Teaching is very much like building a jigsaw puzzle. We get all the pieces together. Then we try to make them fit. Some bits fit easily. We know the methods – start with the corners, fill in the edges, then find the obvious blocks and then fill in the gaps. Except there are things we cannot control.
Teaching is the placing of the puzzle pieces. Assessment is how we find which bits of the puzzle are still missing. Communication with the learner and their parents is how we ensure the pieces stick and don’t get messed up again. Sometimes we are too close to the puzzle and we cannot see the big picture. We might miss some of the pieces that fell off. Tracking is our way of checking back in again. Reminding ourselves to go and look for the right pieces and add them to our lesson planning.
Our webinar will look at how we can use assessment effectively to keep building the big picture – and give our learners many lightbulb moments when the puzzle pieces fit!
If you missed the live webinar, take a listen to the recording below:
Matt: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the latest webinar from Learning Ladders, really delighted to have everybody here. I can see from the chat we’ve got people from all around the world already, so that’s amazing. Do post an introduction into the chat. Let everybody know who you are, where you’re from. Always interesting. If you have questions as we go, just add them into the Q&A section and I’ll cover those at the end. Will record the session as well and put it up on the website for everybody afterwards, too. So thanks everybody for coming. I hope the session will be useful for you.
What I’m going to do is just going to go through and do a quick introductions. And my name is Matt. I’m the founder and CEO here at Learning Ladders. I’m going to talk to you today. A bit of a blend, bit of the theory, a bit of things that we’ve learnt from working with some of the world’s best schools. And I can talk in various different contexts. So obviously, as many of you know me, I used to be a teacher. I chair EdTech a Besa. I’m a co-founder of the EdTech Evidence Group, and I occasionally work with the DfE here in the UK to do various different bits and bobs.
So today our focus is around creating more light bulb moments. And this is really interesting because we do these CPD webinars on an ongoing basis and we focus on lots and lots of different areas. This is one that seems to have really resonated with everyone. And it’s that addictive part of teaching that everybody strives to repeat as often as possible. Those beautiful, wonderful moments where a child just get all the things that you’ve been working on come together, and that child just experiences the joy of learning that particular thing that you were teaching them. So that’s what we mean by light bulb moments. It’s those moments where the child really, really gets it. And I think as far as teachers is what what sustains us and what’s keep what keeps us going. So that’s the focus on that.
I have a 45 minute webinar. Quite clearly. This is this is a PhD subject. This is worthy of a whole section in the library on its own. So to attempt to condense it into 45 minutes, I am clearly going to do it an injustice. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to focus on some specific areas where I think I can share some of the things that we know from the schools that we work with already and help you create a repeatable model for generating these light bulb moments more frequently, more often and at scale. And some tips for how you do that in the real world.
So I’ll dive into some actual examples and we will leave time for Q&A at the end. So what do we know, what does the research tell us? I’ve picked out a few key areas which hopefully will be useful for everybody. A lot of you will be familiar with some of these already, hopefully. But I just wanted to highlight some of these areas. So John Hattie, probably the most accessible researcher in this area. I say John Hattie, Dylan Williams, particularly when you’re thinking around assessment of the people to really reach for. If you want to have a look at what research is telling you in this area. And if you look at the work that he’s done, where he aggregated thousands of research studies from all around the world over multiple years and attempted to condense them down into a sort of more accessible format as to simply what works and what doesn’t work. Then, alongside competency of the teacher in relationship with the teacher, it’s visible learning, which is shorthand for making it explicit what children need to do, scaffolding that learning, really getting them involved in their own education, responses to intervention, formative teacher feedback. So whatever you call it, whether you call it formative assessment, responsive teaching, but this concept that you identify children’s starting points, you have a plan as to how you’re going to teach them and move them along. And you adapt to feedback and you adapt to what the children are telling you. They understand what it’s evident. They understand metacognition, obviously extremely popular at the moment. I think you’ll struggle to go to any education conference and have someone talk about that. So all of these areas of learning psychology that we’re beginning to know are really, really important. And essentially we sort of can categorise those as very proactive, involved conversations about learning. So that’s the first thing I would do. So if you’re looking at that, that’s a really good source for information.
Another area, educational psychology. There is lots of this everywhere, but one of the most enduring, simplest and sort of most effective things that people talk about when they talk about learning psychology is Vygotsky Zone of Proximal Development. So you’ll remember this from teacher training. Everybody goes through this. But worth recapping that essentially what we’re talking about here is understanding what children’s starting points are. What is it that they can do at the moment? Unless we identify their starting points, we can’t effectively teach them. And if we’re not effectively teaching them, we’re not going to get those light bulb moments. So the first thing is to understand what can the child already do and then how are we going to scaffold them so that we can get them to these areas that they can do with some support. And in schools that will typically look like very structured lessons where gradually that support is withdrawn by the adults and then the child can do that on their own. And then we build on that and we build on that and we move forward on that basis. So this area is really important. And this idea of scaffolding learning is really important. The concept of a more knowledgeable other, the interactions with a skilful tutor, whoever that might be. And when I say tutor, it’s a shorthand for an adult who’s more skilful than the than the student to observe and practise their skills. So all of that good teaching practise is what we’re talking about here. The critical thing here that will come on to later, as well as the more knowledgeable of the adult or the other child, can be multiple people. So the ‘more knowledgeable other’ can be another child. So group work really, really effective getting children talking about their learning really, really effective. But equally, it can be adults at home. It can be parents. It can be siblings, it can be the nanny, the tutor, the chauffeur, whoever, depending on your context. So really important to get all the adults involved in the children’s learning and go through that.
Ken Robinson summarised it, I think is probably the best, simplest way. Education is a conversation, not a transfusion. So when we’re talking about trying to create light bulb moments, when we’re talking about trying to create learning, what we’re talking about is trying to generate fantastic conversations about learning. And you will hear me talk about this unabashedly, unapologetically on every webinar that we do. Learning Ladders is all about creating fantastic conversations about learning and whether you use Learning Ladders or you don’t. Creating fantastic conversations about learning should be at the heart of your teaching and learning strategy. So conversations in the classroom between teacher, between children, conversations in the staff room. Between teachers, looking across curriculum areas, looking at team teaching, looking at gaps in learning, understanding centres of excellence and conversations between school and home and at home, between children and adults with more knowledge, so that whole area is critical.
If we are going to create more lightbulb moments, we need more conversations about learning and if we’re going to have more conversations about learning, we need better structures to manage those reports on them and really get the value out of those areas. And I’ve touched on this already. And you’ll never come to a webinar forum for Learning Ladders without me mentioning this, I suspect, but particularly in primary and early years, the more knowledgeable other is quite often the adult at home. So when we’re thinking about creating light bulb moments for learning, it’s absolutely critical that we include adults at home in our planning, in our equation, because a lot of the time those moments will happen outside school will be learnt, will be creating the foundations for those lightbulb moments in class as teachers. But the actual moment may well often happen outside school. And a lot of the contextual information and a lot of the contextual attitudes that are being shaped that are critical for children to be effective in their learning will be shaped at home. So it’s that whole process of all of the things we know and we know for young children that this is a significant area. We talk about this a lot. The parental engagement, again, can be calculated, who knows how they do this, but they they estimate that calculated to add two to three years to a child’s education. It’s that significant. It’s the most significant thing you can do. So we know that great conversations about learning are really, really important.
The research tells us that time and time again, psychology tells us metacognition, independent learning zone of proximal development, all of that kind of stuff is really important. And we know when we’re focussed on primary and early years that parental involvement is really, really important. So that’s scene setting, if you like. That’s what goes on in in in the sort of wider context. How can you do this in the real world when teachers are already massively overworked? How are you going to create these lightbulb moments through a more efficient mechanism than simply working hard? Teachers will simply work harder. They are a dedicated bunch and we will do whatever it takes to do that marginal extra one or two percent that we think will help our children in our care. That’s the nature of the job, unfortunately. But there are better ways, there are ways to systemise this. And that’s what we’re going to talk about a little bit today.
So how do we create these areas? How do we go through these moments to really, really sort of systemise? What’s going on is a really important area. And I would say that you can do this in quite a methodical, logical way. Clearly, you’ve got to carefully plan your learning, so that’s your curriculum. What’s your curriculum design? And if you’re in the UK, Ofsted is really picked up on this concept recently, which is your curriculum intent. So what are you trying to get the children to know that will be unique in your context if your curriculum is not pitched right? If it’s not interesting, engaging and relevant for your children, you’re already going to be struggling to create those light bulb moments. Do you need an individualised curriculum? How do you do that? I’ll show you in a second. It needs to be appropriately resourced so teachers can’t be reinventing the wheel. Every single lesson around resources, you need to find the right resources for the right lessons for every single child in a really easy, easy way. Clearly, you need to evaluate it. So we do lots of this at Learning Ladders. And again, I’ll explain how you can do that.
So you need to evaluate that in different ways. How is a teacher going to know every child’s starting point for every single lesson? But then on a strategic level, how is a subject leader going to know where to plan interventions both for individual children but cohorts of children? And how are you going to easily refine your teaching pathways based on feedback from children? How are you going to generate that feedback? How are you going to get them to give you that feedback in an easy, ongoing way? And what are you going to do about it? How are you going to change your teaching? So, again, systemising those are approaches and there’s a number of really obvious wins in this area.
Pupils need to know their learning objectives. This is absolutely critical. They need to take ownership and they need to be used to talking about discussing their learning. And quite often when we go to schools that we start working with, when they look at assessment and they describe their assessment policies, what they’re actually talking about is tracking, its data related to assessments. But there’s a critical part of that that has to come first before the data is of any use or relevant or even very accurate. And that’s the children understanding their learning and the conversation about that learning to establish what their starting points are and what their understanding is. So set out a way that children can have a curriculum that’s relevant for them, but then that it’s brought to life on a day to day basis for them. And every adult in their world needs to know exactly what they’re learning, exactly what they need help with and exactly how to help. When we do marketing pitches at Learning Ladders and we talk about the product. This is one of the ways we encapsulate it that we say to people, imagine a world where every child is supported and knows that every adult in their world knows exactly how to help them with everything they’re doing every day. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it be amazing for parents to be superheroes to their children and know how to help? Wouldn’t it be amazing for teachers if they were freed up from admin, which tends to sidetrack them but can focus on teaching and learning? That’s the goal. That’s what creates the light bulb moment. That is learning conversations, this is what it is. So how do you do that? How do you do that in a process? Well, what I’m going to do now is I’m going to sort of dive into the system and show you how we do it. I’ll try and do it in a way that’s relevant for schools if you don’t yet have access to Learning Ladders. So it’s not a pure this is how you do it in Learning Ladders area. This is how we do it. You can take some of this learning and knowledge and bring it back to your school, but hopefully this will be useful.
