with Matthew Savage & Katie Edwards

**Please note that this event will now be rescheduled to a more convenient time during school term – details to follow…**


Following on from our hugely popular fireside chat ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of school data” with Matthew and Jeni Dellman, this time we’re shining a light on best practice – the ‘Good’.

How can schools use data to see and support the whole child?

Register here to join Matthew Savage, Katie Edwards (from British School Muscat) and Matt Koster-Marcon for this live interactive session, or to get sent a recording afterwards.


Wellbeing in International Schools

Picture of Dr Sadie Hollins, editor of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine

We were delighted to host Dr Sadie Hollins, co-founder of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine, for our latest ‘fireside chat’ webinar.

Wellbeing is something we’re aiming to make part of every school’s thinking by including PASS Diagnostic Assessment data within our Data Dashboard to give a whole picture of the child (for more on using data for wellbeing watch our webinar with Matthew Savage here).

For this session we explored why Sadie set up the magazine, her hopes for the future, and explored some of the challenges associated with improving wellbeing in international schools, indeed in any school.

I’m delighted to say it was such a successful session that Sadie is going to write a blog for us, AND we’ll be doing a follow-up chat shortly.  Please add your email in the screen below and we’ll keep you posted on both of these.

I hope you enjoy the session and find it informative. It’s about an hour long, so grab a drink and pair of headphones and dive in!


Further information and references:

You can contact Dr Sadie Hollins via her website here and she’s also on Twitter here.

You can contact Matt via LinkedIn or Twitter.

To see how you can incorporate student wellbeing data into your practice using PASS diagnostic assessments on the Data Dashboard, set up a call with Stella here.

The latest edition of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine is online here.


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!


Wellbeing in International Schools, with Dr Sadie Hollins and Matthew Koster-Marcon

