The Covid-19 pandemic has caused schools across the county to reflect on how they educate their pupils, with teachers having to establish brand new teaching methods using education technology to deliver online lessons.
While this has been an adjustment for many, it has shown a new and exciting way of delivering lessons and engaging pupils that has left the door open for a new form of education as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.
At Wayfield Primary School, we were in the fortunate position of having already embedded education technology across our curriculum.
This made us more resilient to the challenges of the past year with pupils, parents and staff already familiar with the online systems and platforms we use.
We started our digital transformation back in 2018. We were trialling a few iPads in school and when I was covering a lesson, I began to realise the huge potential they had to revolutionise the way we teach our pupils.
This led us to investigate our options, visiting other schools with EdTech programmes and consulting with our parents before deciding to introduce a one-to-one iPad scheme to ensure every child had access to a suitable digital device.
This was important to us as the digital divide is a key barrier to this new way of learning.
An Ofcom survey carried out between January and March 2020 found that nine per cent of households containing children did not have access to a laptop, desktop PC or tablet and this figure was thought to be as high as 33 per cent in more deprived areas.
We spoke in-depth to our parents about the importance and benefits of the technology to their child’s education and, after one week, 98 per cent of parents had signed up and now all our pupils have a device of their own.
Before we introduced the iPads, we had to consider and overcome a few issues. This included strengthening our Wi-Fi provision to ensure all our teachers and pupils could use their devices and access the internet at the same time.
We also had to find a way of both growing our online learning as well as continuing to develop traditional skills in our pupils such as handwriting.
We also had to provide our teachers with training on how to use the iPads effectively and have continued to support this professional development through our Apple Education programme.
Our parents’ knowledge of the curriculum and their child’s progress has vastly improved through introducing education technology.
They can log into their iPad and see in real-time what their child is working on and can access video clips of our lessons.
This has been particularly valuable in the pandemic. For example, if they are supporting their child with maths, they can watch a video of how our teachers are explaining multiplication and subsequently feel equipped to support home learning.
The functions that iPads offer have also been incredibly useful for our staff during the national lockdowns. We delivered three lessons a day and if a child did not attend them, we could lock their iPads remotely.
We would then speak with the pupil and their family about their participation, putting a plan in place to help ensure they attended lessons. This has meant that none of our children have fallen behind during the last year and our pupils have returned to school up-to-speed and ready to continue learning.
The iPads facilitate communication and our staff regularly FaceTimed pupils during the lockdowns to check-in with their wellbeing. We were also monitoring pupils as they were working and could ‘drop-in’ virtually to provide one-to-one support if they were struggling with an activity.
Our team also love iMessaging and we now use this as our main form of communication and rarely send emails.
As a school, we were comforted by Apple’s privacy policies. Introducing iPads in this secure environment has both kept our pupils safe and developed their IT safety skills as they are learning to take accountability for how they speak to each other online and how and when to message friends or staff members.
These skills are vital and will support them as they go on to have mobile phones and social media accounts as they get older.
As a result of all the fantastic work achieved by our team and our pupils, Apple approached us about becoming an accredited school. We are delighted to now be one of England’s select Apple Distinguished Schools.
We have our own Apple iBook, ‘Proud to Achieve: Anytime. Anywhere’, which shares tips and strategies for other schools to use when embedding technology into their curriculum.
This is an honour and shows the high-quality of our offer at Wayfield. Being an Apple school also gives us access to exclusive training to ensure we continue to evolve and develop our provisions.
Looking to the future, our ambitions continue to grow. We have strong foundations and are exploring how we can use education technology to maintain and increase the parental engagement achieved throughout the pandemic and how we can use it effectively in new subjects such as drama.
Our school is also set to double in size over the next few years, so we want to ensure we keep our family feel and keep educational technology at the forefront of our teaching techniques.
More widely, we are working to share our learning with other schools, both locally and within The Primary First Trust. Our digital transformation has been a gamechanger for our school and we want to do as much as possible to share this learning and expertise with others.
We are leading the way on the Trust’s digital strategy and as a Trust we will be launching our IT services and consultancy soon.
You can find out more about it by contacting Andrew Moorhouse, CEO of the Trust, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
What you need to know
- Ensure buy-in from all key stakeholders. Consult all stakeholder groups throughout your EdTech journey and take their opinions on board.
- Explain the benefits and showcase all that the EdTech has to offer.
- When we spoke with our parents, we explained the long-term benefits for the children as well as how strong the financial offer was for them to own an iPad.
- Set up your infrastructure effectively. The one thing you need besides your devices is stable Wi-Fi, it is almost as important as water in our school!
- Provide teachers and pupils with the same devices. Not only does this make it easier to send and receive documents, but teachers can use the mirroring effect to see how the work will appear to pupils and can adapt accordingly.
- Nominate digital champions. You need staff that are passionate about education technology and can champion it across the school and look out for the next opportunity
Tim Williams is headteacher at Wayfield Primary School, part of The Primary First Trust.