So the first thing is clearly you need a curriculum that is designed for you and that can sometimes seem quite intimidating to design a curriculum from scratch on a school by school basis. But it really needn’t be that complicated. So, again, taking into the way that we do it, just to sort of bring this to life, if you log into our platform here, the way that you would do it in our system, for example, is you would go into what we call the creation zone within ladder’s. This is all curriculum content. The creation zone is where all the curriculum will be that we just take that size for you so you can see it and you can go into this area here. So let’s say I’m having a look at the maths curriculum. The structure that I’m doing here is you have subject aspect, which in our terminology is a Ladder and then objectives, which is a Rung in our terminology. However you do it and I might want to edit some of these areas. I might want to go in here, let me have a look at this and just make this a bit bigger. Let me just make it a bit bigger so you can view it. Here we go. So I can go into here and I can have a look at what’s going on. And I can decide, right? OK, so this is my curriculum and what I’m doing here. Let me just scroll down is I’m starting off with a particular strand of the curriculum and curriculum. Personalisation can be as simple as this. I take a predefined template based on the curriculum that I am teaching. So in this example, I’m using the English national curriculum and I’ve taken a template from a commercial provider which is Learning Ladders. We’ve created this and this template. I can then look at this and I can see what how appropriate is this to my particular context? It may well be that actually it’s really great. And what I all I simply want to do is reorder the teaching sequence, which should be really, really easy electronically. I can go through here and I can say, well, actually, we teach this in a slightly different sequence and it may well be that actually I want to go into some of the areas and I want to bring this curriculum to life. And this is the critical part about generating light bulb moments. You have to give your teaching staff every possible opportunity for success and do that by bringing all your best resources into an accessible space at the point of need. So your curriculum isn’t just a list of objectives. It needs to be more than that. It needs to be brought to life. So you should have a way of doing this.
So you have a mechanism within your curriculum design where you add in useful resources. You add in your school’s moderated work, lesson plans, any other external resources. Are you using commercial schemes? Are you using anything else? Add them into the system. What about in particular subjects where you have a policy relating to a way of teaching things? I used to be head of maths, so calculation policies are a thing of beauty for maths leaders, but they sit on the shelves and nobody reads them generally well during the most relevant part of your policy to life by exposing it to the curriculum design in here. And again, this is how we do this within the system. Have a look for related resources for particular parts of the curriculum. So, again, hopefully you have access to something like this.
We have the Curriculum Lab in Learning Ladders, which is a search engine for online content. So it will find for you the best available resources to help you teach with these particular objectives. And then you can go through you can have a look at these resources. You can decide whether you want to use them, add them into the teaching and learning that way. So create your curriculum. This is the let me go through this. This is the process. Create a personal curriculum, create a clear assessment, policies bespoke to your school that will help make sure you know, when you have achieved those curriculum objectives, when are you likely to get those lightbulb moments? How are you going to describe them? What are they going to be activate children as independent learners? Now, you will probably be doing a lot of this already, but systemise it make it a structure. We talk a lot about structured conversations, about learning. And the reason for that is you need a repeatable process that everybody gets into the habit of doing to do this at pace and at scale. So again, bring your curriculum to life. Our system has publishing technology, which means you can create exercise books. It has a digital platform, which means you can view it online however you do it. Be explicit with children so they know exactly what their learning objectives are, exactly what they need to do to achieve them, and exactly what comes next. That means they can be much more involved in their learning and they can be taught to take ownership and take control of their learning. And that’s critical for them as they develop into young adults and as they develop their learning skills, but is also critical for remote learning and parental engagement that the child and the student is able to discuss their learning in an effective way. So they have a process in here, get the children talking about their learning. So you’ve created the overall conditions for success. You’ve created your curriculum structure. Your teachers are super clear what they’re teaching. They have the best available tool to deliver the learning. And then you’re creating conversations with the children. And those conversations are where the light bulb moments are going to happen. More of those conversations you can have the better. And if you do it in a structured conversational way, you’re not sat there as a teacher waiting for the learning to present itself or you’re not searching for it through proxy cues like people putting their hand up or good work in a book or strong results on a quiz. You’re actually having conversations with the children and you’re then able to validate their learning, scaffold their learning, move them onto the next steps. But those conversations are the light bulb moments. That’s where they’re going to happen. And then feed all this back into your system so teachers need to know their starting points, you have this light bulb moment recorded, move on. That’s then the starting point for the next light bulb moment.
You need a simple, easy way to do that through sort of a Gap Analysis type system, get parents involved. How are you going to get parents involved in this without overloading staff? So, again, use systems. We automate this. This is super easy as you’re having those light bulb conversations with your children. The system is recording them and sharing them with parents. So, again, parents know exactly how to help. This is the parent platform. The light bulb moments shouldn’t stop in the classroom. Get the adults to pick up the baton when the students go home and continue that learning and give you more opportunities for these. So, again, you’re handing back over to the parents. This is what we’re currently learning parents. This is what your child is currently working on. This is in progress and this is how you can help at home. So click through to one of the articles. This is what we’re doing. This is what it means. This is why it’s important. This is how it’s taught in school. This is what you can do as a typical homework task. This is this is what you can do if your child is finding it difficult. This is what you can do in all sorts of areas. And if your family’s English academic English is not their first language, give it to them in a language that works for them. Give it to them in any language. You can do this in a hundred languages on all platforms. So get parents involved in a way that upskill them remotely at the scale. So you are having these lightbulb moments remotely at a scale in a very easy way, with no workload for teachers, no work at all for teachers involved in this. So again, you generating more of these moments in here through that platform.
So we’ve got parents involved and then obviously analytics in the blurb for this webinar, it talked a lot about how you use analytics. I’m going to come onto that now in terms of using analytics to identify where learning is nearly happening or where learning might not quite be happening. And you need to do an intervention so you can then prompt those those light bulb moments. But everything all in one place is is absolutely critical. So. Hopefully I’m not labouring at that point too much and and apologies if you heard me talk about this before, but we do this time and time again. We do this with schools all around the world, a number of the best schools in the world we’ve done research about does it work? And we know that it does work. So it really is important to get these structures up and running. Achieving this in the real world, I’ve touched on that a little bit, but just to give you an idea of how you might use data for this, the way to look at it, I would suggest, is break it down into different types of data for different purposes. So your class teachers, what they need to know for every child in their care is what is their current starting point for every granular objective within your defined curriculum? And how am I therefore going to take them from that starting point in their zone of proximal development to use Vygotsky and take them to learning something more? How am I going to do that? So something like a Gap Analysis is really, really useful. And this is where you also surface the advice and resources and everything else for them. If you’re a subject leader or a senior leadership team member, then you might be looking at a more strategic area.
So you might be wanting to look at the curriculum and think about patterns in the curriculum where things are going well, where are things not yet going as well as you want them to. So analysis like this, this is a grab from the Learning Ladders analytics page. And what’s happening here is we’re looking at multiple cohorts going through the same part of the curriculum over three different years to understand how is the curriculum performing. So school data tends to focus on how are the children performing, and that’s great. And you can do a lot of analytics in there, but it’s just as important to understand how is the curriculum performing. So we know that if traditionally, traditionally, if typically year on year we have a certain number of children who don’t meet the required standard, it all the part of the curriculum in a particular year group, that’s where we should be putting an intervention and that’s where we should be thinking about some team teaching some other intervention where we should be monitoring it, because it’s not the individual children. It’s to do with the curriculum and the delivery, because every single year a number of children are going through the curriculum and not accessing that to the required level. So use data in that way. And if we have time at the end that can go into the live system and show you how that works, use other kind of data as well. So some of you will be familiar with things like dashboards you might use KMGL, NFER, Pass, Pira, all sorts of summative, commercially available data. And this can be really useful when used appropriately in context as well. So this is a data dashboard for looking at things like CAT4 scores against progress test scores, looking at trends, looking at trends in progress, test scores, looking at Pass data, which is the Attitudes to Learning survey that G.L. does, comparing that to your formative data and building a whole picture of the child because. It may be the reason a child is not having any light bulb moments in maths has nothing to do with your curriculum, has nothing to do with your teaching. It has everything to do to a wider contextual issue. There may be things going on in that child’s life which is blocking their learning on a global basis. It may be things in that child’s life that are blocking that learning in a particular area where it may be an aptitude to learning that they feel like they’re being held back or they feel like they don’t have confidence in a subject and just giving them more of the same or slightly easier of the same or slightly more challenging or slightly different theme of the same skill isn’t going to advance their learning. You need a broader picture. You need to bring it out to understand a different approach to generate that lightbulb moments. Your summative data can be really useful there. And as we say, a lot of the time sensitive data can also be really useful when you have children who are I guess stop significantly above or significantly below age related expectations on your formative data. So this is just looking a sort of progress test data over a couple of years, comparing two different groups of these children here. They’re all below 100, which is the sort of average on this particular test so that they’re not where we would want them to be, but they’re improving. So it’s good news they’re heading in the right direction. These children here, on the other hand, on your formative data, will be showing as high achieving children, they’re working at above age related expectations. So there may be a temptation to take your foot off the gas to think they’re doing really well, to think those light bulb moments have happened. But actually, they’re going backwards. What this is showing is they’re less far ahead now than they were a year ago. So is a cause for concern. And again, you can compare all sorts of different sets of data in various different ways.
So. Again, I’ve talked about this in already. Again, it’s about doing the whole thing together, so creating the conditions for success, the environment, if you like, is your Curriculum Lab giving the teachers the best possible resources relating to your particular school. So they have the tools to then deliver that, giving the children the skills to master their own learning and start those conversations, because there is nothing more frustrating than a light bulb moment happening in silence. There is nothing worse as a teacher than having done all this work, having created these conditions for learning and not learning, then happening and not knowing about it. You need to create the environment in school where children are used to articulating their learning, are wanting to share achievements, wanting to have those conversations, and are hungry to know what comes next. They have that intrinsic motivation to learn and that comes from this sort of process. And the more you can increase that and build that momentum, it becomes clearly a virtuous cycle that you can just get children doing more and more and more of that. So start those conversations about learning, create those areas, use systems to help.
Obviously, we’d love you to use Learning Ladders use systems to help reach out. We we’ve been doing this for years and years. We set this up six years ago. We’ve been doing this for six years in schools around the world now. So we know what we’re talking about and super happy to help. So what I’m going to do now is I’m going to pause just because I’ve sort of that given you a lot of information for half an hour. I’m super happy to go back over any of it. I can dive into the system and do something live. I can talk about any case studies if you have anything of interest to post any questions into the Q&A that you may have and I’ll cover those off. Or if you want to start a chat with other people on the webinar, then obviously put it in the chat, make sure that you do it for panellists and attendees and tell me what you think. Does this make sense? Is this kind of something that resonates? Is this something that you can take forward in your particular school? Always interested in in feedback, both for myself as well. So while you’re doing that, let me just put this up. This is our contact details. Given you’ve registered for the webinar already, then you know you know how to contact us. But just in case this is for somebody who’s watching the recording, this is how to get hold of us. I know that that’s useful in terms of doing that. That is genuinely what we have found in creating those conversations about learning, particularly at home. So particularly creating those conversations at home is a new thing for a lot of schools that can be really advanced very, very quickly. But those internal structures as well. And I’m really hoping as well, I guess when we do these webinars, they shouldn’t really be much new in this. There isn’t much new in education. Quite often it’s just an opportunity for a refresher. So hopefully if you’re on the other end of this sort of screen thinking, great, I know this, then that’s a good thing. This this isn’t this isn’t or shouldn’t be, hopefully a complete revelation that you’ve never heard before. It’s really about a reminder about aggregating it, systemising it all into one place. Right. I promise I’ll stop talking and I shall now stop talking. So do post any questions. I appreciate if you may need to leave then. Thank you for joining us and one the rest of the day. If there is rest of the day and you are part of the world and I’ll speak soon, I’ll just hang on for a little while and see if there are any questions on that.