Speaker 2 (Matt): Fantastic, so obvious, obvious first question, then is why set up a wellbeing in international schools magazine in the first place?
Speaker 1 (Sadie) : It is a good question, and it originally started as it’s a bit of a pandemic, baby. To be honest, how it originally started as a newsletter that I set up at my school, which was a wellbeing newsletter when we first went online and at the time, I kind of wanted to find a way to provide support to students and parents in a really accessible way that would allow them to engage in their own terms. So I thought news that it would be cool. We could have articles from students, from teachers. And then we also had, like all people present, offered some advice. School counsellors. And it felt at the time something that people did engage with. They did find helpful. It was really nice to get students that wanted to share the sorts of things that they were doing to help manage that transition to being online and kind of been isolated really from their friends and being at home while they were learning. So that kind of started it. I just really, really enjoyed doing it. And then I guess the other piece is I kind of worked in a support role, an international school, and I found like, like interesting how complex it is to provide support in some way. Like, I felt like international school was a kind of their own island. So sometimes there isn’t loads of external services and sometimes there is no counselling, referral system or whatever it is. And I felt like quite alone in the kind of support that I was trying to give students. And also, I was just trying to understand, you know, the well-being within the context of the different students and nationalities, the cultures, the families that we had, our particular school. And I always found the counselling meetings that we had here in Chiang Mai, where I was learning from other counsellors really, really helpful. And I guess I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to kind of bring that together and to have people share things that they found useful in their settings so people didn’t feel so isolated and alone when your staff, particularly in these support roles? So that’s kind of how it started. I just kind of had a curiosity to learn really and then to bring things together from different perspectives. So that’s kind of how it kicked off.
Speaker 2: And then in terms of putting together the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, obviously, and will we’ll add a link to the magazine at the end of the session, so everybody who’s on the webinar now will send you a link to the magazine and we’ll send you the recording of this afterwards. And I should say, by the way, if you have questions, do tie them in the Q&A and we’ll cover those as well. But presumably is setting up a new magazine is exciting. It’s daunting. How on earth do you decide what goes in your first issue?
Speaker 1: So if I went back to the first one, it’s thought the reason is why is education in it? And I thought it made sense. It was a good name at the time. I thought it had a role personally on a dog walk that stood for like well-being and international school education. So it initially started as that. And I guess when it came to the first issue, I just begged my friends to write for me. So I had friends that were teachers in different settings and counsellors in different settings that I asked them really to write about things that they were interested in and they thought that they could offer. So I dragged and my wife dragged in by my boss and then other friends, and we’ve been really fortunate as the magazine has gone on. So that had four issues, as well as education, which is available the School Management Plus website with the the new Wellbeing and International School magazine. And then I guess I really tried to hit social media hard and share in lots of different places and actually reach out to a lot of people that I’d seen on Twitter or linked in that I thought were doing some interesting work. Initially, I was asking a lot of people, Will you write to me? Will you write for me some success? No, no, not hundred percent success. And yes, people were really generous and did offer up their time to write, and that was really, really cool. And then I guess as things about I’ve grown a bit more, we’ve been getting more submissions, which is fantastic. It’s a really, really great submissions and I feel fortunate that it kind of it. It naturally comes together. So like lots of people offered lots of different perspectives. We try and put cool articles out in lots of different places. So whether it’s internet history, school educator groups, whether we’re talking it in peer groups, whether it’s council groups to make sure that we’re getting lots of different perspectives. So I guess we’re kind of seeing what comes in to make sure that appeals to a wide range of people in a wide range of roles. I always really thought, I guess, the the complexity of the issue sometimes of wellbeing, as people might assume, it’s one particular thing like, you know, it’s mindfulness or it’s at the other, and it just engages other people that are not into that. And I felt like if you get lots of different angles, there should be something for everyone. And, you know, maybe you’ve gone and you’ve got particular interest in mindfulness, but then you come out and actually outdoor play is something that you haven’t thought about before, but you maybe this is an not that you become interested in. So I guess we try and have no particular themes for that reason to make sure that there is something for everyone in each.
Speaker 2: This is going to try a bit of an experiment, we’ve never done this before, so it may fall flat on its face, but you mentioned about getting the message out there through social media and stuff, and I’m wondering for the people on the on the webinar stuff, if you have any really good social media handles or hashtags or groups that you want to share and and give some visibility to to people on the call and put them in the in the chat will collate them afterwards and share them as part of the sharing. Because sometimes I think that’s also half the battle it’s finding everybody else is kind of interesting. One of the things I wanted to pick up on from your intro was this sense of being alone in an international school and not maybe having the support network, possibly where you’ve trained in the stuff. How how do you how do you see the magazine helping get over that? And how did you want this to go beyond the magazine? Is this sort of, you know, a more collegiate approach, sort of, you know, a community of building up in this kind of area because that, to me, sounds like something that we hear reflected a lot. It’s quite difficult when you’re in international school sometimes to do these kind of things in isolation.
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. I think I guess my grand vision is to create a community of some sense. I think what I would love is people to read the magazine and maybe become interested in someone else’s work. Follow them on their social media handles, which are which are in the magazine. And I guess from there, like what’s been really nice to see is I see something posted on own from a country to that we’ve had, and then I see contributors from other issues that commented and because they’ve kind of seen each other’s work through the magazine. And then it starts to be like a really nice support system that goes on organically outside of the magazine. So that I think that is kind of what I’ve really, really appreciated seeing. I just feel like the magazine to me. I’m not a wellbeing expert. I partly selfishly use it to really learn and write. And I think what’s really interesting and I hope it does, is allow people to kind of champion each other’s work and engage in each other’s work. And you know, I’ve I’ve had articles where I’ve gone in and talked about it with my colleagues, and that’s the sort of thing where I think, Yeah, I’m taking someone’s stuff and really passing that on because I think that’s that’s really good. And that’s that’s what I hope the magazine will be and what it will do. And and by actually doing that and and sharing people’s work that it will build a sense of kind of community, I guess.
Speaker 2: And that makes sense. All right, well, again, like I said, if you if anybody was to share anything and put it in the chat world will amplify that and share our stories and we’re starting to get some questions come in around Wellbeing in International Schools. So let me let me sort of address them as they come in because I suspect once we get going, the questions will fly. So one from Debbie does. One is how do you feel about strategy for well-being? Did you sense at some point one was needed?
Speaker 1: Oh, good question, Debbie. I I guess my personal perspective is I don’t know if this reflects my personality a little bit like it. I have lots of different diverse range of interests, so I guess I maybe don’t feel like there is a particular programme or strategy for me that might solve the issue or the problem or not, even the problem that the subject of well-being. But I think it’s there lots of lots of little things that make a difference, right? And I think it’s great when schools have a comprehensive and consistent programme. But I think there’s often lots of different elements that make a difference. So you could have a great school programme. But really, it’s your student teacher relationships that are particularly memorable. Or that might be the things that help the school work really resonate with students. Or perhaps the fun runs that you do every year and the kind of community events that you have building up to that are what helps create an environment where people feel a part of the school, which also impacts on the well-being, or whether it’s the sports programmes for the students that really love that sort of thing where they get a real sense of not achievement, but then where they really grow their confidence and make friends and stuff like that. So I think there’s so many different layers and elements to it. I don’t think, is it necessary for me strategy, but I think it can be part of a bigger picture for sure and add a lot of value.
Speaker 2: It’s something probably in the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, maybe somewhere else that the recommendation is that a school should have a counsellor or an expert for every 250 students. Is that something that you see starting to happen or are we a long way away from that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, great question. I think it’s starting to happen in the international schools, I think people were really seeing the the need for it. I guess partly the pressure will come from accrediting agencies and really pushing that requirement about stronger support provision within schools and that including school counsellors. I’m seeing a lot of wellbeing or mental health and wellbeing leads in schools. I know that’s kind of I think that’s picking up in the UK, but I’m also seeing it in schools within Asia. So I definitely think that schools are recognising that that that that provision needs to to be in place more more now than ever, I think, because of the pandemic. I think there might be schools that were doing it well before that are doing really well now and the schools that didn’t have it before. I think now more than ever that as we real need for it.
Speaker 2: I mean, I think that it’s interesting, it’s it’s very similar observation to a previous speaker we’ve had on who he talked about very much the schools that had this kind of ethos embedded in the way that they run as a school were able to adapt to the challenge of pandemic much, much better. So other schools are sort of playing catch up, but it’s never too late. So what’s what’s the what’s the the quote? The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today or something. So it’s probably there. I’m OK. That’s good. Thank you. There’s another question that’s coming in. How do you encode? This is really interesting because this this touches on what Matthew says in his article as well about well-being. He’s sort of arguing needs to be, rather than an intervention, woven woven into everything in the fabric of it. So the question coming in, I don’t have a name of right. How do you incorporate wellbeing within the curriculum for international schools?
Speaker 1: Oh, it’s such a good question, I guess I don’t know the answer. If I if I’m honest, I think there are curriculums are already out there. I know Oxford University Press already got a wellbeing curriculum and Adrian Pune’s is is a big part of that work and he does a lot great work within the area of wellbeing and it was actually a discussion I was having with someone the other day about how do you make it not like, I guess, what you can feel like. It sometimes doesn’t add on less than like, how do we begin to, you know, curriculum lessons? How do you wade into how your physics teacher and your touched on something that might be related to wellbeing? And I guess I’m I’m not sure of the answer, exactly. I think it’s worth looking at the different curriculums out there. But I guess even within that, it’s thinking, would that work for the context? I mean, you know, you can have the best programme in the world, the best resources in the world. But if it doesn’t gel and you don’t get buy in, it’s kind of like it’s a non-starter. And I think maybe it’s to see actually where where are your issues like what are the things that are impacting on wellbeing to start with? And what does a school culture feel like? What are the social norms that are at the school? How does that impact on how students feel staff? So that’s kind of important. First, to get that right and then to also look at how wellbeing as a curriculum, because I think within that there’s there’s a bus to be had about wellbeing being skills, because when that happens, sometimes you’re putting the emphasis on that’s something that the individual has to develop. When is it about a social system and an environment? And I think it has to be both right. So that’s a really poor answer. But I think you have to look at the other things that are in place first. But I would definitely look at some of the questions that are already out there.
Speaker 2: So in terms of then embedding it in a school would would you if you’re sort of, you know, if you’re offering someone some advice about trying to embed it in a school and where they would start, would you be starting to think about the curriculum? Would you be thinking about the ethos of the school? Where would you suggest people direct their efforts, I guess, to start with?
Speaker 1: I think for me, it would be. The ethos of the school, I think that has to be the starting place, and we’re really lucky Sean may write a really good article and the last issue of the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, which which talks about this, as she was saying, you can have the best programme in the world, but if you’re not getting by in and if if the mission and vision and the understanding what well-being is and what you’re trying to improve or what you’re trying to create or what you’re trying to offer isn’t agreed upon by all stakeholders, then it’s really hard to get any further. So it’s great having, you know, resources lesson information, better information perhaps isn’t compounded by what’s going on at home. Or if you’re not sharing with that with families and parents, then it can only go so far. So I think for me, it would definitely be the ethos within the school first.
Speaker 2: And I’m again, for what it’s worth, the schools that we work with, I think that’s echoed in some of the stuff that we see. The thing that you touched on there is interesting. I want to explore that as well. How important is it that this this this effort that you put around well-being doesn’t finish at the school gates, that that involves the whole community at home, the families, you know, the wider community. How how do you sort of address and look at that as well?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I mean, it’s so, so important. I think I think also, I guess taking another slightly different look at it is also looking at the challenges that the parents and families are facing. It is hard for them to be supportive. You know, if they they will visit their families, but you know, if they’ve got their own stuff going on and then understanding, you know, if they’ve got the support systems in place or whatever it is, if they don’t have that, it’s very hard for them to then help the students. I think that’s the same staff wellbeing. If they don’t feel CAT4, they don’t feel they have that support in place. It’s really hard for that to to model and to provide that support to others without burning out. So I know a lot of counsellors offer some great kind of sessions to two families. And I guess it’s it’s just finding a way to get parents to come in and start discussing some of these issues and finding that hook. So whatever it is, it’s going on. That time might be particularly topical for that sort of school community, and I’m taking it from there and exploring other things that might also be helpful. So I think, yeah, for sure. Finding ways to get common ground, find a way to understand parents. And I guess not assuming that we think. I don’t I think it’s very easy to to make assumptions about what’s going on with parents, particularly in international schools, where there is a lot of money, people can be quite well off. I think the shame, you know, they’ve got everything, can we make all these assumptions? I don’t think they’re necessarily true. So I think it’s really building that understanding first and doing that by finding ways to bring them into school, to have those discussions, to actually to build the trust between the schools and families because it’s quite vulnerable to also kind of share that you’re struggling or even wanting to have a topic to discuss, you kind of implying that you might be struggling with it. So I think it’s really important to build that trust as well.
Speaker 2: I mean, that’s that makes complete sense. That’s exactly the reason why I set up Learning Ladders in the first place, it was not an international context. It was in Camden, which is slightly less glamorous than where most of the people on this call are. But it was the whole point of setting it out. Was that home school collaboration this idea that, you know, we’re in it together, and if we can understand each other a bit better and collaborate, and if parents can understand what, as the teacher, I’m trying to achieve from a teaching and learning perspective. But if I can support you at home from a teaching learning perspective and understand some of your challenges in doing that, then we have a stronger bond and then we can tackle the wider issues. And then interestingly, all schools, because we spend so much time doing this homeschool interaction, the thing that crops up time and time again, the thing they love about that system is it then frees up the parents evenings to be the higher value conversation about well-being. It’s kind of gone full circle. It’s interesting because all the academic stuff is done through art through a platform. It’s digitised, it’s ongoing. It’s there. When you have that big parent meeting the opportunity there, you’re not wasting it by saying, Oh, I’ve noticed that they don’t understand this particular part of the curriculum or they’re behind here or they’re behind that because you’ve done that already. That can be done already. You’re actually having the much higher value. Let’s understand the personalities involved, the context, what’s going on with you. So 100 percent agreement with that sort of things and it fits with what we’ve experienced. Collaborating as a community, as I’ve said, is I’m very glad that you said that that would have been awkward otherwise. All right. Another question has come in. So let’s let’s go to that one. I keep on with the questions. I don’t have a name for this one either, I’m afraid. What methods would you suggest to monitor wellbeing across the school? Please give suggestions for staff and students, and this probably touches on what you were talking about before. As soon as you add it into a curriculum or add it into anything formal, then there comes the the sometimes the the slight danger of of monitoring, measuring, reporting. How would you handle that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think it is a really good question. I I guess the first discussion needs to be like, what? What is your initially? What is your definition of wellbeing? What are you trying to say because there’s so many interpretations or understandings? So really nailing down what that is first. I think there are lots of different GL assessment. Do a great tool to help monitor and track wellbeing. There are lots and lots of different tools that help you do that. Matthew Savage that you mentioned earlier, he’s done. I mean, just fantastic work, but he’s done a really great article in the last issue of the magazine where he breaks down, I think maybe five or six different types of data and how they help you gain a real insight into tracking and monitoring that well-being. So like observational data check and data stored data and counselling data, so many different data points that help you gain that bigger picture. And I guess it’s also like, what are you? What are you trying to assess, right? Is it a particular programme that you’re assessing or is it just generally where students are at? I think GL assessment is a great tool because it helps you kind of maybe identify some issues. Generally, it’s not specific to a particular programme. And so I think that that’s I think Matthew Savage to me is the absolute person to go to. He really does some great, great work on that. I guess for me, I’m not very good with numbers and I understand the the need in schools to make sure what you’re investing is is worthwhile. So I understand that and particularly when you have to make decisions across school. And I think the challenge sometimes if you’ve got programmes, is when you get a lot of the programmes that have been created and some are fantastic, but they kind of have principals behind them that maybe went to work initially on an individual basis. So Helen Street talks about wellbeing programmes being the principles underpinning it, being borrowed from clinical settings. And they were really good when you work one one, but they don’t necessarily translate to a school environment. So there might be lots of different information, but it’s maybe hard to get the impact across when you’re translating one from an individual setting to a group setting. I’m like a just a really big fan of just having conversations with students, having focus groups of students, really trying to understand what’s going on, and I understand that that’s how to make strategic decisions on. But I think it really does give you an insight into what’s going on. And before that, this webinar today, I was like, OK, OK, what’s my definition of wellbeing, and Wellbeing in International Schools? So I never really have one. It depends what day you ask me, and I was asking a couple of students, like, what is it? What does it mean? I’m trying to do some research, and they were just like, Oh, it just means like for me that I’m not stressed. And so I thought, Oh, that’s interesting. If we’re measuring it, are we measuring it based on what they think we’re looking for when it comes to wellbeing? And so I was trying to dig a bit more and and they’re like, yep, it’s not stress and it’s not worrying about the future. So well-being that MIS thinking about something that it’s not, it’s not a negative rather than what we’re looking for in well-being maybe is like we’re looking for these like positive things with positive emotions, this whatever it is. So I guess this, there’s multiple pieces to it, and I think there is an absolute value in in both in doing it on a regular basis because I think wellbeing cohorts change year on year. You can’t have something when you say the same, you really kind of have to adapt even within that. So we need to make sure that it’s also collated on a regular basis.
Speaker 2: That I’m going to be and we’ve mentioned him a couple of times, feels like it’s a plug for Matthew. So Matthew Savage, we’d mentioned a couple of times, we’ve done a webinar with him very, very recently. The dashboards, the GL dashboard that you mentioned GL assessments, Matthew uses primarily GL assessments and stuff, and that’s why we’ve built the dashboards that you have in Learning Ladders to actually visualise that data. So again, if you’re not a data expert and you want to easily get the insights from those diagnostic tests and assessments, then you can do that very easily. So we’ll share the links for those as well. We have a big webinar. Matthew and I spend an hour with them, with Jenny from the British school mascot talking about data and wellbeing and stuff, so we’ll share that link. And we have another follow up with Matthew in four or six weeks. So there’s there’s plenty there. I think again, I would Covid for my experience, Echo is useful. Just remember more general point of view, but some observations that I’ve seen simple things like some schools I’ve noticed now, I’ve started having almost within the Reception area, just the simple sort of electronic stand with buttons. How are you feeling today, you know, rag rated or something just to get a very simple overall perception? And I know there are surveys and stuff and there are sort of apps and stuff that you can get which seek to provide insights in this area. So I’ll I’ll give it a desk research and back into the into the blurb that we’ll send out to everybody later. And it’s not an endorsement because I haven’t used it or checked it, but I’ve come across it. I’ve seen it all, and I’ll let you know if that’s that’s interesting or another questions come in. How can I improve students and teachers wellbeing from a governor’s point of view? This is a really interesting one. Somebody who’s recently been appointed as a governor, I can tell you a little bit about this, actually, Busani, because I am a governor, myself and I am in charge of wellbeing in the school at which I governor for. And it’s a relatively new post. It’s a primary school in England, so a very different context. But the thinking behind it was precisely initially to focus on staff wellbeing. And it’s the way we’ve done it that seems to work quite well is super simple. It’s a check in with staff. It’s making sure they know that someone’s available who isn’t a line manager, who doesn’t sit in the staff room, who isn’t physically in the school every once in a while, but has an understanding of the school. So you’re hopefully a good balance of knowing what they’re talking about, but completely removed so you’re not going to bump into this person the next day. And then from a from a child point of view, we’re looking at a lot of this kind of stuff as well. Interestingly enough, in terms of how we can try and see beneath the mask, if you like of children and understand what’s going on with them. So interesting variants of the question I did from that one, I promised CPD, but very fascinated to know what your answer to that one is.
