In conversation with… Learning Ladders

Matt Koster-Marcon, Director of Learning Ladders, talks to BESA about solving problems in schools

Was it important to you to set up as a social enterprise? 
​Yes. Ultimately our mission is to solve problems for schools, and we do that by working collaboratively​. Education should be social.

How did the idea of founding Learning Ladders come to you?
​Actually it came from the schools that we work with. We’re very much a ‘flipped’ company – everything we do comes from the classroom rather than top down. What we do is bring best practice together and make it accessible and more effective using great technology. Schools know what’s best for them and their pupils, we just make it happen for them​.

Why did you decide to work with parents as well as with schools for a product on assessment and curriculum? What role do parents play in their child assessment and curriculum learning?
​Parents are absolutely critical and are too often overlooked. Research shows parents can have more impact on learning than anything that happens in school. They’re the greatest untapped resource available to educators, and what’s more they’re free and want to help. It’s fantastic that we no longer have to wait until parent consultations to involve them, or be content just sending them grade updates which really don’t help anyone. Why not engage them in their child’s learning every day and show them how to help? Learning Ladders does that in a really simple, effective way that involves no extra work for teachers or parents.​

How important is it that children take ownership of their learning? What difference do you see in their performance/learning?
Massively. Again the research, the work of John Hattie in particular, shows this to be the most effective way to enhance learning. Sometimes we focus too much on peripheral things like homework, seating plans or computer-aided learning, when actually all the research evidence shows these have little effect compared to putting children at the heart of their learning in class in the way Learning Ladders does. ​

How much do you think that education technology helps drive school improvement? What else do you think is needed?
​Ed tech is an enabler, but not (sadly!) a magic bullet. ​Once the school knows what they need to do we can often help them achieve it. We’ve had schools that needed specific content, say Arabic and Islamic Studies, and we’ve worked with them to not only generate content in Arabic and English, but make sure pupil resources print right to left and parent resources are translated from either English or Arabic (into over 100 languages). Or we had other schools that were ‘Requires Improvement’ and we’ve helped them jump straight to ‘Outstanding’ next inspection by giving them a platform to tailor their assessment to their specific needs. Our approach is very much ‘educator first’ rather than tech first.

Do you find greater flexibility working with independent schools on curriculum? How attractive is it to work with schools that have more freedom over the curriculum they deliver?
​Of course. Independent schools we work with tend to teach enhanced versions of a national curriculum, but also with some localisation, so they need a premium solution, not one-size-fits-all. It’s great that we can help them draw this all together, to teach, assess and report in a bespoke but consistent way as they need.  



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