In this webinar Learning Ladders’ Founder and CEO, Matthew Koster-Marcon guides schools to consider quick wins in school improvement planning in these challenging times.
Despite many students returning to teaching and learning in schools, a significant number continue to learn remotely or in a blended learning environment.
Matt returns to the fundamentals; what the research tells us about improving progress, what actually makes a difference and how this looks in context.
High on the agenda for Learning Ladders, is how to bring that to life to make it real without overloading staff.
And, it wouldn’t be a Learning Ladders webinar if parental involvement was not included as part of a conversation about improving student outcomes. Matt considers the critical role parents continue to play in supporting learning at home, both for those learning in school and at home.
Take a listen to the recording of the webinar below:
Welcome to the Webinar. I will get started, we’re on time and I’ll let people join as we go through. My name is Matt Koster, I’m the founder and CEO here at Learning Ladders. I’m going to talk you through for about half an hour, a few ideas and things that we picked up from schools that we worked with around the world, which hopefully you can apply to your setting and will be useful.
I’ll go through it fairly quickly. I think everybody now is probably familiar with Zoom and how it works, but there’s a Q&A in here, so if you have any questions, anything you want to, I will leave some time at the end and pick them up as we go through. So, without any further ado, let me just go through this here. So that’s me. If you want to get involved, we have a hashtag #beyondtracking. If you’re on Twitter, that’s my Twitter handle.
We have the website, Learningladders.info as well. You can find everything that we’re talking about today, along with other case studies and all sorts of other blogs and information, too. So today, quick wins in school, improvement, planning in challenging times, clearly challenging times in lots of different environments, lots of different settings around the world. Lots of children are now back in school, but in others, there’s a lot of remote learning going. And I think in a lot of territories there’s an expectation that we may well be in for a period of change of blended learning and all sorts of different things going on.
So how on earth to manage longer term school improvement and possibly get some quick wins in these challenging times where most of the schools I know are obviously spending a huge amount of effort just getting the children through the door? Well, it is possible. So, I’m going to cover a few things. I’m going to cover a little bit of research. So worth just reminding us what the research tells us about improving progress, what actually makes a difference? How does this look like in context? So, bring that to life now to make it real without overloading staff. Staff at the moment are clearly exceptionally busy, even more than they ever have been. So how can we do this without overloading staff? And ultimately, the goal of everything here is what we talk about Learning Ladders all the time.
Every adult in a child’s life needs to know exactly what they need and have the best tools to help them. It really is as simple as that. So how do we make that real? I’m not going to focus on these hugely, but it is really important to mention these because these foundations need to have been thought about and done before you can really think about anything else. So just in terms of context of what I’m talking about, just because I’m focusing on other things, don’t think in any way I’m undervaluing these areas. These are the building blocks that you’ve got to do. So, we know securely attached children learn better.
We know about anxiety. We know that we need to create time and space for relationships and rebuild routines. Here in the UK, for example, there’s a lot of discussion around a catch-up agenda and there’s a lot of nervousness, a lot amongst practitioners that maybe will rush into this too quickly. And there’s a real danger of doing that if we don’t allow the children to re-establish routines, to re-establish friendships, to be comfortable, simple, practical things getting up in the morning, not having an adult who’s constantly available to sort of help them, not being able to snack completely throughout the day to energy levels. You know, being at school is more tiring for most children. You know, the commute, the uniform, everything else is going to take a lot of adjustment. So, all of those things clearly need to be done first.
But we also know alongside those things that parents continue to play a critical role. So, there’s been a huge focus in the last year on the role of parents, particularly around remote learning, obviously. And now is a brilliant time to build on that and make sure that parents are still involved in their learning. We know about metacognition. We know that we can explicitly scaffold ways to learn. And we know that children who are used to taking ownership of their learning and who are used to understanding what their objectives are, they’re better in this new environment. They’re more resilient. They’re more flexible. So how do we manage all of those things?
The one starting point here is if there’s nothing else as a sort of take away from the session, there remains and always has been one single influencing factor that continues to be significantly more important than any other factor for success in children’s education at primary school. This has been the case before, remains the case now, and this is the involvement of adults at home. Parents, be any adults at home, this can be older siblings, grandparents, tutors, whoever it may be. The adults at home in primary are absolutely critical. And it seems ironic sometimes talking about parental involvement in getting parents more involved in learning when we’re just coming out of lockdown and parents are desperately enthusiastic that they don’t have to do it anymore. And traditionally, parental involvement has seemed a very difficult thing to do. But now really is the time to sort of grasp that nettle. If you can continue to have parents actively involved in children’s learning, it will have a greater impact than anything else that you can do in school. And we know from the research that we do in broader research that the majority of parents say they don’t get the help they need to support their child. We know from this period of remote education that whilst a lot of schools understandably focused on the practicalities of getting children online, giving them access to work, having Zoom calls, teams meetings, whatever, that actually in primary age children, what’s really needed is the adult home to understand how to support the learning. Not merely enable to log in and supervise that they’re actually doing it with primary aged children. Supervising the learning isn’t enough. The adult at home needs to in some way be able to scaffold that learning.
So, we talk about parental involvement in learning here. This is about parents being involved in detail in the regular objectives, even when children are back in school. And how do we manage that? Well, if we can do it, the prize is great, so it’s well worth doing. If you look at the research in this area, it consistently comes out higher than anything else that you can do. And if people like John Hattie talk about it, adding two or three years to a child’s education, if you can get parents involved, and it’s not just about the practical side of things. Obviously, it’s the attitudes to learning. It’s the encouragement. It’s the softer side of things as well. We know that this is an area that parents struggle with. We know from lock down as well. But a lot of parents have really struggled with understanding how to teach their children. A lot of the realisation from parents during lockdown has been the complexity of teaching and the difference in terminology from when they were at school, the difference in techniques and how to help that. Some schools have been extremely successful at sharing that with parents and upskilling parents. And this is an area that really is the biggest sort of quick that you can do at the moment, hopefully without massively increasing teacher workload. So, we have seen schools where there’s been an expectation amongst parents or amongst sort of senior leaders that staff will create these huge amounts of support resources and support materials, which has been an unfathomable amount of work for teachers to try and do for remote learning. And there really is no need because those resources exist already.
What our argument here is, upskill parents remotely, on demand, at scale without increasing workload for your teaching staff and the way that you do that is very simple within the Learning Ladders system. We have tutorials and explanations for the entire primary curriculum embedded within the system. And if you can do this and you can link to parents, this is what your child is specifically working on right now and this is how to help. And in our particular case, if you want to consume that advice in a different language, it’s all in 100 different languages, then that’s clearly incredibly powerful. So, a big, big part of quick wins is getting parents involved at scale on demand and using these kinds of systems, and it makes life an awful lot easier. And now is obviously a fantastic time to continue that parental engagement with broken the back of parental engagement for a lot of schools. The parents have had to be involved. Now we can continue that. But the reason that we still bang on about it, we’ve been talking about this for years and we still do it now really is the moment to push forward on that.
Obviously, parents are last year’s teachers. So, in a lot of schools that are now coming back to sort of full-time face to face education for every child, then we need to have some discussions. We need to share achievements and gaps in learning with parents explicitly alongside sort of action plans and things that schools that we work with are doing really, really well, and be really specific about this and really open with parents. So, sharing with parents, we believe from the information that we have that these are the gaps in the child, in your child’s learning or sharing it explicitly with the children. Do that using pupil reports. So, the normal pupil reports that you might do at the end of term or the end of an academic year, why not do them early? Why not do them at a different time this year for a slightly different purpose? Again, at Learning Ladders you can automate that, so it doesn’t take any time for teachers. You can make those automatically.
Find out about children’s learning, there’s a lot of discussion about catch up and gaps in learning and stuff, but are there actually gaps in learning? You know, a lot of children have been learning extremely successfully, remotely. The gap in learning is that we haven’t yet had a chance to formally assess the learning in the way that we would traditionally do. And it may well be that when we have that chance and we build that into our routines, we pick up the children have actually learnt an awful lot. So, there’s a big conversation around and a lot of pressure from governments and regulators with this sort of catch-up idea. But we don’t know that to be the case until we’ve done it. And the best way to find out about this is lots of low stakes online quizzes. And again, you have the access to systems that will do this as self-marketing quizzes. They’re really simple. They can be pushed out to children at any time.
The other area, the other thing that we talk about here is so you’re finding out about what children know, clearly that’s the starting point for any teaching that doesn’t change. And because the parents are last year’s teachers, the process may be slightly different, but you’re essentially trying to find out the children’s starting point. So, you’re having discussions with them. You’re having discussions with parents remotely. You’re being very explicit and very specific. You can also use existing data that you have to predict gaps and predict likely challenges. So, another area that’s been really interesting over the last year is to look at how you can look at historical patterns of learning within your school, use your data system to get ahead of likely challenges and likely interventions. Yes, you probably have some really choppy data for the last year that’s not as accurate and complete as you would normally have, but you do have prior year data and you can build up some patterns in learning. And I’ll show you how to do that in a second. And the final point, I suppose, is clearly creating the conditions for success. We need a lot of flexibility at the moment. So, if we’re saying to teachers, we want you to do all of this new stuff, we need to give them the flexibility in the time to do it. So that’s a sort of fairly obvious loss.
Last point. So, what can we do? First and foremost, obviously, a high-quality bespoke curriculum. So, we talk about this a lot, policies that teachers can access at the point of need. So, this is something that crops up again. I’ll be head of maths in my school. I will have created a calculation policy that I loved that I spent ages on, that I was very proud of. But it will probably sit on the head teacher’s shelf in their office and class teachers won’t access it on a day-to-day basis. You need a way to bring your policies to life and bring your curriculum to life. So, it isn’t just a sort of checklist of objectives. So, use systems like Learning Ladders to do that.
We have what we call the Curriculum Lab within Learning Ladders. If you’re a member, you can have a look at that, that kind of search engine within it which will search the Internet for related resources. So, if you have a curriculum objective and you want to find what’s the best objective from Oak Academy, what’s the best lesson plan from BBC Bitesize, from Twinkl, from whomever it might be, you can do that automatically within the system to have a look at that within the system, select those resources to fit your school’s need. Upskill people so they know how to do that is a really important thing because teachers are going to be moving at pace more than ever. Teachers always move at pace, but this particular year, the broad range of gaps in the school is likely to be wider, and the pace at which teachers are moving is likely to be faster than ever. So, the more we can provide those resources accessible, then that’s obviously clearly a good thing.