Speaker 1: I guess I feel like I always get really terrible answers. I think it just like it’s like that classic like it depends, right? I think it depends. What are the issues that affect the wellbeing of staff in your schools? You know, we’ve all got individual stuff going on, but I really think it’s it’s showing a genuine willing on behalf of the school to to show that this is a real commitment for us. It’s, you know, I think people say all the time, you know, it’s not a tick box, but when people really feel like you’re really committed to their well-being, I think that’s the first step really, really kind of sharing that across. And I think it’s an opening to the forums in whichever way might be manageable. You know, I understand if you get all teachers in the room and things are tense, that might not be the best way to get the responses to start with, you know, because it kind of, you know, if things are challenging and people kind of jump on each other and maybe not really get into what the problems are, but I think just offering platforms to share that what some of the stresses so having you know, is it as simple as reducing the number of meetings? Is it about actually investing in opportunities for the PD? If that’s something where people feel that they’re growing in a position to bring a sense of competency, that all these sorts of things are going to impact on their wellbeing? So sometimes I think it’s a I commend the book, but it’s like this idea of subtracts. I think sometimes you think wellbeing is adding stuff like, we’re offering what we’re offering more and sometimes actually wellbeing is taken a step back and taking things away. Like what things don’t need to be done. You know, whether it’s a report finding ways that making sure that they feel purposeful so teachers, not just going for the grind of it? You know, I think there’s all these sorts of things just just listening to what staff find stressful. Maybe it’s like everything is crammed into one part of the year. And actually, if we thought was that back with teachers, a little bit better, if you could spread things out a bit more. So sometimes I uh, yeah, I just think it’s just kind of listening to those things. And the more that you listen and show that you’re listening, the more people are going to trust and. So you like that just creates a really positive environment around, so yeah, I guess that would be the main thing for me is to really show that you’re willing to listen and make changes where you can.
Speaker 2: I guess from a governor’s point of view, it demonstrated that specifically and again, just from from my own personal, it’s been something that we did as a as a governing board was say thank you to staff specifically for specific things they’ve done. So they knew that we would thought about it. We looked at it couldn’t be a literal thank you email a handshake when you bump into them. I think we sent out some, you know, chocolates or biscuits or something very, very small, very easy, very low cost. But it had to amend the world because then they know that, you know, people are actually grateful for what they do and recognise it. And it is done so simple things like that and to be complicated again. And from your experience in schools we worked with around the world, the culture from the top right, from the very from the leadership team at the school. A culture of listening and being approachable is super important. So anything the governors can do to make the school leadership team feel like they can be that personality because sometimes the pressure from governors can be overwhelming and that gets passed down, I guess. So those kind of things would be mine. Okay, we got a few questions. So forgive me sort of looking about one of the press range got a question when talking about staff wellbeing. What areas would you suggest we focus on to see a significant impact on her aims, a school counsellor herself or?
Speaker 1: That’s a great question. I think it’s the stuff that we’ve we’ve talked about is one part and something. What we had in the last magazine, which I thought was really interesting, was this idea of like reflective supervision of staff. So I guess staff that are in casseroles that are hearing some heavy stuff like sometimes I feel like they are like, I guess the part, the reason why the magazines they they all run supported and they don’t have a chance to process some of the stuff that’s going on. So I guess that would be one part. I think again, I think it’s that systemic thing, right? Like what is what is what is really going on in the school because I think teachers are not in teaching for the money. They they they’re for the right reasons. They want to be there. And they’re also the type of people that I think are very prone to burnout because they want to take the best job they can. They want to really go above and beyond to help students. So they’ve got all the perfect ingredients to do great work. But they also have the ingredients for burnout, right? Like when is enough enough? And are you in a culture that kind of celebrates you just taking on too much? You know, even even that is that conversation that we have to have like, you know, is great. Your coach went to the school community, but actually, we want you to be OK longer term, right? So we want to make sure that you’re you’re managing that. And so again, I think it’s it’s really assessing what’s going on in the school, what some of the concerns are and working with them. And because I guess, counselling. I know there’s discussion about whether schools should offer counselling to teachers, and I understand that. But I also some counselling isn’t for everyone. Everyone wants to discuss their problems. So does that help some teachers and other teachers feel that they have been left out and it becomes very, very complicated. So I think almost the simpler, the better, I think. And for me, I know that there are sort of discussions that I find out who is like, how can I make it like, but I want to come to work every day? Right. And and I think that feeds off and helps everything else.
Speaker 2: Have you seen success with schemes like mentoring for staff and that sort of stuff? Is that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think, yeah, absolutely. I think having mentoring is important. And I think having the time as well, I think having the time that is useful. But yeah, absolutely. I think having those lines of support even within the school, outside of school, I know. I mean, for me, I’ve been involved a little bit in women it and I found actually that as a community outside of school was super, super helpful because sometimes you know, everyone’s tired of what stress you kind of in an echo chamber. But when you go outside, you even reflect actually that things aren’t that bad. And also, you, you kind of get a chance to kind of get things off your chest, Q&A things like some of schools and have that kind of way to let off steam. So I know women, I do a lot of great mentoring work. So those kind of programmes, I think, are really good.
Speaker 2: Okay. But again, if anyone was to share any of those or will collate those and share them with afterwards. It’s interesting what I was going to pick up on something. Forgive my ignorance here. So as a school, as a school counsellor in this area? Do you get provided with sort of peer reviews or reflection opportunity? So I ask this purely because my wife’s a campus therapists and part of what they have to do because of the burden of what they take on is obviously how peer supervision and the chance to talk about their cases and a chance to offload the stress of the job itself, if you like. Does that does that exist in the structure of schools?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think I think it to. I think depending on the staffing of the school, you know, sometimes you are the only counsellor in the school, but there is the International School Counsellor Association and they offer kind of these kind of groups that you can kind of be involved in and receive that supervision. So that, I mean, you have to seek that out that isn’t always there within the school environment just because there is staffing available. But there are organisations that offer it. And I know and a lot of places, there are groups that our school counsellor groups. So we have a Chiang Mai school counsellor group and there’s a tight International Council group. So even with that in that you can kind of formulate and have these meet people that would allow you to kind of go through that process as well.
Speaker 2: But a big scene from this seems to be reach out, everyone’s in the same boat, doesn’t it? That’s kind of where it started from. OK, another another question is coming in. This is a good one. I think a struggle for me is between. This is for the question of a struggle, for the question is between well-being and what’s needed to be done as part of the job. How do you make sure the collective understanding is not to blur the boundaries and people to be professional?
Speaker 1: Oh, it’s a good question, I guess I’m kind of thinking in different ways. I can tell you I’m I don’t know if I’m misinterpreting that particular question, but I can see when sometimes it may feel like well being can be used as a kind of excuse. Sounds hard, but when people are like, No, I need to discuss my well-being and I think sometimes people like, but we still have stuff to be done that just needs to be in place in this. That the other it’s it’s tough, I think know teachers going to school do know kind of what to expect of what they have to do. I guess it’s the it’s whether there’s additional things on top of that that are causing particular stress at that time. Could they be spread out? So I think sometimes it’s when it all comes together, not all too much. And I guess also it’s. When there’s changes in the school environment as well, right? So I guess when there’s you going from one expectation and things have grown and grown and grown and then it feels like I actually like, I kind of haven’t been able to build up to that or that that doesn’t quite suit me. I’m not sure what the right answer is without that knowing that particular context. And I think it’s sometimes just being honest about, like, yes, I do appreciate that this is a lot at the minute. And even just offering that, like just saying that, I think sometimes is enough. And I guess there can be this thing where I would feel a bit embarrassed to acknowledge, you know what? I am asking you a lot of the minute because it’s like, you know, we need to get stuff done. But even just acknowledging that sometimes just takes the sting out of some that some of the things that you have to do.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, again, from a maybe from a slightly more commercial perspective, I mean, I completely agree with you about teachers being prone to burnout. That’s sad. A kind of an unfortunate reality, isn’t it? I mean, from a commercial point of view, I guess implicit in a question like that of this, this conflict between well-being and getting the job done or results is a is a perception that the two are conflicting somehow and that you you use if you sacrifice performance for well-being. And actually, there’s a ton of evidence out there, which is completely the opposite. You know, people like Google switching to four and a half day weeks or whatever and seeing rises in productivity and stuff like that. So I guess maybe if part of the pressure of not focussing on well-being is a perception that it will impact performance and that you just need to get your head down and get on with it because performance is the most the biggest priority. There’s actually quite a lot of evidence that suggests that that’s not actually the case, that actually people will perform better when their well-being is higher. So that would be the first thing. And I suppose just from a purely practical thing, something that we’ve always found really useful is we talk a lot about internally here at Learning Ladders in a managing down is super easy. Anyone can manage down. Managing up is hard. That’s what’s really tough and a really simple technique that we try and do here is if you’re feeling under stress and people are asking you to do more and more, simply reply and say, Yeah, absolutely, what do you want me to not do in order to make time for this? So push it back to whoever’s giving you. That is a really simple conversation. It’s perfectly professional, perfectly respectful, but I’m working at full capacity plus at the moment and you’re asking me to do something else. I totally get it. I buy into it. I want to support you. What do you want me to drop in order to do this new thing that you’ve asked me to do, whether that’s always possible in your environment or not. But I mean, it may be worth maybe worth a try.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So I just maybe think, you know, I feel like we’re students. So if we look at the students saying when they’re struggling or not engaging in work or not keeping up. You know, sometimes the idea of like behaviour is communication. And sometimes I feel like even that happens as an adult, right? And if if if staff are struggling things, it’s just kind of getting curious and understanding, why is there a lot of invisible labour that they’re doing that we’re not quite knowing about, which is maybe taking up a lot of the time, you know, helping students pastorally. That takes up a huge amount of time and you don’t necessarily see it. So understanding what they’re doing, what’s taking up a lot of time being curious about why they’re struggling or if it’s a particular task that they’re putting off and putting on the students? Why is that? Well, maybe they’re just misunderstanding or need a bit more support or are unsure under confident. I think sometimes just getting curious as well about why there are struggles and also help a lot.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I’m again, a really good point. And exactly, funnily enough, I think one of my colleagues is on the call, so we’ll be giggling at that because we had exactly that conversation a couple of days ago. Colin, feeling overwhelmed, got a lot on at the moment and going through, Well, what are you actually working on at the moment? OK, this is probably actually not a priority anymore, but you know, my bad, I haven’t communicated that properly or whatever. So a simple conversation being open and you know, you can resolve that problem. So yeah, I think conversations are all. Another question coming in. We’ve noticed that, folks, we’ve got about sort of ten minutes left. If anybody has any other questions, then do lots of really positive feedback in the chat as well. So thank you for that. Mainly for U.S. senator. Why? I’m saying thank you, but I’ll pass that on. So another question coming in, we’ve noticed is that focussing on well-being, especially for staff, became more about having a positive attitude no matter what, no matter what, which actually negatively impacted on the well-being of staff. How do we stop this from happening in a school?
Speaker 1: It is so, such a good question, because the I don’t mean to keep saying this and I plug in the magazine, it’s just makes me think of some stuff that we’ve had in the magazine that kind of reflects some of these points. And just in the last issue. She did a school spotlight on college, and she was saying actually that they’re not allowed to use the B-word and at school, like because that evokes like bad feelings, right? So they’ve had to find a way to. It’s still the same thing. It’s just called something else because in that particular by it’s come to have even negative connotations are not not useful connotations. And I completely understand it because it’s the same. You know, I’ve experienced the same thing. Like, some people are like, Yes, well, being great and other people like, can you stop talking? So I think, you know, it’s understanding or having discussions about what it is absolutely like. You know, being positive all the time is isn’t helpful whatsoever, and it’s not what it is. And it’s just kind of maybe having a chance to redefine that or to think about what would be a useful phrase to encapsulate or word to encapsulate what you’re trying to do, right? So it doesn’t have to be wellbeing, it could be something else. And I think it’s just making sure you’re finding ways to have a discussion that it’s not synonymous with being positive. It’s absolutely not. It’s about I think it’s it’s also about being able to get through the hard times, right? It’s being bounced back from from those kind of experiences. And I think it is just some. I think at the moment it is an overload of discussions around real big and I think it’s super, super important. But at the same time, that’s always going to have the benefit of turning people off as well, which is really hard to overcome. So I guess I’d think about whether there is a different word. If it’s really, really not working in your environment, that would encapsulate the same sort of things that you’re trying to do or just make it less obvious, and they’re much more subtle in kind of some things that you’re trying to do.
Speaker 2: And I mean, it has to be authentic as well, doesn’t it? I mean, if if the interpretation of well-being is thou shalt be positive all the time, then that’s fundamentally misunderstanding what you’re trying to achieve, I guess, isn’t it? So if you’re going around the school putting posters of keep calm and carry on and have a smile and all this kind of stuff, that’s something you’ve cracked well-being. And then possibly, you know, you need a he’s got a course or read a magazine. So yeah, I guess that’s a challenge. All right. Time for a couple more. Another question is, come in Matt’s comment about managing up. What would you suggest to promote staff wellbeing if it’s not a priority for management? I mean, I suppose from my perspective, as somebody who runs a company, I guess again, there’s an assumption that management’s priorities are not aligned. So trying to have an understanding of what you perceive management’s priorities to be would be a starting point and then attack that. So if you take the example from before the management’s priorities are, you know, independent international independent schools is a tough, tough market at the moment. There’s a lot of competition. Parents have choice and they’ll they’ll move. So senior leaders are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate that schools perform and a lot of the time that performance is viewed as academic attainment results, entry into better schools, universities and that kind of stuff. So the whole attainment paces is an important one, and performance is an important one. Like I said, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that both staff and children who have a greater sense of well-being or higher well-being, or however you want to define it, perform better. And again, I’ll send some links to the stuff that we do. So that would be the first thing. Have a conversation with them on their terms. This is not something that you want to do that’s going to have a distraction from the core purpose of the school, if you like, this is actually going to enhance it, as I suspect most of us on the call would probably argue that what’s the point of being in education if you’re not looking after the well-being of the children and the teachers, you have a duty of care to your community. But if you’ve got a really hard nosed CEO or principal who’s under a lot of pressure and feels like they really just have to see some results and this isn’t a priority, personally, that would be my suggestion. Stay down and if you’ve got better ideas or other ideas.
Speaker 1: It’s a tough one, because I think sometimes, you know, in an ideal world, maybe that’s not the right environment. Would you look to move somewhere else and that just sometimes isn’t always feasible. And also, you know, to some people, if they are hard on that not being a priority, that it’s very difficult to change, right? So I guess it’s that question of is that the right school for you? Is there a possibility to change? And if there is not, then I think it’s about you. It’s I guess it’s finding your ways to manage that. So I think that’s where colleagues support is so important. I think that’s where it’s really important to have boundaries around work to have stuff outside. If if it’s a hard environment and that work bleeds into your home life, that that’s like doubly bad, right? So I think it’s trying to find outlets when you can’t change that one, you can’t change the system. It’s finding your own safe spaces in your own spaces for support to help you deal with that. Not that you shouldn’t have to, but I understand like and in some environments is super challenging as well.
Speaker 2: Right answers. I’m going to take one more that’s already in the chat if anybody wants to pay any more for, we’ve got time for one more after that. This next one is is a great question. I think next MIS how do we improve the well-being of special needs children who we’re not able to cater for during the blended learning or remote learning and shift from face to face and hybrid mode of learning during the pandemic? That is one for you.
Speaker 1: I mean, that is a that’s a really great discussion, and if I’m honest, I don’t think I feel qualified to answer that. But I do feel that that is that’s actually something that’s played on my mind quite a bit and something that I really would like to include in the magazine because I think that’s often missed out of discussions with students who have special educational needs, like talking about well-being and support for those students with those additional needs. So I think I guess it’s hard because you can’t do everything right. You are restricted. We’re in a restricted time. You can only do what you can. And I guess the most the time where you have most impact is when you are able to be in person. So I think is there is consistency and whatever support systems, whatever things you do when you’re in school, is what matters. And I think that hasn’t changed from before. But I guess you have to focus on what you can do and not look, it’s just an imperfect world at the moment, but I think there’s a lot of learning to be had because this is even what’s been going on for a couple of years. We’re refining a ways of teaching, reframing how we deliver online education. So I think my feeling would be again to is to reach out to other staff that are also in that position that are to find out what, what kind of strategies they put in place, particularly in that blended learning environment and to see those sorts of things work for you, but also to focus on what you can do and focus on what you already have, particularly when you are able to be in-person.
Speaker 2: It’s right there that was very strange, we all seem to get kicked out, then at the same time, I’m not sure what happened. I Zoom seem to have a bit of a female mouse. Come on to rescue us. What happened to them? We all got kicked out of the webinar, but anyway, thanks rescued it now. So well, sorry about that bizarre and the on the website, I think we probably covered most of the questions. Let me just check if there was a last one coming in on the queue. No, I think we’ve answered all of those ones, but we’re going through here. Just check it was about the special needs children and how we do that, as well as one comment I was going to make as we Learning Ladders is is a mainstream product. It’s used by Pass scores for that. But we do actually have a lot of special schools, specialist special schools, special needs schools who use it because it’s very flexible and stuff. So I will reach out to a couple of them and maybe see they might like to write an article for the magazine or give them some insights into how they’ve managed this. This challenge in the pandemic. So there may be a maybe an opportunity there for us to help. So if the person who asked that question is still on the line and hasn’t been cut off, we’ll we’ll we’ll try and come full circle and get that in a future magazine edition for you from from one of the Learning Ladders members who might be able to answer that one. All right. And we are coming to the end of the session. So I just wanted to say a massive thank you. I think the volume of questions and the interaction is a sign that this is a hugely important area. So we should every success for the magazine, you’ll have to come back and we can have a follow up at some stage. Thank you to everybody who’s on the call. We will circulate the recording. We’ve promised a few links that will collate and stuff like that, so we will do all of that as well. Like I said, if you’re interested in having a look at more of these kind of areas, let me just Q&A this again for you. Then you can find all of the blogs and all of the ones that we’ve done in this series on the Learning Ladders sites, particularly Matthew Savage. We’ve we’ve mentioned a couple of times. If you are looking at visualising and using your data around wellbeing, particularly the GL Pass data, and you want some help with that. We have a dashboard which you can use and access to just get in touch and we can help you with that. But with three minutes to go before our allotted hour, I’m going to draw that one to a close side once again. Thank you so much for that. Everybody else. Thank you so much for joining us on this Wellbeing in International Schools webinar and hope to see you on a future one. Thank you, everybody.

