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Behind the scenes: The journey to building our New Insights Tool

We understand that school leaders need visibility into what’s going on across their whole school in order to have the greatest impact. Keeping an eye on what’s going on has always been hard; schools are vibrant, bustling, and complex environments, with challenges arising constantly throughout the day.

This past year has been tougher than ever as teaching and learning became distributed, with school leaders losing their usual touchpoints with the school community; down the corridors, at the school gates, in the staffroom over a cup of tea. In pioneering schools, the demand for quantifiability of engagement is higher than ever. They aspire to be setting goals around engagement, monitoring progress regularly, and reporting progress to senior leaders. We built Insights to respond to this fundamental need for visibility across the entire school, wherever learning is happening.


We knew that to build a useful solution that every school can draw meaningful insights from, we would need to learn from the people in schools about what engagement means, and what are the signs that someone needs to intervene. We were excited to get started on solving this problem, and the first step for us in doing this was to listen to you.


Step 1: Observation

Our customers kindly welcomed us into their schools where we observed the dynamism of the classrooms, the animated furor in between lessons, and savoured invigorating discussions in leaders’ offices, all to ensure we experienced each school’s rich culture, unique strengths, and toughest challenges. 

Despite the diverse experiences and distinct characteristics of each school, we found school leaders had similar ambitions and faced some very common challenges.


Step 2: Gather research & learnings

We learned that you care deeply about the success of every single one of your students and that you are willing to take every measure to prevent anyone from getting left behind. We saw that you have built strong relationships with educators across the school and coach them comprehensively in how digital tools can help them reach their specific goals. We learned that you need to be able to pinpoint specific areas of improvement and know who to work with to overcome them, and you need to be able to demonstrate to senior leaders the positive impact that you’re making. 

Step 3: Build & listen to your feedback

After learning about your biggest challenges in gaining visibility into engagement, we had a go at building a rough-and-ready prototype. It wasn’t beautiful, and it wasn’t the most advanced technology, yet a handful of our customers were willing to give it a go and feedback to us. These early trials helped us prioritise which activities are most essential to understanding engagement. 

As the global pandemic started to spread and schools began to urgently close due to Covid-19, we quickly put our heads together (remotely!) and figured out how we might make a beta version available to as many schools as possible, bringing visibility to the core engagement metrics. Alongside this beta, we opened a feedback forum, and your suggestions guided us in how to enrich these key metrics with a richer overview of engagement across the school. This feedback, combined with our original learnings, made us feel increasingly excited about the potential of the next version. When we previewed some screenshots on our Community forum, we received really encouraging feedback that urged us on further.

Inspired by your dedication to ensuring students, teachers, and parents are continually engaged, we can now offer you Insights. Having been guided by your voice throughout the process, we are confident about the impact it will have on your school.


“I am really pleased that Firefly has developed Insights as it has great potential to support several key management and intervention strands in school. I had to present a report to our Governors last week and used the charts extensively.”

Julie Mason, Assistant Headteacher at St Paul’s School for Girls, Birmingham.


So many schools generously offered their valuable time to explain their challenges, and we value these moments together immensely. The voices of the people in our schools are essential to us in providing meaningful solutions that make a difference. We’re always eager to listen, so do reach out if you’d like to talk to a member of the research team. If you have any feedback on Insights, we’re keen to hear how we can support you in understanding engagement better in the future.

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