Director Mark Robinson
A teaching assistant and student
at Pendle Community High School
OnwardsandUpwards provide a tailored performance
management system that tracks the progress of
learners in a variety of schools, especially those with
SEND pupils. Originally designed to assess the progress of
larger organisations, the model has been adapted to track
and collate learner progress. They collaborate closely with
each user to tailor the model to their requirements and have a
strong relationship with Pendle Community High School and
College, who have assisted further developments to ensure the
system effectively meets the needs of SEND pupils. As national
curriculum levels have been stripped back and curriculums have
become more individualised, they are developing a universal
scale for comparison between schools. Mark Robinson founded
the company and explains their change of focus.
When we were established in 2004, we were constructing a real-time performance
management system that was designed to be flexible enough to be used by any
organisation, no matter their size. At its heart was a strategy map that showed the
highest goal of the organisation. The concept of our Escendency system was to
connect everyone involved with this highest purpose and allow the organisation to
assess their progress towards this goal in real time. The original goal would be broken
down into second-level strategic objectives, which would then be further subdivided.
Each objective would be weighted in terms of its overall contribution. Eventually,
these subdivisions could be measured in the real world through performance
indicators. These web-based indicators were assigned to people in the organisation,
»Director: Mark Robinson
»Established in 2004
»Based in Lancaster
»Services: Performance tracking
systems for learners
»No. of employees: 6 in core
team, with outsourced
»No. of clients: 55
Highlighting best practice
which gave them the ability to self-
manage, as they could constantly see
their own progress. Beyond this, they
could also assess their contribution to
the wider organisation as a whole.
A change of focus
While we were doing this, we were
approached by a school specifically
for SEND pupils. Current school
management information systems are
built around whole classes and the
age-related expectations of the national
curriculum. In an SEN environment,
there is a much greater need to monitor
individualised progress, in terms of
not only academic achievement but
also social, emotional and behavioural
development, working towards
independence and employability.
Special schools have tried to do
this by acquiring several different
commercial systems to cover these
areas, supplemented with in-house
spreadsheets. The result is high cost
and hours of senior teacher and
management time interpreting systems
that don’t talk to each other. They
cannot get a “real-time” overview
of each learner’s progress against
their respective expected “flight
paths” or indeed the whole school
performance or any cohort in-between.
Withoutknowing how learners are
doing in real time, it is impossible to
know what to focus on next to close
the gap towards expected progress.
The technological challenge was to
create a holistic, customisable database
system that could be mapped to the
exact needs of each school’s curriculum
and individual learning outcomes at an
affordable cost. This was not a trivial
task and had never been done before.
The knowledge did not exist in any
one place and was not understood by
any one individual. We had to carry
out research, consulting a myriad of
different schools across the UK and
then mapping their answers against
ongoing and future changes in SEN
assessment and government analysis
requirements. This then, in turn, had
to be measured against worldwide
available development frameworks
and database technologies that could
be utilised to provide a comprehensive
solution, securely hosted, at an
affordable annual cost.
The major progress that has been made
is the ability to provide a customised
system for each school that would, if
designed and built individually, cost
many tens of thousands of pounds each
and so be unaffordable for a special
school. Every school is unique, every
Pendle Community
Headteacher Chris
Lingard with Deputy
Head Jenny Bayliss
Every school is
unique, every
learner is
learner is unique. Our new generic cloud-
based system, OnwardsandUpwards.
com, is upgraded centrally and includes
support and ongoing upgrades.
Removing rigid curriculum
The biggest uncertainty was to
establish if it was even possible to
create a single system and database
design that could meet the needs of
the full range of special schools. Such
schools have an infinite number of
curriculums and learning outcomes
and widely differing rates of learning,
starting points and future expectations.
The other uncertainties were financial.
It was unclear whether it was possible
to create a system at a price that
would recoup the development costs
over time with an annual subscription
cost that the market could bear.
During the course of 2016, the needs
of a wide range of special schools,
catering for all types of SEN at all ages,
were sought by us from across the UK.
We created a technological system
and database design and married it
to the most advanced cutting-edge
development frameworks available
in the world. Many design iterations
were tried and tested by our “beacon”
schools, such as PCHS, whose critical
feedback has led to further refining
of this process to maximise overall
impact. As national curriculum levels
were abolished, we created a new
national database of state-of-the-art
learning outcomes to be shared by
all OnwardsandUpwards.com schools
to save “reinventing the wheel”.
We currently have 56 special schools
and one mainstream school using
OnwardsandUpwards.com Version 20.
Over 250 schools are needed to cover
ongoing operations. The system is now
ready for a national roll-out, and there
are virtually unlimited international
sales opportunities, as systems like
this do not exist anywhere else in
The need for schools to work
While individualisation can be a
benefit, schools need to collaborate
more. Schools that are working in
an identical manner are working
independently and could benefit
from conversing with one another.
To help to achieve this, we have
inserted a library of learning outcomes
checklists within the system and have
asked users to contribute their own.
Permission can then be sought to
borrow these lists. This allows schools
to access any best practices performed
by similarinstitutions.
The other challenge we face is
ensuring that schools are utilising
a holistic system, uniting different
metrics of pupil progression. Different
assessments must interact to give a
full picture of progress while saving
each school time and money. We are
collaborating closely with our users to
help them to achieve this.
We have been working with over 50
schools in the past year to refine our
model and ensure that it functions at
the highest possible level. We hope
to increase our current volume of
users and ensure that each of our
users has a model that allows them to
track, identify and improve learning
outcomes for all of their students.
We created a
system and
database design
and married it
to the most
available in the
A system to cover all
areas of the curriculum