To improve student performance, Danesfield School transformed their educational vision to centre around the effective use of technology. Danesfield brought more computers into classrooms and gave teachers training and access to the Microsoft Educator Community for professional development. Teachers can now learn at their own pace and they have discovered areas of interest which they then share with their peers. Student performance is up and there is a waiting list of teachers who want to work at Danesfield.
At Danesfield School in Marlow, England, computers and educational technology are more than just a supplement to the curriculum—they are a core part of teaching and learning across all subject areas. The school prides itself on being at the forefront of twenty-first-century learning and teaching techniques.
However, the outlook at Danesfield has not always been so bright. The school is one of the lowest funded in the country, and in the past, it struggled to retain and recruit talented educators. In an effort to turn things around, the school developed an ambitious vision aimed at creating an inspiring school where learning, innovation, and risk-taking are core values.
“At the heart of our new approach sits technology,” says Sarah Morgan, Headteacher at Danesfield School. “Not technology as an end itself, but as a facilitator for creative approaches, collaboration, personalized learning and professional development.”
Innovative training for teacher development
Danesfield rolled out an ambitious program to get more computers into classrooms, and the school paired the increase in technology with a transformation in the way teachers work and how they think about education. To assist with this cultural shift, Danesfield teamed up with Microsoft to help teachers become more confident with technology and aware of the wealth of opportunities it presents. A key element of this training has been the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC), which gives teachers the opportunity to pursue professional development in their own time and at their own pace, according to their own learning style. Group learning opportunities are also offered during regular staff meetings.
“The MEC is definitely impacting teaching and learning at Danesfield,” says Morgan. “There is a greater thirst for acquiring new skills and for sharing those skills collaboratively. And it has really strengthened our staff as a community. The teachers are motivated that they’re determined to carry on their training throughout the holidays to ensure their knowledge is the best it can be.”
To help facilitate the acceptance of new technologies, Danesfield created “staff champions”—teachers who have an avid interest in a particular topic, such as OneNote, Skype for Business, or QR codes and want to share their knowledge with others.
“Their passion has supported less-confident staff and the development of a mentor/peer learning culture has really helped us, enabling staff to share best practices and bounce ideas off one another,” says Morgan.
With the help of a supportive administration and powerful resources like the MEC, Danesfield teachers are embracing twenty-first-century learning skills such as collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, and real-world problem-solving. Along the way, they have gained new skills, revealed hidden competencies, and found the confidence to explore new subjects, drive innovation and embrace a culture of continuous learning.
A dramatic turnaround
The results of this transformation have been easy to see. Danesfield made a significant improvement in two years, increasing its education standards for Reading, Writing, and Mathematics placing the school in the top 1 percent nationally. Not to mention, more recently during their OFSTED inspection in June 2017, the school received an Outstanding judgement. The main findings of the report were:
"The exceptionally dedicated Headteacher leads the school with an absolute determination that all pupils can achieve highly and be happy in a nurturing environment"."The highly engaging curriculum is a strength of the school. Pupils learn very well across a range of subjects, but particularly in reading. They develop skills which are equipping them very well for life and work in modern Britain"."Pupils achieve exceptionally well in reading, writing and mathematics. They make good or better rates of progress to achieve the standards expected for their age. Many pupils exceed expected standards to attain highly"
Microsoft Training School
Danesfield were selected to be a Microsoft Showcase School in January 2016, in recognition of their continued drive to develop the use of technology and 21st Century Learning approaches across the primary curriculum. They pride themselves on teaching in innovative and creative ways, effectively using technology in lessons to enhance and extend learning in order to prepare the children at Danesfield for not only the next stage of their education, but also the demands of the 21st century workplace.In September 2016, Danesfield were also selected as one of only 6 Microsoft Training Schools in the country. Danesfield work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education and communicate a vision for education enabled by technology through the hosting and mentoring of other schools in the community on transformational educational practices. They are able to share the incredible practice throughout their school with other educators and introduce them to the Microsoft Educator Community, where they can update their knowledge and understanding of how best to use technology and 21st Learning approaches in lessons.Four teachers from the school have been named Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (or MIEEs) and Elizabeth Wilson, a newly appointed Microsoft Learning Consultant within the school, also attended The E2 - Educator Exchange conference in Toronto this year. The school, which once struggled to attract new teachers, now has a host of innovative educators who are dedicated to training other teachers and sharing the latest innovative teaching methods through the use of Microsoft technologies.
Take a look below to find out more about Innovative Education at Danesfield School.