Senior Data Scientist

Job description

About Sparx

Sparx is a scientifically driven and research based educational technology company. We are using technology, data and real-world classroom observations to scientifically investigate the way young people learn. Using technology to dive deep into the learning process, we explore and analyse what works and what doesn’t, and deliver more personalised, evidence-driven lessons and homework that produces results.

Full job description

Sparx is an unashamedly data-driven company. Our CEO is a statistician by training, our data team is a core part of our organisation, and our management care deeply about the work of our data scientists and statisticians. We collect data, we do it well, and we have a clear goal for it: to empower teachers and improve educational outcomes for students. To join us, we’re looking for a Senior Data Scientist with a real passion for education and a belief in the power of technology to improve it.

Each student using the Sparx product attempts thousands of problems per year. Our data team uses this information, along with internal and external domain expertise, to understand how the student and product are performing and how both can improve. You’ll be solving problems, highlighting insights and producing data reports for our key school stakeholders. As a Senior Data Scientist, you’ll be integral from day one. Every day you’ll blend maths, analytics, algorithms and your understanding of human behaviour to drive the development of the Sparx system, inform strategic decisions and shape team objectives. Working together with the wider Sparx team, you will develop engaging new ways to teach topics that unlock a whole new world of understanding for students.
Key responsibilities

  • Develop statistical models and analytical routines that understand, track and predict student performance. Work with other teams to present this performance in an intuitive, actionable manner to students, teachers and parents.
  • Design and implement rigorous experiments and trials to validate hypotheses about student learning, and use the insights to continuously improve Sparx products.
  • Develop algorithms, combining domain expertise within the company and the data collected, to optimise the product. For example, you might investigate: the optimal question to ask next given a student’s past performance; which questions are consistently misunderstood; or which actions taken by students benefit their learning the most.
  • Proactively problem solve and suggest how to improve lesson flow, content, rewards and algorithms, as well as developing new tools and procedures.
  • Produce compelling visualisations to display data in appropriate formats for both scientists and non-­scientists to understand and use.
  • Advise and mentor other data scientists on the appropriate statistical and data analysis tools and approaches, acting as the expert within the team.
  • Be positive and infectiously enthusiastic about the values and vision of Sparx.


About you

Here are some of the skills and qualifications we are looking for:


  • Postgraduate degree (ideally PhD) in Statistics, Mathematics, Computer Science or a related subject 
  • 7+ years experience in analysing large data sets using Python, R, MATLAB, SAS or similar, with a strong knowledge of relevant analytical techniques and algorithms
  • Experience in applying statistical approaches to practical problems in an industry or business context


  • Teaching and/or tutoring experience and knowledge of education and the school system
  • Experience in modelling hierarchical data and experimental/quasi-experimental design
  • People or project management experience

You’re a champion of the scientific method with a rigorous, disciplined approach and meticulous attention to detail. Complicated mathematics comes naturally to you and you’re at home working with vast, messy data sets, but you’re equally happy to use a simple solution if that’s the right way to approach a problem and do not get excited by complexity for its own sake. You’ll have a critical appreciation for the limitations of our data, and be able to clearly communicate what we can and cannot do with it.

You can simplify complex ideas and convey them to a varied audience, validating your findings and explaining their implications. With an insatiably inquisitive nature and sharp analytical mind, you look beyond the numbers, using data to question, challenge, solve problems and tell stories.

On the whole, you’re proactive, dynamic and enthusiastic, able to multi-­task and focus on the detail without losing sight of the bigger picture. Things move quickly at Sparx so you’ll be able to work to tight deadlines and adapt in the face of changing priorities and a fluctuating workload. Overall, you’ll be committed to the success of the project, a great team player and you’ll always keep in mind the context that we are working in: these are real students in real schools and it’s our mission to give them the best mathematics education that we possibly can.

Additional background 

Every year, around 40% of UK students who sit GCSE Maths fail to obtain a grade 4 or higher (previously grade C). This is an alarming statistic and is one of the fundamental issues motivating Sparx. We want everyone to fulfil their learning potential, and be excited and motivated about learning.Founded by Mark Dixon and Glenn Woodcock in 2011, Sparx employs over 70 people, all of whom are working to create a learning platform that can be rolled out across schools in the UK. The platform includes ‘big data’, granular content and gaming, all of which are carefully brought together and fashioned into a system capable of significantly improving the pace and quality of learning. Data captured from the lessons is truly remarkable, allowing real-time feedback which enables the re-positioning of certain concepts, to better the students’ understanding of the material. The impact of this work is potentially transformational. It is a major initiative and a tremendous opportunity.  

Our team

We’re about living life, not putting it on hold. Our generous benefits include substantial holiday leave and the chance to join our company pension. We have a range of on-site facilities for all employees to use free of charge. On site we have a netball court, a five-a-side football pitch, a running track, a pool table, an Olympic table tennis table, as well as an on-site gym with classes throughout the day. Our café serves delicious, local, and organic food. Did we mention it’s all free? On top of this you’ll have great views from your office window of the foothills of Dartmoor and boats out at sea on the horizon – with the beach just 20 minutes away. Plus, we’re constantly organising events and activities to support our charities, and to socialise. Our work is serious but we’re all about having fun while we do it!