School data – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

School data

Wow, this was an energising session on school data!

A huge thank you to Jeni Dellman, Primary Headteacher at the British School of Muscat, and Matthew Savage (the Mona Lisa Effect) for joining me for this fireside chat today, discussing the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of school data, as part of our series of events showcasing our new GL Data Dashboards.

In this session we discuss how data has too often been weaponised in education, how it needs to be reclaimed for teaching and learning whilst staying true to their school ethos, and managing external pressures.

We make the case for ‘signposts not labels’, ‘flags not facts’ – and to repeat the Learning Ladders mantra – to use data to ‘create better learning conversations’, and generate the conditions for success.

Specifically we explore the use of Aptitude, Attainment and Attitude insights, and why including these adds more pieces to the jigsaw of understanding our students.

And of course we share a little bit more about our GL Dashboards, which make it super-simple to visualise your CAT4, PASS, and PT data alongside your internal formative assessment records.

Grab a chair and a drink, and enjoy!


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the “why” of student-level data

Matthew Savage

Matthew Savage, former Principal and creator of ‘The Mona Lisa Effect’ takes a look at how schools use data.

“The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” (T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)

I love data; I really do. I believe that data is beautiful and exciting and can change lives. But I can guarantee that many an educator reading this, surrounded by a dizzying storm of student-level data on a daily basis, may struggle to agree with me. So why is this? How did data become so toxic for so many teachers today?

I would argue that it all begins with another dirtied word: accountability. Many a government, and therefore many a school group or board, and therefore many a leadership team (you get the picture) has looked to data as the silver bullet to improve our schools. As a consequence, data has been weaponised, and the unhappy target, ultimately, is always the individual student, with our talented teachers caught in the crossfire.

However, there is another way. I have worked with thousands of educators in hundreds of schools across over 50 countries, gifting them a metaphorical shovel with which to dig beneath the flags of data to find the treasure that lies beneath. I call it #themonalisaeffect, but more on that later. And those educators begin to love data too. Because they are using it for the right reason: they can see how it can change children’s lives. (More on that later too.)

So, with privileged and unprecedented access to an ocean of personal data on each individual student, why is it that some of us still end up using it for the wrong reasons?

Wrong Reason #1: Marketing

Every September, my heart sinks when I see schools around the world sell their product through the results of their highest-attaining students, doubtless oblivious to the unfortunate subtext of this for every student who is not fortunate to inhabit the exclusive echelons of that performative curve.

Wrong Reason #2 – Comparing

My eldest child just graduated from Oxford university, and, along with her result, was also given her university ranking. In schools, too, we waste our energy comparing student with student, year group with year group, school with school, when every school, every year group, and every student are completely unique.

Wrong Reason #3 – Labelling

From an early age, students are labelled by their teachers, be those labels spoken or silent. In our reporting, our marking, our grouping, we tell a student what they are. Whilst a signpost would give us direction, and a flag challenge us to dig, a label is limiting, soil in which a Growth Mindset will never take root.

Wrong Reason #4 – Blaming

Be we student or teacher, if the data leaves us feeling defective or incomplete, we will worry that, somehow, it is our fault. And when that happens, the data is contaminated. Data should lift us up, clear our path, give us wings – but too often it robs us of agency, dignity and power.

So what are the right reasons? Thankfully, that much is splendidly simple. Here I return to #themonalisaeffect, a data-led, data-fed approach to personalisation, through which our learning and wellbeing experience looks, like Lisa Gherardini, at each unique individual. To quote my brand new slogan, if we are not using student-level data to ensure that every single student can “Be seen”, “Be known” and “Belong”, then the treason, ultimately, is ours.

Matthew Savage (he/him)
Formerly Principal of an award-winning international school in the Middle East, Matthew is now in high demand as an educational consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, writer and content creator; founder of #themonalisaeffect and host of #thedataconversation podcast; and advocate for individual students worldwide.

Register HERE to attend our upcoming webinar focusing on data, with Matthew Savage, Matthew Koster-Marcon, Learning Ladders Founder and Jeni Dellman, Primary Headteacher at British School Muscat.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the “why” of student-level data

Matthew Savage

Student-level data can have a bad rep, and still carries a degree of toxicity for educators worldwide.

In this webinar, Matt Koster-Marcon, CEO of Learning Ladders, will chat with data expert, Matthew Savage, founder of #themonalisaeffect, and Jeni Dellman, Primary Headteacher at British School Muscat, about the different reasons why schools use data, dividing them the good, the bad and the just plain ugly.

Register for the webinar HERE.

Planning proactive lessons and interventions in response to baseline assessment

tablet with charts and graph

The start of the new academic year serves the optimum opportunity to proactively plan for learning and interventions from baseline assessments.

Effective baseline assessment supports teachers to identify focus areas or areas for additional support and offer insights that may not be picked up through observations alone.

Join Learning Ladders’ Education Specialist and former teacher, Melanie Evans, to discuss how:

  • Teachers plan effective lessons and interventions from baseline data
  •  Senior leaders measure the impact of interventions on progress and attainment
  • Student engagement strategies nurture independent, co-owners of learning
  • Communication between all stake-holders in a child’s learning leads to improved learning outcomes

Register for the webinar HERE.

The launch of the Learning Ladders GL Dashboard

How can we interpret and compare different sets of data from our GL assessments in Learning Ladders?

Our schools have asked, so Learning Ladders has responded with the new Learning Ladders GL dashboard. 

Join Learning Ladders Founder Matt Koster-Marcon in this short launch webinar where he will share how the GL dashboard can support schools to:

  • Spot trends in data
  • Make comparisons between summative and formative assessment data sets
  • Form an insightful picture of each child’s learning.

Yet another tool to free up teachers to have valuable conversations about learning, an opportunity to activate all adults involved in a child’s learning.

Whatever your role in school, senior leader, teacher, or assessment leader, find out how the Learning Ladders GL dashboard creates accessible information for all.  

If you missed the webinar, take a listen to the webinar below:


Webinar Transcription:

Matt: The new GL Dashboard’s in Learning Ladders, we have a number of schools, particularly in the Middle East, where it’s mandated, obviously using GL assessments but you can use any commercially available summative assessment data in Learning Ladders. But GL is one that’s particularly popular with our schools and it’s been one that we’ve been looking to see if there’s a way that we can help.

So GL will provide you with really, really detailed reports when they give you your report analysis. And that’s clearly where you should go for most of the analysis. So what we’re attempting to do at Learning Ladders is give you a very top line view and easy to analyse either individual children or individual groups type introduction to your GL data, rather than any highly sophisticated or very, very detailed analytics. So, for example, we don’t make any attempt to calculate confidence intervals throughout the system but you should be aware of those when you’re looking at your GL data in depth, obviously. So this is really designed to give you an idea of what the GL data is telling you about your children in the round, alongside all the other data and all the other information that you have about GL. So that’s that’s a little bit of a sort of health warning of what we’re going to talk about.

My name’s Matt and I’m CEO founder here at Learning Ladders. The first thing to note is that the GL data itself comes in about 30 or 40 different file types, and that’s been a real challenge for our dev team. So when you’re using the system, the first thing that you’ll need to do is go into the system and import your data. You’ll find that if you’re already a Learning Ladders user, if you go into the menu, when you’re logged in as an admin, if you go into the summative data and you click on GL assessments, you’ll find the import. So just click on the import data and select the information here. There are help guides already on the help centre.

So if you go through to the help centre and literally just typed in GL, you’ll see that there are help guides in there already. And that goes through the same information that I’m about to talk to you now. Just a little bit more detail explaining exactly how to upload that. And obviously, if you do have any issues or you come across a file type that we’re not yet aware of and it doesn’t for some reason import in the way we’re expecting and you’re expecting then then do reach out to the office and we’ll support.

This is a brand new feature. We’re not able to directly extract the information from GL via an API or something like that. So there is this manual process of taking it from your GL account and uploading it into Learning Ladders. And there is this complicating factor. The GL have a huge number of file types available, so mapping them has been a bit of a challenge from our point of view. So make sure that you’re aware of that. So that’s where you get them into the system. And once you’ve got that into the system, that’s the simple process. And then in terms of actually viewing the data, once you click view the data and you’ve selected who you’re interested in, you can then view the data here and what you will see are different sections of the dashboard.

