Matthew Savage portrait

Written by Matthew Savage

Former international school Principal, proud father of two transgender adult children, Associate Consultant with LSC Education, and founder of #themonalisaeffect.

“If you wanna do data science, learn how it is a technical, cultural, economic, and social discipline that has the ability to consolidate and rearrange societal power structures.” 

(Hugo Bowne-Anderson, Data Science Anthropologist)

“…saying so to some

Means nothing; others it leaves

Nothing to be said.”

(‘Nothing to be Said’ by Philip Larkin)

When my friends and family ask me what I do, and I say that I help schools worldwide use data more effectively, their response reminds me of Larkin’s poem. Because data is cold and remote, right? And a world away from the purpose of education. In fact, many an educator fears data, and rightly so, as the stick with which they have been, or might be, beaten, in the name of accountability.

However, for me, data, and assessment, are a moral and a revolutionary act. Data and assessment are, if you like, the Great Leveller.

Since being introduced to the worlds of ‘warm’ and ‘street’ data, the sometimes messy tangle of my thoughts about assessment have been woven together as an ensign for equity and justice.

As school leaders, if do not ask ourselves, as Norah Bateson would do, “But what is the warm data on this”, if we allow ourselves to take any piece of data out of context, to pluck it, cold, from the ecosystem on which it depends, and which depends on it, we are compounding “already wicked problems”.

And if we do not “pound the pavement”, and intentionally seek the authentic stories of those students, and groups, currently residing on the margins of successful learning and positive wellbeing in our community then, again, as Freire would say, this is a violence which “dehumanizes the oppressed”. 

However, if we take all the jigsaw pieces of data at our disposal, and we carefully put them together, something amazing, and revolutionary can happen. A wise ‘data storyteller’ with whom I have the privilege to work explained to me that, for her, data in our schools is a galaxy. We need to seek out even the faintest stars, and join them together into constellations; each constellation will help us read the story of the marginalised students in our care, and render our schools more equitable and just as a result.

So the next time I am asked what I do, I will say that I am a stargazer. And that will be enough.


  1. Warm Data Lab. Available at: (Accessed: January 2, 2023).
  2. Safir, S. and Dugan, J. Street Data: A next generation model for equity, pedagogy, and school transformation. Corwin, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2021
  3. Freire, Paolo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2014