We talk a lot about flexible, independent learners, so empower them, tell them what’s going on. And again, this is something that we do a lot to be explicit with the children. These are your objectives for the next period of time, for the rest of the academic year, for the rest of the term, your teacher is going to break these down into the teaching sequence. We want you to take ownership of when you think you’ve achieved them. Take the pressure off teachers. If teachers are standing in front of 30 pupils trying to establish what skills, knowledge, what gaps in learning there are through proxy cues like hand up and work and conversations, it’s going to be a lot more work and a lot less accurate than if you can have great conversations with the children themselves. But you clearly can’t have 30 conversations every single lesson.
So, you need a mechanism for managing that and giving children ownership of their own assessment and giving them clarity around their objectives and explaining to them that you have an expectation that they will prompt those conversations, makes the whole process of collecting that information and making those professional judgements much, much more effective and much, much clearer. And of course, that’s the first step as well to effective remote learning.
One thing that a lot of people have found with remote learning is you can’t just switch it on. It needs to be part of a whole school process. So, schools that have been using Learning Ladders for a while because the children have been trained to be a bit more resilient, take more control of their own learning when it comes to remote learning. And there are conversations like, well, what are you learning today? What do you need to do next? What you need to do to achieve it? They’re used to having ownership of that. If children are not used to having ownership of that and parents are not supported to know how to support the children, the remote learning process falls apart very quickly. What are we doing today? We’re doing number bonds to 10. Why? I have no idea. What’s the next step? I don’t know. How do you take control of your own learning? I don’t know. What’s a number bond to ten? I don’t know. It is a very common situation, a lot of people have faced in lockdown, but if children understand these objectives as part of a wider process that they used to having conversations about it, and critically, parents have access to resources, they have been upskilled. So, they know what a number bond to 10 is, why it’s important, how it’s taught and stuff. That remote learning process is clearly going to be a lot more effective. So that’s creating the conditions for success.
And use your data. We obviously run a data company, so I’m always going to say this, but data is your friend, so you will be able to tailor your algorithms and stuff. You will be able to tailor your curriculum. And if you want to go into more detail about how to do that, at Learning Ladders we run sessions on this, but your system should be your friend. It should be giving you accurate information about your children in your context. So, yes, of course, you should be able to personalise it to your curriculum objectives, to your assessment policy. But you should also be able to personalise your algorithms behind the calculations. If you’re stuck using a system that believes assessment and progress is a third, a third each term, or believes that every subject is assessed in the same way and can’t be tailored by term and can’t be tailored by subject, you’re always going to get inaccurate data, and particularly in the next couple of academic years, because things are in a state of flux. So, you need those settings to be your friend. And if you can’t do that or you’re not sure how to do that, then then then let us know. We can help you with that. Look at patterns in learning, simple patterns. This is how we do it.
This is what a Gap Analysis looks like in Learning Ladders, really simple. You have the children along the top. You have the objectives here, maybe some teaching notes or KPIs. And it’s a really simple Gap Analysis. You can identify really, really easily within a class where those gaps in learning are. And when I talk about gaps in learning here, what I mean more specifically are elements of the curriculum we have not yet been able to formally assess as teachers. It may well be that these have been taught with remote learning, but for whatever reason, you haven’t been able to make a formal assessment on it. When you come to do the formal assessment, you may well discover that the majority of children have got this to the level that you’re comfortable with and you would want them to have, which is great. So that’s about being specific about what we’re talking about here. These are parts of the curriculum we have not yet been able to assess, and we do not know whether the children know this or not. We are identifying those, and we are working through them in a methodical, strategic way. So that’s your gap analysis type analysis. But you should also be able to do some curriculum-based analysis.
So, again, if you’re using Learning Ladders, this is within the Insight section. This is the cohort comparison. What this is enabling you to do is say, OK, we don’t have much data for the last 12 months, but let’s have a look at what’s been going on over multiple years. So, what’s happening here is I’m looking at the maths curriculum and I’m looking at, well, how did the current year six do when they were in year four? How did the current year five do when they were in year for? And how did the current year four do in year four? And what I’m able to do in my school is then identify elements of the curriculum, that it may well be we have a consistent number of children who don’t reach the expected standard by the academic year, and that has been the case for the last few years. So, it’s a reasonable expectation to think it will be the case this year. I can get ahead of that. I can be proactive. I can put an intervention in place in anticipation. This is likely to be an issue and get ahead of it, take some of the burden off the staff, take some of the burden off the children and as a subject later and say, I’m really on top of my game here. So, for example, looking at our own schools, we may well find some common patterns. So, some obvious ones, like something like times tables, you may well find that there’s consistently every year 20, 25 percent of children in that year group who don’t reach the expected standard by the end of the academic year. Well, something like timetable’s is an area that really lends itself to an intervention.
There are loads of great products out there. There are opportunities for team teaching. There are opportunities for all sorts of stuff. That would be an obvious area to be proactive. Look at data like this and say, right. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to have some children who are going to struggle with this. Let’s get ahead of it. Let’s put an intervention in place and then you can track that intervention, obviously, as you go through the year to understand whether it’s something you might want to repeat. So, use data is your friend. Use it as something that will help you get insights into what’s likely to happen that you can get ahead of, rather than seeing data purely as an audit tool, that somehow you have to collect enough data to prove the inspectors or the board or whoever it might be that you’ve done your job. Data should be your friend in terms of feeding back to teaching and learning and improving learning. If you use it in that way, everything else will obviously follow.
Looking in more detail, when we talk about data, some schools will be using external analysis and external tests and stuff as well. So, if you’re using summative assessment data, use that data in an intelligent way. This is a screenshot for a couple of relatively new features. So, these are GL data dashboards. This is looking at CAT4 schools, Pass scores so attitudes to learning Progress test results over multiple years, comparing them to your formative assessment. This is a very simple sort of regression analysis for scale schools and your progress tests.
Are children traditionally performing or have they historically on these tests before performed above average? So, in that sense, they’re sort of high achieving, if you like, the want of better terminology. But which direction are they heading in this particular example? Then you’re identifying children that, yes, they may be below where you would like them to be, but they’re making great progress. So that’s positive. Conversely, there may be children that are actually in a really good position, they’re high achieving, but they’re going backwards. They’re becoming less high achieving. So that’s an issue. Can you use your data to identify attitudes to learning and changes in patterns, in attitudes to learning some really interesting stuff that you can do here within the systems? So, again, use it as your friend, I would say moving into that area. And again, we do webinars on this specific area that you can have a look at.
Final thing is, all of this needs to be clearly in one system, so those views in Learning Ladders will know this. Those of you not, this is how we do it. It has to be part of a complete system. So, your own curriculum, your own assessment policy, activating the children as independent learners. We do this digitally through the platform, but we also do it through publishing technology. You can create your own exercise books in the system for the children, which they really love in primary, so tools that can save them time. And everything’s done within one space. No work arounds, everything’s at your fingertips, everything’s linked.
Upskill parents, so they know exactly how to help out and then get the data and use it as a continuous cycle. Your curriculum should be alive. It shouldn’t be a document that you spend a long time on one year and then it’s static for five or 10 years. You need to be using these insights so that you can then evolve your curriculum, put interventions in place, change focus. Do team teaching, understand areas of expertise so that continuous process is really, really important because ultimately this is what you’re aiming at. This is this is all sort of marketing blurb, if you like. But this is what we believe that the child is basically needs to know what they’re working on, what they have to do and what comes next. They’re in control. They feel like they’re succeeding. Whatever they’re working on, wherever they’re going, the teachers just know what every child needs. It’s there for them. It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s easy to use. And they have all the tools they need. This is the foundation stuff that we’re trying to create here. We’re creating the conditions for learning, so the teachers are not focused on admin.
They’re focused on the high value add interaction with children and parents. They understand what their children are learning, and they’re shown how to help. We are demystifying primary education and early is education for parents, so they know how to help. They know what’s going on and clearly ss senior leaders, managing that whole process, understanding what’s going on and supporting the school improvement is what we’re aiming for.
So, this has been a real whistle stop tour. But we did this webinar a while ago and it was really, really popular. So, we wanted to do a refreshed version of it. What we’re seeing with schools around the world is that continuing to try and get parents involved is massive. So, there are review sites. We know from our own internal research that this approach works, which we do studies on this and we look at it. And the difference that it makes, we know from less formal feedback in terms of schools that it works, that it improves attainment and stuff. Whether you use Learning Ladders, obviously, we hope that you do and if you are. Thank you. And if you’re not, let us get you sorted. But however you do it, get parents involved in granular level learning, really, really detailed learning, upskill them so they know exactly how to do it and don’t accept any compromises with your systems. There are now systems out there like ours (well there’s no other system like ours), but there are systems out there that can be this detailed and this specific and this individualised what you need, create those great conversations out there and reach out, even if it’s just to have a conversation, even if you have no intention of changing systems or you just want to know what’s going on, reach out to us. We’ve been doing this for years. We know a lot about it. We’re super happy to help. So that’s the website. There’s loads of information on there. That’s my email. Feel free to drop me an email directly as well. That’s my sort of Twitter handle. And we do lots of stuff through LinkedIn as well with a name like my name, relatively easy to find to reach out and help.
We will send through a copy of this to everybody who’s registered and participated. We have a few minutes left for any Q&A. If anybody wants to talk about anything, if you want me to show you anything, I can dive into the system and show you how we do it. Particularly I can talk about it in a wider context. But other than that, just in the summary, that hopefully is useful. Obviously, I wish everybody good luck and stay safe. And I hope that’s helpful. I’m just going to have a quick look through to the Q&A section. But in the absence of any questions, I’ll draw this close.
School Improvement is always on the agenda, even in challenging times. Great schools never stand still.
Our latest webinar focusses on the actions shown to have the greatest impact upon student’s achievement.
Lots of quick wins that are easy to implement. And that will have an immediate and long-lasting impact.
Why not upskill parents, at scale, so they know exactly HOW to help at home?
It’s been shown time and again this has the biggest impact on school improvement. And it’s even more important than ever in lockdown. We show how to do this without overloading teachers. It’s not enough to send work home for parents to supervise. If remote learning is to be effective then parents need to be shown how to help. And we can automate that so it’s no work for teachers. And our pre-written explanations cover Reading, Writing and Maths, and are in 100 languages – perfect for EAL families.
Imagine if every teacher could access just the right part of your internal guidance, at the moment they need it, without wading through the whole policy? Imagine if your subject leads could mentor every member of staff remotely, one-demand? It’s easy with our Curriculum Tools.
Surely you should be able to search every online education resource on the internet in seconds? Find exactly what each child needs. Even from site’s like BBC Bitesize that don’t have their own search function. Then share and evaluate in a click? With our new curated search engine – The Curriculum Lab – you can do exactly that from within Learning Ladders. Find any resource, matched to your existing plans, then share it via the remote learning portal and even track understanding with self-marking quizzes.
Why wait for issues to arise? Interrogate historical data trends and pinpoint likely issues before they happen.
The video is 30 minutes long so grab a coffee.
Matt: Hello everybody, welcome to the webinar. Just in terms of housekeeping, as I always say, I think everybody is familiar with Zoom nowadays. If you have any questions or any comments as we go through, then do just type them into the Q&A on the chat and I’ll keep an eye on that as we go through. I’m going to stick to about half an hour and there’s an awful lot to talk about. So, I’m going to go through relatively quickly. There will be notes on our website, learningladders.info at the end of the session.