So this section here is showing you the various CAT4 scores and specific progress test results. So these three sections here are looking at your various CAT4 scores and in this case, progress test for English, progress test for maths, progress test for science. And the idea behind doing this is very, very bluntly and crudely is so it may give you some useful indications about how a child is actually performing against what their CAT4 data may suggest is very, very simplistically potential. There’s a huge health warning around making two broad interpretations around this, but I know that’s a way that a lot of people use it and that’s quite useful. So that’s why it’s been set up in this way. So you can toggle across, you can look at each of the CAT scores for the current year and the most recent progress test scores for the three subject areas here. That’s what this is all about here. This section over here is the CAT4 results, multiple years or an individual year if you just uploaded one year, but you can also review multiple years here. And this obviously just gives you a picture over time for either the individual child’s CAT4 scores if you’re looking at an individual child in your selection like I am here, or the average of the group selected their trends over time. If that’s what you’re looking at.

So within the selecter, you can select various different people. You can choose to have a look at it by year group, by class, by particular types of teachers, by groups. If you use teaching groups within the school and you want to have a look at the CAT4 data for that particular group, you can view it by that particular group. You can view it by SEN group and stuff within the system as well. And any other characteristics, ethnicity, any other characteristics that you like. So it’s proving very popular with SENCOs, for example, because it’s a really easy way of extracting information about your target children within a dashboard. So that’s the selector here. And then you just choose the pupils from that. So you narrow it down by your target group, then you can narrow it down to individual pupils or have a look at the entire target group.

Then what the system will do is it will display either the actual score of an individual student or the average if you choose a group of students. So obviously when you start averaging it, you just need to be aware that that makes the data slightly more blunt. So this will start to give you obviously trends across time and that will prompt conversations, obviously, hopefully about learning.

The next part, the dashboard down here are your progress test results over time. So, again, just looking at multiple years progress test results and looking at trends over time. So this particular child I’ve chosen here looks to have had a dip last year of even that relatively consistent. They’re sort of in a consistent area here. So this may prompt some conversations and something for you to have a think about in terms of their performance on their progress test scores. It will also bring in your Pass survey data. So if you’re doing Pass scores attitudes to learning data, you can import that as well.

And again, look at it from multiple years. This, we think, will be particularly useful in a post coronavirus post lockdown environment when you want to track children’s attitudes to learning. And it may well be that looking at this across multiple years, you may see some changes, particularly in the most recent years compared to children’s historical Pass data. And that can give you some really valuable insights into into that child’s particular learning. And then this final section here isn’t populated. This is just a test site. It’s not a real child. This is your internal data. So this is your internal assessment data for maths, reading, science and writing in here. So your internal formative data that you can view it all in one page, you can toggle between viewing the data in various different ways. SAS is obviously the most common and therefore the default.

So that’s within your system. It should be enabled within your system already. If it isn’t just contact the office, we can enable it for you. Like I said, read the Help Guide so that you can get the import process because there are different file types and they do need to be imported in different ways. Check the data. This is brand new. This is what we would call a sort of beta testing feature. It’s obviously highly complex to get all this data and so do let us know if there are any anomalies or any things you are not expecting or you use a particularly different sort of file type that we’re not yet used to and use it as part of the overall picture. That’s clearly what we’re aiming for here.

So you’ve got your Gap Analysis, obviously, where most of the time people are looking at children’s starting points in learning. So that’s the Gap Analysis that’s in Learning Ladders already. You’ve got your curriculum analysis. So this is looking at your cohorts across multiple years. It’s a really good thing to look at your formative data across multiple years as well as now your summative data across multiple years. And we’ll do webinars on that in the future as well. But you have all the information in the system now as well. And you can also use the system within the summative assessment section to do some simple analysis like this one is that is a regression analysis comparing two points in time data for SAS progress. This is particularly useful if you’re using progress tests, if you want to focus on children who are effectively stuck up significantly above or significantly below age related expectations. So these children here in the bottom left quadrant here are all below 100, which would be, you know, you’d want to see them ideally being above a hundred. But these children here, although they’re below one hundred, they’re getting higher scores, they’re improving. So that’s very positive. These children here, the top right quadrant, although they’re significantly over 100. So they’re performing extremely well. They are, in fact, going backwards. They’re performing less well than they did in the past. So that should prompt conversations. So there’s lots of different aspects to looking at this data, considering it as part of an overall picture of the child. And that’s quite useful, obviously. Then have the aggregated formative data in the system. All the formative stuff is still there. If you are interested in this, go to the website, if you remember already, literally, it’s in there already. Just check it.

If you’re not a member already and you want to find out a bit more about this, the best person to contact is stella so her email address is, or if you click through the website that you better use the live chat to contact us. And if you’d like to reach out to me, you can find me on social media or through email. That’s it. Like I said, this is intended to be a very, very quick introduction. I’ll hang around for a couple of minutes in case anybody has any questions, but I hope that was useful and I hope that gave you a broad summary of what we’re doing and how useful it’s going to be. I know we’ve had a number of test schools using earlier versions of this, and they found it extremely useful already. So I really hope it does save everybody a lot of time and improve those those conversations.

Fireside Chat: Headteacher Chat & Learning Ladders

Headteacher Chat

We’ve teamed up with Headteacher Chat to provide you with a free, high quality, learning opportunity.

Join us in this ‘fireside chat’ with founder and CEO Matt Koster-Marcon where we discuss in depth how to create better learning conversations, use assessments to inform teaching, and working effectively with pupil data.

Ask questions, engage and learn how to get the most out of your curriculum’s assessments.

If you missed this event don’t worry- grab a cup of coffee and watch the recording here:

Webinar Transcription:

Jonathon Welcome to the third episode of our Teacher Chat webinar and I’ve got Matt here. We’re going to be talking a lot about assessments this morning.

Put it into of context of where we are, this whole year has been very different for schools around the world and actually there’s the standardised test unit here in the U.K. We have not got the SATs tests. And it means that everyone has to try and get a new approach to what their assessments are in school. There are no year six assessments going on this year. So, what we’re going to discuss is how we can view summative assessment and actually how we can get the information from that summative assessment and make an impact on children’s learning and what Learning Ladders do is actually really do that really well. And with the GL assessment, it actually pinpoint where the improvement may be happening in schools and it’s very easy to use and easy to set up.

So, I would like to introduce Matt Koster Marcon, the founder of Learning Ladders. We’ve been working quite closely with them for the last year and it’s such an important platform, teaching, learning that is really focused on the children and they’re learning there.

Matt Hello. Thank you for having me.

Jonathon Can you tell us a little bit about how Learning Ladders was set up?

Matt The story of Learning Ladders? I used to be a primary school teacher in London. It was a sort of career change for me, actually. I came from a background in sort of commercial world marketing.  And essentially, I suppose Learning Ladders started off actually as a parental engagement tool, because in my schools, the real challenge that we had with trying to improve children’s learning was actually getting the adults at home involved in that learning, because as everybody knows, if you can unlock adults at home and parent power, then that that will have more impact on progress than anything you can do in school.

So, the starting point was parental engagement long before coronavirus, long before lockdown, long before remote learning. We were sort of banging that particular drum. And then it seemed to make sense to connect formative assessment and curriculum design because we wanted to start a conversation. So, what we wanted to do was not just completely just have one way communications with parents. We wanted to upskill parents, so they knew exactly what their child was working on, but also so they knew exactly how to help at home. And as part of that process, it clearly made sense to have a single platform which enabled the school to design any curriculum, implement any curriculum, evaluate it, but also share it and discuss it to the whole starting point for us was with starting conversations that we endlessly talk about better conversations, about learning.

And fundamentally, that’s what assessment is, it’s identifying the starting points for children’s learning, sharing it with children, explicitly sharing it with any other adults that are relevant and moving on from there. So, yeah, that’s how we started it. We started here in the UK where we’re based and increasingly in the last few years, we’ve worked with lots of international schools. So, we now have schools in about 25, 30 countries around the world and a whole range of different schools.

And you touched on G.L. assessments. We’ve recently built a whole load of dashboards to help people interpret their GL data, no particular promotion of their company we work with closely. We know and respect them. And that is a good product. We’re not we’re not selling GL above any other system, particularly. It just happens to be a very popular one. So, it’s part of the picture for us.

So, we did formative assessment. We do lots of conversations. You can do homework quizzes, you can do a more formal formative assessment, and then you triangulate that against your summative assessments as well as to try and get a full picture of the child. So that’s the Learning Ladders sort of history, if you like, in a couple of seconds.

Jonathon Do you want to go into a little bit more about the GL assessment, because I had a look at the report you provided and it looked really, really good. You know, as a school leader in that school, you’ll be able to pick it up and identify key areas in the school that you need to be where you want to go and look a bit more correct.

Matt We’ve focused historically on the formative assessment side of things, and that’s about identifying where you can improve, its identifying centres of excellence for individual children, for classes, for groups, for teachers. And the way we approach that has proved extremely popular because it’s a scenario based approach to data. So, most people historically have confused school data with tracking and confused assessment and tracking. And they’re obviously very different things. We were asked to look at summative data and we built these dashboards.

So, the GL data is great. It’s very, very detailed. They have a whole suite of CAT4 programmes, Progress tests and PASS tests, looking at attitudes to learning, lots and lots of data. And they provide their own reports, which are very detailed and should really be the fundamental basis for what most people are doing. But again, in terms of correlating that in an easy way with the class teachers, we felt that there was a way of doing this.

So, some of the things that we do, for example, in terms of the dashboard and one of the challenges is comparing different sets of data. So, this here is looking at your current year data. So, CAT4 data and your various different parts of CAT4 against your progress test for English, maths and science. And just seeing broadly speaking, and this is in a very deliberate over simplistic way of looking at this, but a child’s progress test score compared to their CAT4 plan. What does that tell you? What conversations might that spark? Looking at trends in time in terms of their CAT4 results are there for an individual child or for a group of children?

So, looking at trends in time for Progress test results in terms of children where they’re at, trends in time and particular areas on their PASS survey. So, their attitudes to learning, comparing that to formative data. And we obviously have side by side data comparison for the two areas as well on an individual pupil basis. And all of this is really just designed to show and start conversations around, if I go here, this is what it looks like on a sort of live version, if you like, so do all sorts of different analysis and you can change your scores and view your data in various different ways.

But all of this is designed to start conversations. So, what is this telling me? What is this telling me here at the moment that this particular group of children on average are scoring at these values compared to their CAT4 test? What questions might I ask? Because I can see there are some dips in their PASS survey attitudes to learning. So, this is about starting those conversations. This is about moving beyond just a child is struggling with maths. So, I’m going to give them more maths. So, I’m going to give them different maths. This is looking more broadly and saying, well, is the problem actually a broader challenge for them? Is it something that’s happened? Is it to do with their attitudes to learning it? Should we be tackling that as part of our overall strategy for that child? Then sharing that with parents, you know, the ability to have a really detailed conversation with the adults at home and the child themselves when they’re old enough, is obviously hugely positive, that’s the purpose of all of this. And that’s how we do it.

Jonathon For school leaders, you have an overview of the school and looking at HPL assessment as well.

Matt The way the dashboard works is you select anything you like. So you can select an individual child and have a look at the dashboard for them, or you can select a group of children. Obviously, the bigger that group, the broader it gets. But, yeah, absolutely. You could choose the entire school or possibly I think more schools might focus on possibly a cohort or a peer group, particularly because the way the GL tests are designed, they have a slightly different emphasis on different year groups.

Jonathon So shall we open up the floor and see if there’s any questions from the people attending the webinar, have they got any other questions they would like to ask you about?

