Interview with Peter Gelardi, CEO of Earwig
Recently Peter was interviewed on Earwig and how it works for schools as well as where it sits as a business, we thought we’d share it with you …
Interview with Peter Gelardi CEO of Earwig Academic
Can you summarise what Earwig is?
Earwig is an app and software package the brings teaching evidence and formative assessment into the 21st century for primary schools and special needs schools across the spectrum.
Developed over four years, it is already the leading product in this area for SEND schools and SENCos
How does it work?
Teachers use an app to create photos, video and documents and then tag these with pupil and curriculum information to create Earwig Records. These produce a vivid timeline for any class, subject, pupil or curriculum element and can be shared (securely) with parents.
The records provide the evidence behind a complex cloud-based pupil assessment software package which can deal with any number of different curricula or assessment frameworks (currently about 100) and provide easy, one click, expectation setting, tracking, reporting and analytics.
The best way to understand how Earwig works is to check out the website www.earwigacademic.com
What are the hardware and connectivity requirements?
Earwig works in the cloud. So, no capacity restrictions whatsoever and school networks and devices run faster. Also, the system can be accessed from anywhere.
It runs on any computer, laptop or handheld device but does require a solid wifi/internet bandwidth connection. Most schools have this nowadays or are about to upgrade.
Classroom tablets also make using the system easier and faster. Most schools now have these too.
How does it reduce teacher workloads?
Collecting, annotating and organising teaching evidence is still a largely manual job in most primary and special schools and takes up an enormous amount of teacher time and energy. See the Earwig website for a quote from a teacher – ‘This afternoon I did 100 observations. Before Earwig that would have taken me two weeks.’
The same goes for recording assessments and producing pupil reports from these. While Earwig can’t write the commentary (yet) it can produce all the support data beautifully presented, with a few clicks. School Heads particularly like the pupil tracking, safeguarding and analytics features.
What does it cost?
System setup, which includes daily synchronisation with the school MIS, costs £190.
The annual cost for the basic Teaching Evidence package is £500 plus £1 per pupil. The Assessment and Reporting Module is another £400. Then there are various additional features which each add £100 a year to the Annual Licence Fee.
We provide in-school basic and advanced training courses for staff. These cost £280 per session.
More details on our website https://earwigacademic.com/costsandsavings/
How has Earwig’s design been influenced by evidence?
The entire Earwig system design has been customer led. We use an ‘agile’ development philosophy, designing features and putting them ‘out there’ to customers who then feed back their likes, dislikes and ‘Could it also do this…?’
The package is now very ‘fully featured’ and by far the most comprehensive and flexible pupil assessment system in the UK or the US (and, therefore, probably, the world) which is why it appeals so much to special schools, where pupil assessment is much more complex and this flexibility is necessary.
The package started life as a teaching evidence tool (designed by a teacher) and morphed into a complete assessment package at the insistence of users. Each of the parental engagement, student portfolio, assessment, tracking, expectation setting, safeguarding, reporting and analytics modules have only been built once they are ‘sponsored’ by a school which then helps with the testing and final design spec.
Once a module or feature is deployed, the evidence of its popularity is in the usage figures. Some facilities prove immediately popular (we already have 2.6 million images and 120,000 videos uploaded by teachers). Others prove to be a bit ‘niche’. From this, we learn.
What impact evidence do you have?
The objective of any teaching support software should be improved pupil outcomes but while Earwig is still in its developmental stage, reliable data about this is difficult to come by.
An improved Ofsted rating one measurable metric of standard maintenance or improvement in a school. In the current school year, only 16% of Outstanding schools retained their rating, but every single Earwig school inspected this year either retained theirs or were upgraded. See Earwig blog post
The next best pure data evidence of impact is uptake and usage data. In 2017, the Earwig system contained about 10 different curricula and assessment frameworks (each one built specifically for a school). By 2018, this had increased to more than 30 and now there are more than 100.
There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence of the impact of Earwig. (Recent quote from a Head – ‘You’ve given me back a week of my holiday.’) We now spend very little on marketing because most of our enquiries come as a result of school to school recommendations and a panel of influential heads of leading special schools who are happy to endorse Earwig. Check the Earwig website and blog (link in website footer)
What is the five year plan?
Earwig is working in more than 100 schools but it is continuously in development mode, with as much management time and resource being devoted to system expansion and improvement as to sales. We see this continuing for about another two years, by which time the rate of new product requirements should reduce while the sales and customer support workload will increase.
Then it will be time to expand abroad.
What area of the business will you develop next?
As a result, many of the 1,600 special schools have made their own arrangements – viz. the 100 assessment frameworks built into Earwig. So, no individual school has any idea what teaching schemes already exist which could help them achieve their objectives in a situation of constantly moving pedagogical goalposts. This means additional work and stress for Heads, SLTs and teachers.
Earwig is a unique repository of all this information. We intend to build a machine learning (AI) platform which can quiz each school about its pupil cohort’s ages, disability types and levels and the school objectives and match these against the information we have about each curriculum and thus produce recommendations which assures each school SLT that they have the best tools available to help them achieve excellence.