My name is Matt. I’m the founder here at Learning Ladders. You can get me on social media. That’s my Twitter handle. And for the session today, we have a hashtag beyond tracking, which is our usual hashtag for the CPD events. I also chair EdTech at Besa, the trade association here in the U.K. I’m a founding member of a group called EdTech Evidence as well. I can give you perspectives from a range of angles. But mainly ones I wanted to share is some lessons that we’ve been learning from some of our member schools around the world that we think will be useful. And some insights into how you can get ahead of what’s going on at the moment. So a quick 30 minute session on quick wins and school improvement planning in challenging times with a particular focus on maths.
A lot of what I’m going to talk about applies to any subject. But just as an example, we’re going to focus on maths today. So going through and having a look at some of these things. I’m going to cover the big picture. I’m going to talk about what research tells us about improving progress generally, not just at the moment, but generally how this looks, particularly in the context of mathematics and how to make it real, how to actually bring it to life without overloading staff. Obviously, the system that I have access to is Learning Ladders. That’s our system. I appreciate that. It’s a sophisticated system and not everybody has access to it on the webinar. Apologies if that’s the case, but this is probably the easiest way for me to show you the quickest and most accurate way to do these things.
So a few housekeeping things in terms of context. Obviously, the majority of people on the webinar are probably working in a scenario where some parts of the school community is not attending school in the traditional way. There is some element of local lockdown. If you’re in the UK, that’s still a national lockdown. In other territories, you have more blended learning. And in some territories it’s beginning to get back to normal. But whatever the scenario is, it’s not quite what we would call normal learning. And there’s been a huge amount of disruption. So, before we rush into thinking about details of how we’re going to plan for school improvement and where we might get the quick wins, we really need to not overlook the really obvious fundamental factors. Thinking about pupil’s well-being here. If we miss that step, then anything that we do later on is going to have far less impact.
So, we know obviously securely attached children learn better. We know the anxiety is a block to learning. We know that we have to create time and space for relationships and rebuild routines, particularly within young children. We know that we need to explicitly scaffold ways to learn, not just bombard children with content and stuff that they have to remember. We know that we need to be transparent with children and we know that children will learn much, much better if we construct how to address the gaps in learning with them. And by that, I mean involve them in their learning, give them a role, give them some responsibility for discussing and understanding where their gaps in learning may be. And with very young children, that probably falls partially or wholly with the parents as well. But to have that dialogue that needs to be a two-way dialogue, particularly at the moment. Parents are obviously playing a critical role and we really, really need to focus on how we up-skilling parents, how we interact with parents when we’re planning our school improvement and our quick win. So that’s a bit of context. I think everybody will hopefully agree with that.
The one thing I would say from the research and things that we’re finding from schools that are successfully adapting to blended learning around the world, there is one influential factor that is significantly more important than anything else you will do. So if you remember nothing else from this webinar and you only take one action, this will be the one to take away that anything you do in school to try and improve children’s education, anything that you do around school improvement planning, around interventions, around assessment about anything else will be trumped by how effectively you can get adults at home, by which I mean parents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, tutors, chauffeurs (If you’re in that part of the world). Anything you can do to get adults more involved in the day-to- day learning of children and up skill them so they know how to help. That will have a greater impact on children’s learning than anything else that you can do, even under normal circumstances, so particularly under the current circumstances where we’re relying on the adults at home to scaffold learning, to address misconceptions, to manage motivation, to get children to do the things that we want them to do with our remote learning plans.
We know that in young children, in very young children particularly, it is not enough to simply send work home and have an adult at home supervise that that work is is happening, that that work has been given to the child. Those children need an adult with them who can scaffold their learning, who can take the place of the teacher in some respects by providing that motivation, providing those nudges, addressing misconceptions, modelling great ways of doing this. And that’s an incredibly hard thing to do. We know that. But if you can do it, then it will have more of an impact than anything else.
If you look at the studies, it shows that time and time again getting adults at home effectively involved in children’s learning, and what I mean by that is that they are actually specifically supporting individual tasks as part of a learning sequence. This is not simply about parents being involved, taking a picture and sharing it back with you, celebrating a reward sticker, celebrating something like that, answering homework. It is much deeper than that. Its parents who are up skilled at scale so they can all help their children remotely understand what they need to do and support them. And if you can crack that the maths for any other subject across the whole school, then time and time again the research has shown that is the single biggest thing that you can do. So, when you’re planning quick wins and school improvement in these challenging times, this is the most important thing you can do. And it’s not about simply sharing information with children or sharing information with parents. It’s making sure they know how to help at home. It’s making sure they understand the terminology.
Now, clearly, that can be quite intimidating, but the very, very good news is that although there are a lot of challenges out there- we know that a lot of families here in the UK and international schools, English might not be their first language. They might not be familiar with the terminology, with the teaching strategies that we know. We know there are a lot of challenges and we know the parents really, really want to help, but we know that it can be potentially overwhelming. So, you need a way to upscale parents at scale at home. Now, we have a method for doing this (little plug for Learning Ladders). Obviously here you can do this very, very easily. The way that we do it, and you may have a different way, the way that we do it is every single task that is set by the school or every single assessment that is made for every child is communicated through the remote learning platform and mapped to a whole load of prewritten resources. And this is a really quick, easy way that you can upskill parents at scale. So, for every individual child, they have a summary of all of their current objectives, exactly what they’re working on. You can set homework, you can share portfolios, you can do pupil reports. You can do flip learning, remote learning tasks, self- marking homework. But critically, each one of these, the parents and the children’s themselves, can then click through to a pre-written article. This is an explanation that Learning Ladders has created, and it goes through and explains to parents, this is exactly what you do for this particular skill at a very specific level. And all of these resources are available in over 100 languages. So, if you have communities at home that are not used to supporting home learning because either they simply don’t have the time normally or they don’t have the capacity or the expertise if they need to access this information in their home language so they can support their children, that’s absolutely fine. It’s clearly much better when adults at home have some understanding of how to help their children. And if we need to serve that up in their home language, absolutely no problem with that whatsoever. So, this can be a real game changer for those families who are not used to accessing the curriculum or supporting their children. So that’s the first part. And if you’re interested in parental engagement and that sort of stuff, we can talk about that a lot more.
So, you need to show parents exactly how to help. You need to, in school, create the conditions for success. Now, some of this will have happened already. Hopefully, if it hasn’t happened already, it is never too late. The relationship between home and school has to be to say there has to be a conversation going on. Share with parents and with the children. If they’re slightly older, explicitly share what you believe they can already do and therefore where your focus of teaching is going to be and they can respond to that and confirm it or challenge it or say, actually, maybe I don’t understand this, or I do understand this a little bit more. But that dialogue is going to be the best way that you can make an accurate assessment of children’s current learning situation. And until you’ve assessed that foundation stage, until you know exactly where they are at the moment, you can’t build on that. There are no quick wins.
There is no school improvement unless you have a very clear idea of your starting point. So, lots of low stake quizzes, lots of open-ended tasks, lots of conversations. This is not the time for formal intimidating tests. This is not the time for, you know, your exam type features. You cannot replicate that remotely. You cannot validate the conditions on which children are taking. Those tests are universal and fair for every child. So don’t bother would be my suggestion. But what you can do is use your existing data to identify known gaps and predict where there may be issues. You can use software like Learning Ladders to set self-marking quizzes to do low stakes online assessment to set open-ended tasks which will give you really rich information.
So, it’s a different way of doing your formative assessment, but it’s equally valid because your teachers will have that information. And if it’s low stakes and if it’s very small, there’s very little incentive for anyone to cheat the system. So, you do tend to find that actually the information that you get through this is very accurate. The other thing, obviously, while we’re talking about this, is this is a change. If this is a time of huge change for the majority of teachers in the majority of schools and families. So, we need to be flexible. We need to be flexible and compassionate, and we need to have flexible systems. And we need to just remember the scenario that everybody is operating in.
OK, so for school leaders, what can we do on the school improvement area? First and foremost, create the conditions to support the teachers. We need a high-quality bespoke curriculum that doesn’t change whether you’re doing remote learning or whether you’re doing teaching and learning in the normal way. High quality bespoke curriculum for maths. You need a calculation policy that teachers can access at the point of need. So you will have, if you’re a subject lead, created a policy which sequences learning in your subject beautifully throughout the whole school. And it’s probably a work of art and something that you’re very proud of, certainly mine was when I was maths leader in my school. This is something that you’ve worked on. But unless the teachers are accessing the relevant part of it at the relevant point of need, it’s totally pointless because it’s not being pursued. So, you need to make that easy for them to access so that you’re supporting them, so you’re giving them every chance of success.
If you’re using Learning Ladders and you’re a subject leader, you would do it like this. You would go into the curriculum section you would go into the creation zone. Let’s say I’m looking at maths, I would go into the part of the curriculum that I’m interested in. So, if I’m interested in addition, I can go into the edit function here and I can very easily go into a bit of the curriculum here. And I can add in useful resources. I can add in teaching notes and descriptions. This is where, as a subject leader, bringing your curriculum to life, bringing your calculation policy to life, giving that mentoring can be hugely valuable, particularly for the less experienced teachers and by upskilling your teaching staff so they have the confidence and the resources to hand so they know exactly how to help. That is another really quick way to school improvement in any time, regardless of remote learning or normal learning. So, add in teaching notes here, you know, and this can be simple extracts from your calculation policy if you’re using external resources, if you purchased a scheme linked to it from here, if you have an Internet, if you have moderated work, if you have lesson plans, link to it here so that the teachers can understand that in our particular system.
We now have something called the Curriculum Lab. So, a lot of the time teachers will then, once they know where the gaps in learning are, search through the Internet for supporting resources to understand what might be the best way to bring this to life for children. Well, again, can we short circuit that for them? Can we help them with that? So as more experienced teachers, you could use the curriculum lab here or teachers can use it as well. And literally what it will do is it searches the page that you’re on. So, it knows that you’re on addition and Mass, that’s maybe, say, filter by year two and it searches the Internet for the best available resources in this particular area. So, for example, these are all of the resources on BBC Bite Size relating to maths addition for year two children. And there’s a lot of them. And you can go through and you can have a look at them. We also have something called Oak National Academy, which is a government funded website where there are prewritten, pre-recorded lessons and resources and quizzes and all sorts of stuff. And again, the system will search all of those for you so you can go through. You can have a look at the particular resource and then you can add it into your teaching planning and use it either in school or remotely publish it through the remote learning platform. Set a quiz alongside it so that you can get immediate feedback and you can get an idea of who’s doing it. So, this is another new feature. If you’re using Learning Ladders to have a look at the curriculum, that which means that you can surface those resources, the point of need or other things to think about.