Matt If there are any detailed questions about G.L., then I’ll need to take them away and get back to you. So, leave your email address. I actually have a meeting with them tomorrow so I can raise it fairly promptly for you and get back to you. Or drop us an email, or Twitter. The feedback that we’ve had on it so far, it’s been great. This particular aspect of it, because, again, it’s not designed to replace the reports themselves. So, the GL reports themselves are far more detailed, but they take a bit of wading through. They’ll have the real detail behind every single child. This is designed to be a deliberate simplification of that, to give you sort of really accessible information for everyone, for class teachers, for senior leaders, for your assessment leaders, whoever it may be. So that’s where this is pitched. And it shouldn’t replace those GL reports, because we don’t attempt to visualise on a dashboard things like confidence levels or range of potential scores. So, you know, just again, use it for what it’s intended, I would say.

Jonathon There we go, questions so far. Can I compare my school with another school in the same country, an international school?

Matt You can I mean, you’d have to do it probably slightly manually at the moment, unless you’re both Learning Ladders schools. It would depend. So obviously, G.L. will provide both schools with the same comparable results and then you can compare, irrelevant of whether you do it through Learning Ladders. If you were both Learning Ladders schools, you could run the same search and compare your results. Is there the option within Learning Ladders to compare your school results with, for example, an average in your country? No, because we don’t have access to the full GL data, so we have access to each individual.

Jonathon And next one from John Roberts, we currently use PowerBi to track G.L. assessments. How does Learning Ladders intergrate?

Matt Apparently you can integrate with Learning Ladders as well, and it’s a great tool for data visualisation, it tends to be a pro tool, so it tends to be used by schools who have someone on the payroll who’s been trained on Bi. If you’re lucky enough to have that person, then that’s great. They’ll do a lot of similar things. I mean, if you look at our dashboards and Power Bi the functionality is broadly the same. I suppose the big difference is with Learning Ladders, it’s designed to be accessible based on your school’s data, your formative data and everything else. Very easy to share. And it’s part of the platform. So why would you go to the extra trouble of linking something else and creating another dashboard? To be completely fair, the flip side of that is a lot of the schools that we work with, one of the reasons why we integrate with B.I is you may choose to include other information in your B.I dashboard, which we just don’t have access to. So, some schools will link it in in that way. So, there’s no blanket Learning Ladders is better than Bi or Bi is better than Learning Ladders for doing that because it will depend on exactly what you’re trying to do. The headline I would say is though typically power Bi is very much a pro tool the only way of inputting data into power BI is through a spreadsheet obviously, or through an API link. So that’s beyond a lot of schools. And we’re pitching for the everyday use for the everyday teacher being able to use.

Jonathon OK, the next question, I work as an analyst, do you feel that GL data aligns more or less with a particular type of teaching framework.

Matt That’s a very detailed question. I mean, in our experience, most of our experience working with GL has been in the Middle East region, mainly in sort of British Curriculum International schools, because obviously it’s mandated in that part of the world in terms of our overlapping different regions. And it’s a relatively new function. So personally, I don’t feel I’m necessarily qualified to answer that one. I’m afraid I would probably direct you in in sort of GL’s direction to answer that one. That’s not really fair for me to say something on their behalf.

Jonathon Next question. I was interested in what you said about assessment being different to tracking. And could you go into more detail about this and how we could look at this as assessments as well as using them to support?

Matt Yeah, this is a soapbox moment for me, so depending on the school, a lot of the time when we go into a school and they’re using Learning Ladders for a first timer, we asked them to describe their previous practice for what does assessment look like in their school and why are they doing it? The key driver behind the process that they are describing is to audit teaching for somebody who wasn’t there at the time, normally an inspector. So, what tends to drive academic data is having to build a picture to evidence that you’re doing your job well. So that should you be inspected, you get a favourable result. That tends to be the overlying thing. And most territories work in a high account of high stakes accountability systems. That’s incredibly important. But clearly what that does is that distorts the data usage. So, one of the things that we’ve worked very hard to do is to try and separate different types of data for different purposes.

And one of the reasons why the combination of your formative internal assessment data and the aggregation of that, to give you pictures of what’s going on in your school and the ability to use third party commercial universal summative data, which is the same for every school in the world, is to build up different datasets for different purposes. So, what I mean by that is your formative data, your internal data should really be about painting a picture that’s specific to you as a school. So, it should really be about how is it going to help your teachers deliver the curriculum that you’ve decided is important for your school community to the best of their ability and provide them with all the information they need to make sure that the year group, the cohort and an individual pupil is, for want of a better phrase, kind of on track.

So, the kind of thing that we focus on, is curriculum design, sensible assessment milestones, but also then things like, what are you going to do with that assessment information? So, we have linked resources. You know, we have a Curriculum Lab so you can identify this particular group of children in year for a struggling with quadratic equations, here are a load of fantastic resources from various different providers that work for this particular challenge. So, it’s moving assessment beyond just a long tick list, which gives you a very big graph into something which is a useful tool for teaching and learning, because assessment is something that should be done with children, not something that’s done to them after the event, and they have no impact on it. If your assessment waits until you get an email from senior leadership seeing it, saying, I need your data and you spend two days at the weekend or in the evenings filling in data on a spreadsheet or some sort of commercial system to produce lots of graphs which sit on a shelf, and nothing happens with that information, that’s clearly a waste of time and much, much better to use a mechanism and a process to start structured conversations. Use assessment for what it’s meant to record.

That information, aggregated by all means, that’s internal data. So, when you’re inspected, it’s perfectly reasonable to say we have set out this as our curriculum and this is how we’re implementing it, and this is how we’re making sure that that implementation is successful and comprehensive and we’re not missing anybody out. And we benchmarking ourselves against other schools and nationally by using the summative tests. So, we do a combination of the two. So even if your internal data paints a particular picture, it should be about starting that conversation. So, it’s an important difference because if all you’re doing is entering tracking information onto a system, a point in time assessment of where a child is and that doesn’t feed back into responsive teaching, doesn’t feed back into better teaching and learning, more personalised teaching and learning. What’s the point?

Certainly, here in the UK, Ofsted are very specific now. They don’t want to see internal data anymore because they recognise if they do, then it’s likely to provide an incentive to manipulate that data. But they’re not saying you shouldn’t do internal data. This has been a big misconception in the UK. There is very much an understanding that you need to be on top of what’s going on in your school. So, there is an expectation that you have mechanisms in place for doing that, but they’re not looking to see if they’re looking to have that conversation. And that’s beginning to be the case in lots of the other schools that we work with around the world. So, it’s a sort of subtle difference. But if all of your assessment practice boils down to an excel sheet that just produces graphs at the end of every period of time, that sit on someone’s shelf, that’s clearly not an assessment because assessment is identifying the starting points for children. It changes teaching practice, and you share it with the children, and you share it with other adults, and you get everybody involved and you review it. So very long answer. But this is sort of what we do I suppose.

Jonathon In some ways, we need to pave the way further because the summative assessment is so important, especially in UK schools this year, because we rely so much on all the external testing. What is summative assessment speaking, in your opinion, where does summative assessment fit in to the whole school assessment process and how could it be done?

Matt, I think it’s part of it, part of the overall picture. It has no more significance than formative assessment. It’s just different and it needs to be presented in that way. And to be clear, one of the things, again, when we talk about summative assessment, what we’re talking about here, you know, rightly or wrongly, but just to be clear, is commercially available assessment. So, people like GL data, you, whoever it might be, who do all these assessments, not necessarily an in-house end of topic quiz. So those assessments are also incredibly valuable, but they’re not norm referenced. They’re not tested. They’re not executed in appropriate conditions and all that kind of stuff. So that’s not what we’re talking about here.  If the underlying reason for asking the question, is you want to find out as much as possible about a child’s starting points and the things that might influence their learning success, then things like your summative data gives you more information so you can understand how is a child performing under classroom conditions and how are they performing under summative assessment conditions? And it may well be that when you get into the detail, that prompts some conversations. This child is demonstrating a skill in this particular area, but they clearly are in summative tests. So that’s a good thing. I need to spend some time trying to observe that and make sure that I understand that they do know that. Or do they just get lucky in the test, Unlikelier, if it’s a well-designed test compared to your formative assessment and if your teachers are saying these children are absolutely flying and they’re way above expectations, but the summative assessment data is saying something completely different, is your benchmarking of your assessments right? Have you got that challenge level, right?

If so, that one conversation, particularly things like the Pass data and the attitudes to learning data will be quite interesting in that, particularly at the moment after lockdown is going to be interesting to see how that changes and a lot of schools. So that would be the starting point. If your starting point, is I’m interested in, how do I improve teaching and learning if I’m realistic here? Because we go through this with lots of schools. Every school we’ve ever worked with anywhere in the world has touchwood, have never had a school go down in their local inspection ratings. So, I know this works. So, if you’re looking at it from an inspection point of view, it gives you a different angle. It gives you another thing to talk about. So, it’s particularly useful, for example, children who are on the extremes of formative assessment, those children who are perennially, significantly below age related expectations or significantly above age related expectations. You can look at their results and see, well, they are significantly above their expectations, but they’re less significantly above this year than they were last year. So actually, although they’re doing well, that’s a cause for concern because they’re going backwards.

Likewise, children who are outside age related expectations are making rapid progress on their tests can be a really good thing. And we find again and if inspection is your is your driver for this, that complete picture for an inspector is incredibly valuable and incredibly positive because they see the children in the classroom involved in their assessments, articulating their learning. They can see that you’re sharing it with parents. They can see that you’re having proper, meaningful conversations about learning that you’re completely on top of the teaching and learning process and that you’re benchmarking it against a robust external system as well and triangulating that information. So, you know, it’s for those purposes, I would say.

Jonathon  Can we merge internal data, Excel sheet on Learning Ladders platform and can we then triangulate internal and GL?

Matt So without seeing it, it’s difficult to commit to exactly what that data is from a Learning Ladders perspective. You can have your internal data, you can compare it to GL data. There’s a whole other section without going into a product demo or a sales pitch, which I promised that I wouldn’t do then. Yes. So, what I would suggest is get in touch with the office and I’ll get more details at the end of the is the website. There’s a contact button there. And let’s have a look at your specific information. And we can answer that, particularly for your school. I would say, broadly speaking, the answer is yes.

Jonathon  I love talking about assessment, one of my favourite things, even as a class teacher, it makes such a difference and makes it easier to be a good teacher because you know precisely where children are and what the children need to make them improve. And then we talked about last week about cutting down on workload, because actually, if you get the assessment right, it makes it so much easier in the classroom.

Matt Yeah, I mean, funnily enough, even as somebody who runs a company that’s best known for assessments and stuff, I’m not a particular assessment nerd. I think it’s really about those beautiful moments, which is why we all go into teaching. You know, what people sort of colloquially call the light bulb moments. You have a far better chance of having more of those and more meaningful moments. If you know what children’s starting points are and you have a clear plan for where they’re going to go. Otherwise, it’s just luck. It’s just random. So, it’s about being specific and rigorous and having those structured conversations to generate that. That process and assessment obviously underpins that. I think maybe as a as a company that occupies this space and speaks at events and stuff about assessment, and sometimes we can get too carried away with pretty graphs, we can get too carried away with the data. I think we always have to pull it back, too. So, what am I going to do with this and actually put it in the context of in the whole picture of how I’m going to improve a child’s learning? Where does this fit? Is this the best use of my time really getting into this granular detail? Or do I need a system that’s just going to do it for me really quickly and easily? That’s going to give me the information I need and then I can get on with it. So, yes, I agree.

Obviously, it can be incredibly powerful, but I think it’s, again, which one of the things that always worries me when you look at things like social media platforms and stuff is you have sort of you know, you have very popular accounts on there, you know, talking about particular data visualisations, all this and the other. And it’s the wrong conversation for me. You know, it should be about how is this improving a teacher’s life, it’s making life easier for teachers so they can spend more time teaching the children regardless.

Jonathon CAT4 data, we got one more question should pupil’s targets be shared with primary school children or people?

Matt Wow, that’s a big one, and that’s probably a conference in itself, should pupil’s targets be shared with children? So, it depends on what person. This is a pure personal view now. And I’m not saying this based on any particular sort of wisdom in the area. It’s quite a specific one. But let me go slightly outside my line. In my experience, working with schools, explicitly sharing the granular objective a child is currently working on and how that fits into a learning sequence absolutely, 100 percent tailored to the individual child.