You’ve got resources, you’ve got your calculation policy that’s come to life. What is your assessment policy? What is your assessment structure? Is that reflecting your current teaching needs? So how are you going to do that? And again, you can go through and you can flex this in different ways in the system. So, for example, you may decide to flag to your teachers that some parts of the curriculum are non-negotiable. They are particularly important parts of the curriculum that although we appreciate that it’s a challenging time and teachers may not be able to get every part of the curriculum. This is the really critical area. So flag them, highlight them. We call them key performance indicators, whatever you call them, flag them on their make it clear to teachers that those are the non-negotiable tasks. And again, it’s these simple little things. If you’re a sports fan, it’s the aggregation of marginal gains, lots and lots of simple little wins to make teachers lives easier, pupils’ lives easier, parents lives easier will yield these results. There’s very rarely a magic bullet. The parent portal is probably as far as we can come to that. So, it’s lots and lots of these quick wins that will make the difference.
Alright, think about your assessment structure, think about your assessment policy. Is your data giving you the information that you need? If in remote learning you’re going to have to have a term or two of discovery, of understanding what children have done when they’ve been out of school, your assessment policy and your assessment data needs to reflect that and we can show you how to do that if you’re a Learning Ladders customer. All right. We want flexible, independent, resilient learners. So, it means empowering them. If you want children to be flexible enough to cope with remote learning, they need to have had responsibility for their own learning if the process that they’re used to is teacher, just as with a very small information, very small amount of information, just enough to get them through one lesson, and then the teacher evaluates them on that lesson and then they leave the lessons finished. If they’re used to that stop start teaching style, it’s going to be impossible for them to adapt to remote learning where they need to take more ownership. They need to be more self- starting. They need to be more resilient, more flexible. So, we have to train children by sharing with them explicitly. This is your learning journey. These are the objectives that we’re going to be working on. They are a sequence of lessons that will build up to these objectives and we want you to take ownership of them. So having those conversations with children, that’s the first step to effective remote learning. If children are not used to having the conversations about learning and taking ownership of learning with their teachers, they’re not going to magically suddenly be able to take ownership of their learning and lead the conversation with their parents when they’re at home. So, we need to build that gap and we need to give the children responsibility for this area.
Final area, I told you I was going quickly, and I apologise for that, there’s a lot to cover. Data is your friend, so set yourself up for success. A big part of what Learning Ladders will do is obviously your data. Whatever data system you’re using, you need to tailor your algorithms. So, school data historically has been quite inaccurate for three main reasons. The systems that you’ve used haven’t been able to reflect exactly the curriculum that you’re teaching in school. The assessment policy that the system has used hasn’t exactly been able to reflect your assessment policy and the calculation. The algorithm that the system has used doesn’t reflect the real world of teaching and learning. Now, most of the time, you should be able to customise your curriculum. You should be able to customise your assessment policy, but make sure you also customise your algorithm. If your data system is giving you judgements on children based on linear progress, a third, a third, a third progress each term. If it assumes that every subject is assessed in the same way, the data you get from it will be wrong because that’s not how schools work. If your system can’t cope, as we know that a lot of systems can’t with progress outside of the registration year group. If the system won’t recognise a year for child working on year three objectives as making progress, then your data is always going to be wrong. So find a system that will do that for you. Share excellence and support needs based on the data, then, yes, so you can use data patterns, even though you’ve probably had 12 months, nine months possibly of missing data. You can look at historical patterns and understand very, very easily where gaps in learning may be.
And you can do that in a number of ways. You can very easily do it using systems. If I was to go into ours, for example, again, this is how we do it, you might be able to do it differently, very, very simply. I am choosing a target group. I am choosing year five. I’m looking at their reading. I’m looking at what have they done in year five. So far, these colours and numbers are based on this school’s particular example. These this is what’s going on. But what I’m seeing here is the current year. Well, that may not be of particular interest to me. What did Year five AB do when they were in year four? You should be able to just go back in time for your existing class and identify gaps in learning really, really easily. What did the current Year five do when they were in year three? This information needs to be accessible to your class teachers at the click of a button. Otherwise, they are going to waste a lot of time on diagnostic work, on assessments, on pitching work at the wrong level, on trying to cover topics and subjects where the foundation skills haven’t been mastered by the children. If you don’t have this kind of data, this accessible, you’re always going to struggle.
The other thing to think about is then patterns in learning across multiple years. So again, this is something that we’ve been doing with our schools quite a lot. Having a look at what we’re showing here as a part of the Learning Ladders systems, which has cohort comparisons year on year. So, you can look at your curriculum and see how it’s performing year on year. And what this will do is this will show you. OK, so the current let’s have a look at year four maths. How have we been doing in the year for maths curriculum over the last three academic years? Well, the current year four, we don’t have much data for. We know that, but we can have a look at patterns in previous years and that may give us some trends in our own curriculum, which means we can get ahead of something. And from a school improvement planning perspective means we can make some reasonable assumptions. So, for example, a number of our schools have looked at their curriculum and discovered, for example, that in year two, every year there are 15 or 20 percent of children who don’t master times tables to the required level by the end of the academic year. Well, if that’s happened previously, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to happen again this year because this year is likely to be more challenging and not less challenging. So, if in the last few years there’s always been 15 or 20 percent of children who haven’t accessed or mastered time’s tables in maths in year four, it’s reasonable to assume that’s the case. So why wait, put an intervention in place now tell your teaching staff in year four. I am the head of maths. I’ve looked at the data. I anticipate that we may well have a number of children have this issue with times tables in year four. I have looked at the gap analysis of your class or asked you to do it. We’ve identified the specific children and we’ve proactively put an intervention in place that’s highly targeted based on historical data and a reasonable assumption of what’s likely to happen. That is quite simple to do if you can. Access the data in the right way. That’s something that you can really do to get ahead of school improvement planning. Not just look at the children that you’ve got at the moment but have a look at the performance of your curriculum over multiple years and that will give you some really good insights.
Use historical data. This is one of our dashboards looking at GL data. If you’re a school that uses GL data, particularly in the Middle East, have a look at your historical trends. Have a look at that on a global basis, on an individual basis, and you can get some really good insights as to where likely challenge areas and likely opportunities may be. You need a system that does all of this together, so obviously a little plug for Learning Ladders here, but this is what we do. Everything that I’ve talked about is within one system. So your curriculum design, your assessment, your remote learning, your parent tools, your split learning, your self-marking homework, your pupil reports, your data, your independent learning. Everything I’ve talked about is within one system and you need that. Otherwise, multiple logins, multiple systems, just a waste of time. It’s going to distract your staff. OK. Does it work? Well, yes. In our particular case, we know that it does.
If you’re interested in EdTech and you’re looking at different solutions, go to comparison sites like EdTech Impact. Have a look at what they say about the various different systems, and that’s a really good way of doing it. So, in summary, if you have any questions do put them in the chat I’m conscious of times.
I’m going to try and finish promptly because I know everyone’s busy. In summary, involve parents at a granular level and by that, I mean a specific objective level as they go. It’s no good waiting until the end of term, until you do parent consultations or you do a formal people report to share with parents what’s going on. We know that if you’re doing blended learning at the moment with a lot of children at home, it’s no good just sending worksheets home or sending tasks home or giving them a log in to a remote learning platform. The adults at home need to be able to support the children’s learning, address misconceptions, give them the motivation, model enthusiasm. And in order to do that as a school, you need to upscale parents at Scale On-Demand remotely. And that’s what we do at Learning Ladders. No compromise, OK, this is too important and your school is working too hard to compromise.
There are lots of systems out there, but there are very few that will do all of this for you. Don’t compromise. Make sure you get involved with the systems. If you think systems like ours are beyond you, get in touch with the office, we’re here to help. Even if you’re not using Learning Ladders get in touch. If you have any questions, we are here to help. I’m a former teacher. I know what it’s like. We genuinely want to try and support schools through this programme and we have been doing this for years. I set this up five years ago. We’ve spent five years researching this, developing it, working with schools around the world. We understand this space extremely well. This is not new for us. So have a think about how you can do that. I hope that was that was useful. I have gone through a lot of information very, very quickly.
These are free CPD sessions that we run at Learning Ladders to support primarily our existing members, but also the wider school community. So, if you’re a member, then I hope that was useful and you’ve picked up some tips. If you are a member and you want to discover more about this than when you’ve logged into your system, click on The Help Guide. And this, as always, is where you’ll find all of the articles. This is where you’ll find access to future webinars. This is where you’ll find access to historical webinars. Our chat forums are community forums. All sorts of stuff is here in the help center. If you’re a member, that’s where you’ll find the recording of this later on. If you’re not, then contact the office and I’m sure they’ll be able to give you a copy. This is how you can get hold of us. Like I said, if you’re on social media, if you’re on Twitter, the hash tag is #beyondtracking. I hope that was useful. I’m going to stop talking now and just have a quick look at the Q&A. If you haven’t asked a question, and you need to get on with your day then thank you very much for taking the time. I hope this was useful so let me know what you think. And like I said, we’re here to support. So very best of luck. Thank you.
Learning Ladders are excited to host a webinar with Jenni Dellman, Head of Primary at the British School of Muscat.
Jenni shares her reflections on using Learning Ladders both for learning in school and during this period of remote and blended learning.
Join the webinar to hear about how the British School of Muscat:
Incorporates Learning Ladders into their ‘holistic journey’
Built a curriculum that is purposeful for their students, reflective of their pedagogy and is tailored to reflect the diverse range of nationalities
Engages with Learning Ladders as a High Performance Learning school
Utilises Gap Analysis tools to inform teaching and planning
Informs parents using Pupil Reports, sharing explicit learning goals using Ladders at Home (translatable in 100+ languages).
A copy of the webinar can be found below:
Jeni Dellman: Hello, everyone, and thank you very much for attending today. A little bit of history just before we start. I’m currently the head of primary at the British school Muscat and have been for the last almost two years. Prior to that, though, I was the assistant head for assessment and reporting, and that’s when my journey to Learning Ladders began. So, I am coming at this from starting at the grassroots and helping with the buildup.
And obviously things are a little bit different now with everything that’s happening in the world. We went into lockdown on March the 13th and we reopened for Blended learning November the 1st. And I’m sure that some of you may still not even be in school. So, some of this may or may not be relevant. But I’ll give you a little bit as we go along. I think basically before I move on, I think the most important thing here is a disclaimer. This is our personal journey. All this is how we are using Learning Ladders. And as per anything, there is never a one size fits all. So, it could be a case of taking some of this, taking note of it. And it’s all contextual to your school.
So, when we first started looking at Learning Ladders for a number of reasons why we wanted to go down this route, and I’m actually not going to go into all of now because over the course of the last few months, in the next coming months, I know that Matt and the team are doing other seminars and webinars that will cover some of these and a little bit more depth. But from my perspective, if I look at the highlighted areas, those are kind of the ones that help us think about why we chose Learning Ladders in terms of being able to address those needs of the children, being able to look at those gaps that students may or may not have.
Now, I think yesterday Matt ran a webinar which talked about parental engagement, but also talked a little bit about, you know, the uses of Learning Ladders and the most important bit being that it’s not a day to Dropbox. It’s not a place where you just put a lot of information and then you ignore it. And I think if that’s what it is, you’re going to lose your staff, you’re going to lose your parents, and it’s not going to have an impact on the children in any way at all. So, I’ve kind of listed here a number of the different ways that that we have been using Learning Ladders in a number of different ways that we incorporate it into what we like to call our holistic journey. So, it’s not a standalone it’s not a bolt on. It’s not something that you take separately. It builds into every aspect of what we’re doing.
So, if I think about it in terms of our steps and stages of where we’ve gone, step one was the set up. Now, it was referenced earlier already by Matt, but it’s a bespoke curriculum content. And for us, that was one of the biggest selling points. It meant that we’re British International School. We follow the national curriculum objectives, and we want to make sure that we’re preparing our children for progression both across the year groups, but also around the world. But at the same time, we need to make sure it was purposeful for us and it allowed us to follow the interests of how our pedagogy was, we do something called Discovery Learning, which looks a different way of delivering some areas of the curriculum. And also, we wanted to make sure that in a school, like many of yours, will be with a diverse range of nationalities, that we were able to tailor what we did to still meet those national curriculum objectives, but in a way that helped us progress with the children. So, the first thing we did, and it has taken years, I’m not going to lie. We started with their set of objectives that they pre put in so that you can use those. And over the course of many years, our subject coordinators and our Year group teams have met. They’ve looked at it that refined, and they’ve adapted. But at the moment we’ve got a curriculum that is based very heavily on the things that we cover and the areas that we need to make sure we’ve hit for the children. Once we have that in place. We then created what we’d like to call the internal consistency’s document, and I’m more than happy to share that with anybody who would like to see it. It basically boiled down to almost a one-page policy. Now, within our assessment policy and our teaching and learning policy and each individual subject area, Learning Ladders is referenced, but it did deserve its own little standards like standalone section that meant that teachers could go to it when they just had a few questions. So, within the internal consistencies, we basically focus on the frequency and a few explanations. So, the frequency of expectation, how regularly should our staff be looking at updating the objectives, the regular things that they’re doing on a day-by-day basis? But also, what is the time frame for completing the teacher judgements, for looking at that attainment holistically, for looking at the progress of the children? So those things are within the document. In addition to which the text.
Now, I can’t see anybody’s faces, but if you do use Learning Ladders, one of the things that we found the most interesting was the use of the four-tick system, because with the best will in the world, everybody still was looking at those ticks and thinking of them in a very different way. So, we held a number of staff meetings. We talked together about what one tick should mean, what two ticks would mean three and then four. And so, by moderating together, by sharing our practice and we do have moderation meetings as well. Looking at the latest objectives that allowed us to create a document which, you know, while never perfect, is certainly more robust than it was at the start of this journey and training. You know, at the end, I’m going to talk about time and giving time to things. And it’s the most valuable resource we have, and especially at the moment in a world of covid, where many of us can’t get together in large groups and everything seems to be done in Zoom or Google meets. But those were the first two stages of our step of setting up system. And then we talked about that idea of adaptive planning, that idea of being a responsive teacher of looking at what’s being covered, of looking at what needs to be covered and making sure that we are undertaking all the objectives. And so, for us, we found it quite helpful in our medium-term planning. In addition to the work that we do on HPL, we also wanted to make sure that we listed those Learning Ladders targets so that we made sure we covered them all. So, we built into our planning as well.
Now, this is where we come, I suppose, to the main part of this presentation about identifying the gaps, I love the Gap Analysis part of Learning Ladders, partly because it’s very colourful. Learning Ladders is very intuitive. It’s very easy to follow and it’s very easy to see things. And for visual learners, it’s perfect. And here we’ve been able to use the Gap Analysis within teams for individual and Cohort Gap Analysis. So, I’ve taken anonymised part from a media section of one year group. And you can see here that at the bottom there’s a whole block of red. And that was absolutely fine because at that particular point in the year, these children had not had those lessons and that exposure to those objectives. So as a teacher, when I’m planning and looking forward and making sure that my longer-term plans are in place, I will be looking at the Gap Analysis and going, right, what is missing, what have I not yet covered. And that allows us to make sure that we’ve got that that fuller picture. But at the same time, that individual analysis, that first look is very useful. If you look at the first column, you’ll see there’s a child whose twos pretty much all the way down, but then they have one or you’ll look at children who have a number of different ones, red, one being the exposure to it, some understanding, but no confidence in that area. And so, when you’re targeting children, when you’re looking at what you’re going to identify and when you’re talking to parents, you’re able to really drill down into those very key objectives that are very specific for each child. So, within a planned timetable, staff meeting sessions and so on, the plan is always having time built in to allow teams to get together and do that. And then we also plan those times for teams to work across groups. So, again, they can look at each other’s and see where they’re going.
Now, pre covid, we also would have planning days for teams where the next year group team member or leader would come down and meet with them and again, they’d be able to talk about those things. Obviously, we’re a little bit in a different world at the moment, but that’s the further intention moving forward. And as a school, it’s you know, we’re a HPL school. It’s all about that high level of challenge and that high level of support. So, you’ll see here as well that there are some children who are green, who have mastered certain skills. And you want to look at those children as well, because it’s not just about finding those gaps for the children who struggle. It’s about making sure that those children are able to keep pushing so there’s no ceiling on what they can do. And so, we have what we call pupil progress meetings, and those are held firmly, and they held between the class teacher and the year leader during the first instance. And then the inclusion team, SEN and our language for learning department also join it. And we have two parts to this document. The first part is a tracking of the teacher judgements by Learning Ladders.
And what you’ll see here is the colour coded because, you know, I love a colour. In the first term, you’ll see it’s black, for example and within there you take from your Learning Ladders the children who are working below age related towards, at or beyond Age-Related and you put them into the grid. And there’s not a great deal at that point you can do with that data beyond part of the conversation that happens. Now, Matt referenced this idea of it being a conversation, and I think he would agree with me that it isn’t the be all and end all and only thing you should be using, but it’s a great jumping off point, it’s a great first step that allows those dialogues.
We also use G.L., we also use the Pass. And so, we take all of that information and we use the Learning Ladders to help build it. Now, over the course of the year, you’ll also see that the colours change and we look to see whether children have moved from one area to another. So, you’ll see that the children in red and the children who move over and the number of children, for example, here in red has increased, which must mean that some of the children who were working before having moved. OK, and that’s kind of the idea behind it. We’re continuously tracking. But we also asked teachers to highlight if anybody hasn’t made progress, but more importantly, has actually gone backwards in their teacher judgement because, again, that needs to start to dialogue.
Now, this particular child, bless him, through no fault of his own, was incredibly ill and took two months off school. Now, of course, he wasn’t able to make progress in line with his peers. And so that was a dialogue. There was no judgement. There was no penalising anybody because your children aren’t working. But it allowed that conversation.
And we then take that to make individualised responses so within our pupil progress data, every child is discussed, every child is talked about within a class because the danger I remember when I was first starting teaching and you had to write reports and you always found it easier to write the reports for the children who were struggling or for the children who were higher achievers. But for those children who just knuckled down and got on with it and were polite and everything else, sometimes you might have missed things. So, we look at it holistically and we make sure that each child is discussed. And then we write into the comment boxes, the actions that we’re taking, the interventions that we’re going to put into place, and the support that we’re offering. And there in response to the identified gaps that we’ve looked at or for the children who are working below or towards. And as you can see here, the demonstration is as well as using the suite of information as well. And then you want to look at it even more holistically, but for each individual. And so, what we do here is we take one child, and we look at them in terms of are they going to be reaching age related expectations by the end of the academic year? Are we expecting to see these children at the level that we hope they need to be in order to progress confidently to the next group and thrive? And if they are not expected to do that, then we need to have further conversations. We need to think about what it is that we as a school need to do to make sure those children are supported and able to continue to progress. And so, you’ll see here again that that happens. We have children who are currently maybe not age related, but they’re green here because we know they’re going to be age related at the level of progress which they’re currently making. So, it’s a number of different ways of taking that data and having conversations about it. On a on a side note also as well, one of the things and it’s just worth mentioning here is the subject leaders at the school. We do have subject leaders and part of their responsibility, again, is to look at the whole school attainment and the curriculum coverage. So, as well as identifying those gaps for your own children in your own class and also for identifying gaps for specific individuals as a school, we’re able to identify those gaps.
We’re able to see if traditionally time, which in the in the past used to always be one of the last curriculum parts of a year group’s timetable was always left to the end and then with everything that happened, got scrunched down and it wasn’t necessarily taught. And do we need to reshuffle the units and how we teach? And so, each subject leader is able to look at it in terms of where the gaps are for their area. And it’s great we get all of that and then what do we do with the data? And so, we do a number of things and I’ve mentioned a few. We worked with the teachers and the TA’s and we work with the inclusion team to look at what we can do. But we also talk to the students and the parents because with the best well in the world you can do everything you want, and if the students and the parents aren’t engaged and on board, you are not going to get any further. And so pre-covid, there was a lot of student’s dialogue.
And it looked a little bit like this. So, the children have maths targets, for example, in year three, which are linked to our Learning Ladders objectives. And so, what would happen is each child would have their own placemat, their own card, which had those objectives on it. And throughout the year, they would have conversations with their teachers about where they were at, about what they were doing. Depending on the age of the children, they’d be asked to self-assess themselves. Where do they think they are? What do they think they need to work on next? And they were able to start articulating, using the Ladders at Home objective language. And I think that’s very important as well, because if you’re looking at this holistic view and it’s not an add on, everybody needs to be using the same language. Everybody needs to know what we’re doing. So, the children had these cards that they were using. At the moment, obviously, we are back on a blended model, but we have restrictions on what can be on tables and everything else. So, the children have conversations about their objectives with the teachers, but they don’t yet have these.
And that leads me to the parental engagement. I talked about those cards pre covid. We had open afternoons every time the parents would come into school and they would sit with their child. They wouldn’t sit with the teacher; they’d sit with their child and the and the child would go through all the different things that they were doing in class that share their books and walk around the classroom. They point to the things they done, but they also had these target cards and they’d be able to tell their mums and dads what they were currently working on, what they were going to work on next, what they were very proud of. And we balanced the use of the Learning Ladders words with the work that we do on High-Performance, learning on our values and attitudes. We also have parent focused meetings, there are little different, and we’ve developed them over the last few years and every week for parents from a class have 15-minute appointments now during Google meets. So, we’re allowed to have that a little bit longer conversation with the parents and we share those targets with them. We share the target paths with them in the past. Now we just share the targets and we let them know where their children are in terms of the objectives that we are currently covering and what it is they need to do for their next steps.
And again, within the reports, our teacher judgements are echoed in the reports. We were looking with Matt and his team at moving to using the Learning Ladders reports. And then unfortunately, we did go into full lockdown. So, I know that is something we’re still interested in and learning more about, but at this point, we were not quite ready for it. And then the final thing with parents is the Ladders at Home. So, we tell our parents what it is that our children may be struggling with or their children. And we may say to them that they’re really having a hard time with fronted that verbals. And if your schools are like ours, we have a lot of parents who may not have gone through the national curriculum, the British or English curriculum. They may not understand the way that we do addition or subtraction. They may not have had the words to convey because there are so many different changes working internationally. So, for me and I know that this is a completely separate webinar topic, but Ladders at Home has been fabulous, particularly during this period of covid because the parents are able to go on to Ladders at Home. We’re going to say to them whatever area is and if a parent feels that they would like to support at home, then they at least know where to look. We do make it very clear that we are still the teachers, and it is still what we do to teach the children. And there isn’t a level of expectation.