So, what we do at Learning Ladders is we create very structured conversations by sharing very explicitly with the children. This is what you’re working on right now. This is what you need to do to achieve it. And this is what comes next. But the critical thing about that is, is although it’s part of the school’s curriculum and its consistent across the year group in the school, it’s individualised to every child. So, every child is working on something that’s appropriate for them rather than for them. And they’re all making progress. So, if you’re sharing targets with children in terms of that granular, very specific objective level, which probably in our system you’d have you’d have your overall sort of structure of Learning Ladders objectives. And then within those you’d break those down into success criteria or whatever in individual lessons. That’s that’s where we picture that one hundred percent. Yes.

And all the research shows that that’s useful to do, starting conversations, being explicit with children, giving them ownership of their learning, giving them the responsibility for it. It’s the first step of proper parental engagement, because if you’re not having conversations with children about learning in class, they’re not going to magically be able to talk about their learning when they do remote learning or when they’re at home. You have to start that process. If you’re talking about things to a child, you’re currently b and we really want to be in a at the end of the year. No, I personally would say absolutely not. I think that’s a total waste of time and incredibly self-defeating because it creates pressure, it creates classroom competition, and it creates playground chatter amongst parents. It’s totally unhelpful and it won’t improve the learning in my particular experience. And you need to be challenged on that.

Jonathon, I think I would agree with that on main one.  That child has that feedback or their work or whatever that is, and that should link with the target. So, it should be that granular work with that individual child.

I really love talking about assessment.  So, we would highly recommend you look at Learning Ladders and see how it works and have a conversation with Matt to be saving work in your school. I know I’d like to say is thanks everyone for coming today and I really appreciate you joining us and hopefully see you next time in a couple of weeks’ time. Thank you very much.

Matt No problem. Thank you, everybody, and thank you for the questions.

The Power of Data & How It can Inform Learning

Teachers making notes from data.

We all know that the word assessment can send a shiver down the spine of any teacher.

The sense of dread and impending data drops.

High stakes accountability and league tables have left a mark on education.

You may or may not agree with the need for exams and tests and end of key stages. There is something to be said about the way assessment has been used over the last 10-20 years.

It has caused some unintended knock-on effects.

If you didn’t get the chance to attend the live webinar, take a listen to the recording below: 


Webinar Transcription:

Matt: Hello there. The focus for today’s session is the power of data and how it can inform learning. It’s always interesting that whenever we do a CPD webinar on data, we always get a huge turnout. So this is no different, this particular one. And the things that we’re going to focus on today are particularly how data can inform learning. So we’re going to talk about lots of different types of data and how we use them at Learning Ladders, how our schools use them and share some sort of best practise. Hopefully that’ll be useful.

My name is Matt. I’m the founder here at Learning Ladders. I also chair EdTech at Besa. I’m a founding member of a group called the EdTech Evidence Group. We look to help schools source appropriate technology by understanding evidence of efficancy, making sure the products actually work and do the jobs that you want them to do. And occasionally I do some work with the DfE as well. .

So some key points, what does good assessment look like? So good assessment is there to identify starting points of learning that you can then build on for individual children. It is also there to give you a review of what they can and can’t do at any point in time. And clearly from a sort of data point of view is very often used for reporting and effectively auditing learning processes. And that’s quite often where the problems start, because an awful lot of the schools that come to us at Learning Ladders have historically relied on a tracking based approach for school data. And tracking is not assessment. Data from tracking won’t improve teaching and learning. The whole area becomes slightly muddled. So we’re going to try and untangle that slightly during the session today.

Have a think about specifically the difference between formative and summative and what the correct usage of them are. The answer, very simplistically, in our opinion, is formative assessment is the stuff that you do day to day, subconsciously, deliberately, but it’s ongoing assessment. It feeds back into your teaching and learning, responsive teaching assessment for learning whatever you want to call it. It’s the stuff that you do to judge whether your children have achieved the aims and objectives that you’ve set out in your school based on your curriculum. So formative assessment should be highly tailored to your individual children, your setting and your curriculum and your particular needs. This is different from summative assessment by which we’re talking about commercially available summative assessment schemes, GL NEFR and all those kind of providers who will give you a snapshot in time based on a standardised test that can be administered in any school around the world in the same way and should provide similar results for children that can enable comparison across schools. And those two types of data clearly should be used in parallel wherever possible.

So most of the time at Learning Ladders, we’re really interested in formative information because the whole purpose of Learning Ladders what we do here is think about anything that we can do that will improve the teaching a learning process and help children achieve more and then data is clearly an important part of that. So that’s what we believe good assessment looks like. That’s what we talk about formative assessment and summative assessment being. Importantly, around all of this, we talk a lot about setting the conditions for success, so your data is only as good as the quality of the curriculum that you’re evaluating. It’s only as good as your assessment policies that you have in there. It’s only as good as the accuracy of the teacher. Judgements are only as good as teachers actually entering data onto whatever system you’re using in an accurate and timely manner. So you can have the most sophisticated data analytics set up in the world. But if the raw data going into it isn’t very high quality, you’re going to get very poor quality out. Likewise, you can have sort of the opposite where you have a super, super simple system, but it’s very high quality data going into it. Chances are you’re going to get better understanding, better insights out of it.

Also, being specific about when tech can help and when sometimes it doesn’t. So tech can be really, really useful because it’s virtually impossible even in a primary where you have maybe one class of 30 children, you get the opportunity to get to know them really, really well. It’s impossible to retain all the learning objectives, all the misconceptions, all the real strengths and areas for development for every single child across every single subject. You need a system to help you do that. You need a way of sharing that in detail with your future colleagues. And you need a way of enabling senior leaders to get a helicopter view of what’s going on throughout the school so they can make systemic improvements in the school over a number of years. So systems like Learning Ladders are extremely helpful for that side of things.

Obviously, in our particular case, it then automates an awful lot of the other tasks, like homework reporting, like upskilling parents and stuff. Sometimes when technology doesn’t help is clearly when you have a system where the technology is leading the process. So some of you have probably worked in schools, well I’ve worked in schools, where assessment in the school is talked about as assessment, but it’s actually tracking and it’s driven by a tracking system which isn’t flexible, doesn’t really help teaching and learning is and is driven primarily for audit and inspection purposes. That isn’t helpful data and that’s not typically what we’re interested in today. It’s perfectly achievable to use data for genuine teaching and learning improvement processes and have fabulous data for inspection. The two are not mutually exclusive at all. We have never had a school anywhere in the world go down in their inspection rating when they’re using Learning Ladders for their assessment that we know that is the case.

And then the final point is obviously questions to ask. Data should prompt questions. Data isn’t necessarily, in our view, always about getting an answer. Data is quite often about identifying where you should be asking better questions and where you should be looking for more information. So a lot of the ways of thinking about data are predicated on this idea that it measures something definitively. It gives you an answer. It reports on something. Actually really good data in education should quite often prompt you to ask more questions. And we talk about this a lot. And all schools talk about this a lot as well. How can you use data to prompt better questions, which enables this sort of sense of curiosity and discovery? So a few basics as well.

Good principles of formative assessment; clarify understanding and share learning. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re clearly never going to get there. And sharing that with students, being explicit with students that this is what you’re doing. This is what was expected and this is what comes next is clearly great from their learning perspective, from the metacognition and from all those other wonderful things. But from a data perspective as well, if your teacher judgements are based on conversations with children, children are involved in that process. You have a far greater chance of that data going into whatever system you’re using. Being accurate and consistent and reliable. If data are going into your system is generated by teachers who are asked to do a data drop at the end of a half term, it’s highly likely to be inaccurate. It’s highly likely to be manipulated because teachers know what the required thresholds are. If data is generated by teachers after the event and teachers are searching for evidence of learning in an evening, in a weekend, a long time after topic has happened again, it’s likely to be very inaccurate. So do it like do it in the moment, but involve children, do it for the purpose of teaching and learning that record in the moment. And then you’ll get really, really high quality data. Just doing it for data dumps, really unlikely to get high quality data and start those classroom discussions. That’s where you’re going to get the really good insights, provide feedback that helps move learners forward.

So coming back to the very first slide, the purpose of assessment, formative assessment, identifying starting points and helping develop learning. If you’re not feeding that back to the learner, you’re clearly missing the main opportunity for that data to have a purpose to improve learning. So, again, simple, simple stuff doesn’t matter how you do your data, but if your data is just there purely for reporting and you’re sucking out data input from all the teachers, aggregating it into a report, and then it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere or on a drive somewhere, and it doesn’t then feedback into the teaching and learning process. That data process is broken and it’s not going to improve learning. It needs to be visible. It needs to be in the moment. It needs to help teachers and inform the teaching and learning process of it happening, not being there as some sort of tool to audit for somebody who wasn’t in the room at the time that the learning actually happened. That’s not the purpose of this. So that’s the other key thing. And if you’re doing that and you are having those conversations, you can do things like activating students and learning resources for each other, giving them more ownership and all that kind of stuff.

So the point here is that data shouldn’t be seen as something that’s siloed. It’s part of everyday teaching and learning. It should be part of the process. It shouldn’t be driving the process, but it should be part of the process. That’s part of the picture.

OK, obviously, in terms of what you’re aiming for in a school, more generally, you want teachers, students and parents working together. You want students as independent learners. You want parents involved. You want parents scaffolding, learning, not just taking off homework tasks that they’ve read for five minutes. You want to be involved in learning and you want responsive teaching. You want teachers. You have information and data that they can respond to. So another critical part of data is that it’s accurate, that it’s live and that it’s shared across all key stakeholders in an effortless and sort of intuitive way. Again, if it’s just siloed from the assessment manager and SLT and it’s there purely in case there’s an inspection, really not working hard enough. And most teachers will probably object to collecting it on a workload basis with some justification. So share the data and make sure that it’s working hard. And again, the way that we do that Learning Ladders obviously people are entering data on the system. They’re using it to record assessments. But then that data is working really, really hard. It’s giving you scenario based reports, is helping you upskill parents automatically. It’s doing loads of other stuff. If your data entry only results in tracking on a graph, it’s not a great use of your time. You need that data entry to work harder because the data is far more powerful when it’s when it’s shared.

So something to bear in mind as well, this is something we talk about a Learning Ladders a lot. Children know what they’re working on, know what comes next. Data will inform the teachers, know exactly what every child needs. Data will inform that really simple Gap Analysis type stuff. Parents know exactly what their child is learning and what needs to come next. Again, the data will inform and clearly from an SLT point of view, maybe a more comfortable area that we’re more used to talking about that data sort of analytics. So thinking about all of these, fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is generate better conversations about learning. So, yes, part of the time data is there for inspections and we have to prove what we do. And it gives us an opportunity to show off our achievements and show off how we’re on top of everything and how we’re managing the school. Of course, that’s part of what we do. But really, it should be driving those learning conversations. And if we switch that mentality from a sort of historical tracking based approach to a genuine need, data’s there to help. Learning that again is a massive step forward and a massive win. That’s going through a few things very, very specifically. Always, always ask when you’re collecting the data and when you’re looking at the data, so what? So what can you do? What’s the purpose of this data? What am I going to do with this? If there isn’t a clear purpose, it’s probably not going to be worth your time. Doing it specifically, what is this data looking at, and is this data the best way of getting the data to help me answer the question I’m looking at? So asking yourselves those questions to identify gaps in learning a simple Gap Analysis is all you need.

For example, if I go into our live site, this is what Gap Analysis looks like in the site. It is super simple. It is just sharing all the children, all the learning objectives. In this particular case, we’re looking at year five reading and very easily I can toggle back. So I’m a teacher. I want to know what did my current Year five do when they were in year four? Are there any gaps in learning that I should be aware of? Yes, super quick. Super easy. Were there any gaps in learning when my current year five were in year grade? Yes. Couple of children had to be aware of, it takes two seconds. But that data is incredibly simple, but incredibly powerful. That is all you need at that particular moment in time. Yes, of course, the system will do of sophisticated analysis and produce a million graphs. That’s not actually what you need at that moment in time. So it’s about getting the right data.

What is the quality of that data? We talk about this endlessly, but it is so important in educational data. So many times data is fudged or faked in schools because it’s there obviously only for accountability purposes. If data is being gathered purely for an inspector, it is very likely that that data will be manipulated either deliberately or subconsciously because it’s not actually there to inform teaching and learning. We need to change that. So in the UK, in England, Ofsted, our inspector here have specifically now said to schools that they’re aware that this is an issue, that they know that if they are asked to specifically inspect internal assessment data, that gives an incentive to manipulate it. So they now specifically do not look at internal data. They’re not saying that they don’t expect you to keep it and look at it and track it and manage it. They’re just saying that they know that if they are asked to look at it, that it’s probably going to be manipulated. So they do. So expect that you do it, but they’re not going to check it, so you don’t have to fake it. There’s a really important thing that we expect other countries and other regulators around the world to follow. I touched on the work reward ratio as well, but this is critical. Teachers are super busy. There is always a debate about workload. No teacher I have ever met is afraid of hard work, but no teacher I’ve ever met likes wasted time because they’re busy. So like I said, if data to them means getting an email from SLT at the end of a half term asking them to do a data drop that goes into an aggregated spreadsheet and sits in a file somewhere that’s a waste of their time, they see no value in that. If data enables them to save time, doing other things enables them to get insights in learning, improve their teaching practise, automatically engage parents, do their in return pupil reports, homework, learning, all sorts of other stuff. Clearly, that is a good a good transaction from a time point of view.

Now, does it feed into an improvement process, it is another thing to think about data again, if it stops start, we just collecting data for our results for this year. We had a good year. We had an indifferent year, we had a challenging year, and we do the same thing next year. That clearly is not a great use of data. So the process should be the data enables you to interrogate itself so that you can identify things that you might want to change. And in education, we’re quite guilty of typically looking at children coming into the school machine. We analyse then how far they get squirted out in different directions, which groups go in different directions. But we don’t really look at the machine itself. And again, one of the things we do a lot Learning Ladders is enable schools to look at their internal data from a curriculum performance point of view. So, for example, do we consistently see year in, year out in year four boys struggle with poetry? Well, if that’s been the case for the last two years, it’s a reasonable assumption that it might be the case this year. So we can pre-plan for that and put an intervention in place proactively. That is, using data to improve learning of a future cohort, as well as you can use data to improve learning in an ongoing teaching, a learning perspective.

And then the final question is all of this, what impact does it have? So, again, Learning Ladders have done a study. We know the schools that switched from tracking systems to Learning Ladders typically see around about an 11 percent improvement in the primary results on average for every subject within two years. Now, how does that stack up in your processes? Do you have a mechanism in place for evaluating the impact of your data analysis? So it’s not just about using data. Well, but it’s then interrogating your use of that data and the impact that that’s actually having. But a few obvious points, data relies on a bespoke curriculum, good data and education relies on a bespoke curriculum. It relies on a clear assessment policy, a simple system and simple variations of systems. So teacher assessment, self marking quizzes, low stakes quizzes, open-ended tasks, all that kind of stuff will give you different types of data and lots of rich information when you’re looking at systemised data, when you’re looking at calculated judgements. Be aware that nowadays you shouldn’t even think about using a system that doesn’t enable you to tailor the curriculum yourself without having to go to a help desk support and pay money for it. That should be a basic minimum. You should also be able to completely customise the settings for your assessment policy in terms of how many milestones you have, what your language is, etc., etc. But you should also be able to tailor the underlying algorithms and the underlying calculations upon which the system bases its automated judgement. So if you’re using a system and you’re trusting a systems judgement about which children are on track, which children are above, below whatever language you use. You need to be able to manipulate and understand and customise that calculation, the algorithm, if that algorithm is held in a secret black box and teachers enter data and then magically the other side of that black box becomes a judgement from a system that doesn’t seem to make sense because teachers will then also be encouraged to because they don’t believe that judgement or they know it not to be true. They will manipulate the raw data, which completely defeats the whole point of doing any data analysis when you’re manipulating it because the calculation is wrong. So, again, using a system like Learning Ladders where you can not only customise the curriculum and your assessment policy, but also your algorithm, which I think is unique in any system, gives you a far better chance of getting accurate automated data calculations. So something to bear in mind. There are those three elements of automated data calculation in education, curriculum, assessment policy, but then the algorithm as well that calculates it. If you can’t lift the hood on that, you can’t get underneath it, pick it about, change it, customise it however you like. You’re never going to get the accurate data that you’re looking for.

A thought about this in terms of creating conditions for success with children, that’s a matter of sharing the information. Bring it to life for them again, can be really, really simple. So we’re talking about data today. So I won’t leave at this point. But again, in terms of getting accurate data, one of the things that we do very, very simply, as well as having the digital platform, the system has publishing technology which enables you to create your own exercise books, which a lot of schools prefer because it means children can have very specific learning journey booklets. They can take ownership of their learning. What that means is because they’ve taken ownership of their learning and they’re very heavily involved in their own assessment, that means that the assessment data for that school is not only life much easier to gather, but it’s much, much more accurate. So a slightly tangential point to a data webinar, but thinking about ways of getting accurate data are quite often not simply what’s the calculation on the spreadsheet, one of the fields in the search functions, etc. it’s how do we get the quality of this raw data to be as strong and consistent as possible? Like I said, the data is there to help not merely track, so you need to do all of these things; tailoring algorithms, share excellence and stuff again. We tend to look at data as a deficit model, finding gaps in learning, finding issues, finding interventions. But we can also equally find centres of excellence. We can find success and share it and replicate it. We can look at short term patterns and long term patterns within a school, within a cohort, within a curriculum, and identify things proactively that we want to do more of and identify things that we want to rectify in some way.

This is our Gap Analysis. I went into it live just to sort of show you how we do this is again something that we do at Learning Ladders that I think is really useful that you should look to be able to do in your systems. This is looking at a particular part of the curriculum, comparing now different cohorts have gone through this part of the curriculum over the last three years. So what we’re looking at here is I think it’s a year for Curriculum Lab a year for maths curriculum. And we’re looking at the different aspects of the year for maths curriculum by the end of summer to what were the overall assessment points for children in the different year groups. So the current year six, when they were in year for the current year five and the current year for this kind of analysis will do, when you do it for a full academic year, will enable you to identify those areas of the curriculum where you may want to finish your curriculum, do some team teaching, share best practise, put an intervention in whatever it may be. So again, using data for those specific education purposes is really, really important. Different types of data. We’re going to do a webinar specifically on assessments.

This is one of the dashboards for G.L. assessment. So this is showing CAT4 data, Progress test data for different subjects, multiple year CAT4 data, multiple year progress test data Pass data. So pupil’s attitudes to learning school. And the idea of looking at softer side for want of a better word that’s used to learning gives you a much more rounded picture of a child. So when you’re looking at data to improve learning, finding data that suggests the child is struggling with maths, the answer to that may not be give them more maths or give them different maths. The answer may well come from a different kind of data, something like Pass data, which suggests there could be a challenge with the attitudes to learning, which is what’s actually underlying the maths issues. So the ability to look at lots of different types of data very easily for an individual child or a group of children is again best practise in terms of using your data in your school. Obviously, you can use that data in other ways. So a really simple way of using something like your Progress data from from someone right now is to do a simple regression analysis. So what we’re looking at here is children from point in time to another point in time. And how is their SAS progress score impaired? So all the children above the line are making positive progress. So the children down here in the sort of bottom left quadrant here are below 100, which is where you would want them to be. The children in green, however, are making progress. So they’re not quite where you’d want them to be yet, but they are making progress. Conversely, the children in the top right corner and here are way above expectations, way above average. But they’re actually going backwards. So although they’re significantly above, they’re less significantly above than they were in the progress. So that may be a cause for concern. So, again, triangulating your data and education is really important because different data will tell you different things. It’s highly likely that these children in your formative assessments may well be stuck for their attainment significantly above or significantly below age related expectations. And you’re only really pick up those smaller changes by using something like the progress test data. So, again, looking looking at it in the round is a really good way of doing.

The final point I touched on, it wouldn’t be a Learning Ladders webinar without mentioning this, but the whole point of collecting and using data in schools is to improve learning, children’s learning, enjoyment and school performance, whatever you want to call it. And the single biggest, most influential factor in children’s learning is what happens at home is all the parents are the adults at home supporting the child’s learning. So this is not adults being aware of homework, getting reward tokens or stickers electronically or physically or anything like that. This is adults being upskilled week in week out to specifically help and support and encourage actual specific learning intentions that are being worked on in school. So it goes way beyond standard parental involvement. But this is by far the best way to improve learning, particularly at primary and early years. So if you’re interested in educational data, your data should be activating parents to get involved in their children’s learning. And again, that can be automated nowadays. This is exactly what we do, at Learning Ladders.

So every child we use their assessment data from in school to give every child a live, personalised learning journey update and the supporting resources so every child gets a personalised dashboard learning journey, identifying exactly what their teacher thinks they should be working on at the moment and for each part of that curriculum for reading, writing, maths and science. We have broken down the entire primary curriculum into bite sized chunks and created short tutorials, the upskill, the children, but also the adults at home so the adults know how to help. So this is a really powerful use of educational data with making the assessment data that the teachers have made that they make for their own internal purposes. And we’re repurposing it. We’re making that same data work harder that automatically informs students, Upskill parents remotely scale does it in 100 different languages across all the subjects. All of that is using data intelligently because you are activating a really powerful part of the learning process for the no extra workload. So, again, thinking about how hard is your data working is a really sort of critical part of the process, we would suggest. And it all needs to link him together. So, again, we talk a lot about data is part of the process, but the process should not be for data. And that is a really critical change that a lot of schools benefit from hugely when they move away from a sort of old fashioned tracking. If you’ve ever worked in a school where the whole process of assessment of data tracking and reporting is audit and inspection, then the process is for the data. Everything is done for the data is tail wagging dog to use an English expression. Data should be part of the process. It should inform and support the process, but it is not the process. So the process is actually very, very simple.

This is a specific Learning Ladders process, but a bespoke curriculum tailored for every school, a bespoke assessment policy mechanisms to activate children so that the actual raw data you’re putting into the system is accurate and reliable as possible. Teacher tools Gap Analysis simple analytics so that teachers can actually use that data immediately and do something with it to improve their response of teaching, repurposing the data, sharing it with parents, sharing it with children remotely so that data is working hard and has a much broader reach. So it’s improving learning long after it is being gathered and then obviously analytics that sits over the top of it. So you can do things like curriculum analytics and design and everything else. But in this way, your your data, however you look at it, whatever terminology use is part of the process and it’s working much, much harder for you and will therefore improve results. And we know this works. So we’ve been banging the drum for it for a number of years now. And we know that it works.

We get a lot of feedback on on reviews sites. We’ve won lots of awards, all of that kind of stuff. Like I said, we’re doing a study at the moment which is showing increase in performance. We’ve never had a school go down in inspection. There’s a ton of this kind of stuff. So we know that this works. It is perfectly possible to run school data purely for the purpose of improving teaching and learning and still have a really fabulous body of evidence for inspections. It doesn’t need to be the other way round. So that was a whistle stop tour of some of the things to think about, we do specific webinars, and if you’re a member, you will be able to find these recordings within the help section. If you’re not a member, go on the website and you can find the recordings and stuff on the event’s website. We do specific webinars for a lot of the smaller areas that I’ve mentioned today. So if any of those are of interest, go to the website and have a look. Or if you remember, go into the help section and have a look. Use the search functionality and find it. Or reach out using the chat and ask us if you’re getting a recorded version of this because you are unable to attend the session today and you have any questions or comments or thoughts or feedback to let us know who is really, really interested in that.

And obviously, if you’d like to improve your your data in schools and you and you want to think about how we might be able to help you do that, then do do get in touch. We’d be delighted to help. I hope that was useful. Thank you for watching the recording. Thank you.