One of the things we found during covid is parents’ shame, I think would be the nicest way to say that guilt. The parents feel they’re working. They have 100 other jobs to do, and they want nothing more than to help their children. And sometimes they may not have the time to do that. And so, it’s part of our job to work with those parents and let them know that that’s OK, too. And we do not make any judgements about what you can and can’t do at home. But if you do want to, here’s one way that you can do it as well. And then I guess this links, therefore, to the lock down changes, you know, the fact that on March the 12th we went into lockdown and everybody was then online learning. And when we first started, we were using Google suites. We were doing preprepared videos. We were talking about things. We were sharing resources. We’ve since moved towards like lessons. But in the early days, the parents would have a video. It would have an explanation of what they were doing. The teachers would be showing them and talking. But at the same time, there was still that level of confusion in some ways because they’re not teachers and they’re suddenly in the home in a classroom at home. So, we did a couple more seminars or webinars for the parents where we shared how they could use Learning Ladders. We showed them the different tools that they had, the way that it would give them advice on what they could do. And again, with our school, we also spoke a lot about the fact that it could translate into multiple languages, because, again, we have we have parents from many, many different nationalities. And I think that gave some parents a great deal more confidence to talk to us about what their children were doing to make sure that they were able to say, well, I’m not sure about this or what do we do? And it was that individualised, personalised conversation that led to us helping the children to sort of like fill those gaps and to make that progress.
And I think if we talk about moving forward, it’s different now. We’ve got some children in school and some not in school. And we need to think about what we could do with the students to make sure that they were engaged in their learning and still having conversations about what they needed to do. So, although we were talking about it in class, we’ve now started to think about how they can reflect when they’re working online. We use Jamboard and Google Docs. It allows them to think about what they’ve done and what they’ve learnt and what they need to do next. So that level of ownership, we are now looking in the coming months to see if we can run some virtual site, open afternoons for the for the children to share what they’re doing. And then for the staff, it’s the idea of having time and being able to review because a lot has changed, and we are still using ladders and we are still using it very effectively and we are still making sure that we cover the objectives.
But we do need to give people time because obviously at the moment we’re all going through it in a very different way. When covid started and the lockdown happened, the biggest concern from the parents on, the biggest concern from the staff was how on earth were we going to track what the children were doing? How on earth were we going to make sure as teachers that our duty of care for the children was to make sure that we educated them, but that we cared about them for their pastoral needs, and we made sure that they were able to be looked after, spoken to and make that progress. And so, as a team, we took the KPI’s from the Learning Ladders and we took those and made those are like our core objectives and said, OK, we are not necessarily going to guarantee that we can hit every single objective, but what we can do is make sure that we cover all of the KPIs so that we’re not disadvantaging the children when they move to the next year. And we created a series of rubrics, so teachers were updating them. So, the next year group would know what had been covered and what they needed to go back and fill, as well as using the Gap Analysis on Learning Ladders. And I think I’ve kind of raced through that. But I will stop. At that point and see if Matt needs to step in.
Matt: Thank you, Jenny. That was really, really useful. Let me share, you touched on a few points there. If anyone has any questions to do to put them in the queue and I’ve got a couple already but let me just share my screen and actually show people a couple of things that you were talking about.
So, you mentioned. The parents also quite a few times, just in terms of what that looks like for people, so this this is the parent portal that you’ll see if you’re a student or a parent accessing it remotely. And what it will do is pulling all of the objectives for every individual child that they’re working on at any moment in time. So, it’s totally individualised to them. You can go through. You can have a look at portfolios of their work. There’s obviously remote learning tasks and all sorts in here. But what Jenny was talking about, as well as these supporting articles that we’ve already created, so these are in the system. You don’t have to do anything. They exist already there for the whole reading, writing, maths, curriculum. And it goes through and it explains to parents exactly how to support. So, once you have identified those needs and you share that with parents and then this is the best that you can identify and you can share in multiple languages, so you can change this, we have over 100 different languages in here that you can just change at the click of a button just to pick up on that and actually show people that is what that looks like.
The other thing that you touched upon let me go into the system, I think is a really interesting moment. We’ve seen this time and time again is identifying parts of the curriculum as KPIs. So, this idea that in an ideal world, teachers would obviously go through the whole curriculum, as they would do normally. But there are some bits which are the really sort of critical areas. So, again, if you’re a member already, then the way you would do that is go into the creation zone, find the subject you’re interested in. So, let’s say we’re interested in this area here, go into the edit function. And then when you scroll down to any of the particular objectives, you can add in useful resources, teaching those descriptions, bringing together policies and stuff. But you can also identify them as KPIs in here. And that will then filter through the system and identify them for staff. So, I won’t do that on this particular example, but that’s what that’s all about.
And you mentioned pupil reports and all the pupil reports that like this is a PDF version. But there’s a there’s a digital version as well. You can choose whichever one you want. So, this is an automated thing that the system will do and share with parents remotely, at the end of term, at the end of the year, exactly what is going on in a more formal sense. So, you have the ongoing dialogue in the parent platform and then you have the opportunity for this sort of formal sense.
So, I just picked up on a couple of areas there that I thought I’d have given. I’ve got the demo versions to hand out I’ll share there. So that was really interesting, really useful. One thing that’s come through on the on the already as a question is, you mentioned obviously set up with this and bespoke and lots of different options and stuff. How the question that’s come in is given there are so many options, and it is possible to do bespoke, what’s the support like giddyap to get to do this on your own or how does that work?
Jenni: I am I’m not saying that just because Matt is listening. But, you know, I have to say that I one of the reasons that we particularly like Learning Ladders is the level of support that you get. So far, that has not been a time that we haven’t written to them with some drastic major help email or please fix this or we would like this or whatever. And they and they haven’t responded. And most of the time, you know, they are very much a listening team. So, we do get a lot of support in terms of the practicalities of you within a staff and the admin. I think if you were looking at this as a brand-new set up, I do recommend taking one of the set sections, either the national curriculum model, the Hilting bury one, and using that, even if the way we did it was we started with the Hilton bury and we ran it only for English and maths for the first year and we didn’t share it with the parents. Now, it may be that you want to go full steam ahead and you have the capacity within your teams. But what we then did in the following year was we shared with our staff the national curriculum documents and the Hiltingbury documents and together they built and adapted. And it is a very quick once you’ve got it on a document, a Google doc or whatever else. It is a very quick copy it into the box, copy it into the box, press, save press, publish. It’s not massively onerous, but there is an element of admin to it which will take you a little bit of time in the very first set up. And what I do like about it is then you can still edit, and you can still add to it and you can still change and move as you need. And so, every year, not going to lie. Matt will agree with this. Every year we refine and adapt. We do it at the end of an academic year to ensure that all our ticks and all are so Gap Analysis is consistent across all of them.
Matt: Yeah, and that’s a comprehensive answer. Thank you. I won’t tell the team that you think they’re great because they’ll probably just ask for more money. But yes, I think in terms of how it works, all the curriculum frameworks within the system already, so you can take it off the shelf and a lot of schools will do that, or you can customise it in any way you like. And that process is very easy. But the critical thing about it, again, is what Jenny’s touched on here is this. This should be a living document. There should be something the staff are using day in, day out, getting the information out of it, as well as making the assessments and sharing it and using feature analysis for your actual curriculum is going to change and improve and evolve as you go through it as well. So, you can change and adapt that either to individual circumstances, but don’t a long-term school improvement plan as well.
OK, and one thing that we get asked about quite a lot, so I was just going to touch on very, very briefly is obviously when people talk about gaps in learning, they look about data stuff and we do separate webinars on data. So, I won’t go into too much detail. But the key thing to get accurate data to do any of this kind of stuff is, is three kind of areas. You need obviously the curriculum digitally to reflect what you’re actually teaching in class. We talked about it time and time again to make sure your system is flexible enough. To do that, you need your assessment policy to be reflected in your system. So, again, make sure your system is done and that set up. But you also need to make all the calculations behind the scenes are set up to the reality of how you teach. So, if you’re teaching a mastery approach, if you’re teaching a thematic approach, if because of local circumstances you have factors which mean one particular term, you can’t get quite so much taught as you might do in different ways. If you’re adapting your pacing because of coronavirus, all of that kind of stuff needs to feed into the system. So, you get the accurate data. And again, if that’s an area of interest, we have separate webinars on that. But do make sure you do that, because if you’re not getting into that level, then you won’t get the sort of specific information any sort of stole my thunder here.
We talk about Gap Analysis as being a really popular. That’s obviously great. And then the cohort comparison is a relatively new one but is something that a lot of schools are looking at the moment. And if you’re worried about not having a lot of recent data that you can make inferences on or use for your planning for the current cohort, looking at multiple cohorts going through a curriculum is a really good way of identifying patterns in learning. So, some time as an example, actually, do we see in terms of our data that we have a consistent challenge with the peer group in a particular part of the curriculum? And what can we do to address that? Which is because you’ve got last year’s data missing. If you’ve got the prior two or three years of data, as long as you can analyse it in a sensible way, it’s a really good way of red flagging, like the issues that you would have had anyway. You’re almost certainly going to have now. So that whole data, if you’re interested in that, we do. We do other webinars on this. And you mentioned GL data. I don’t think you may be missing this, Jenny, but this is new. This is going to go live in the next few days so we can sort this out for you. This is a whole sort of new dashboard approach to all the GL data. So, if you use that in your schools, then then obviously we can enable that from your system from the end of next week.
And then there’s the contact details. What I think I’ll do now is just sort of leave a bit of space because we aim for half an hour. We’re already ten minutes over the beginning. I’ve ever met or spoken with a webinar where we stick to the time. So, I apologise for that. Thank you for sticking with us. Everybody knows that nobody’s left that to gain a few people at the end. So, if you have any questions, then follow then fire them through and we’ll answer them. Now, if you think of them afterwards, then get in touch with the team and we’ll do it. If you’re on Twitter, then feel free to tweet us and I’m sure we can have a discussion on Twitter. Jenni, I love that you put your hand up.
Jenni: I’m used to primary school. The other thing I was going to say is in the past, when I first started Learning Ladders, Matt put me in touch with a school in Dubai and I spent a lot of time talking to that person about how they’ve set it up. So, in public and witnessed, I’m more than happy outside of this webinar if there is anybody who is thinking of setting it up or has anything or even just building a network of people in a similar situation, I’m more than happy to start dialogues outside of here as well. And I’m sure Matt is happy to pass on information.
Matt: Yeah, thank you, that’s really kind, Jenni. And we definitely will. Yeah, I mean, one of the great things is we do have some fantastic schools who are brilliant at sharing and sharing best practice and CPD stuff like this. So, all right. I think that was the main question. The other ones I know that we answered as we went through, I picked up in a couple of people, asked to just show some of the things that we were talking about. So, I’ve done that. So let me bring this to a close. Jenny, thank you for taking the time out of what I know is very, very busy time for you and everybody else and enjoy the rest of the evening. Everyone else, if there’s anything else that that can be useful then do get in touch. But we’ll send a copy of the presentation and everything to you afterwards, so thanks Jenni and thank you very much, everybody.