A Northamptonshire primary school reaps the rewards of investing in a whole-school improvement strategy which puts technology at the heart of children’s learning and shows that these 21st Century approaches are both effective and essential for their children’s future.
In the summer of 2008, a new Headteacher and leadership team were appointed to Little Harrowden Primary School at a time when standards were within the lowest 20% within the county, with 3-year declining trends in pupil progress and a falling roll.
The newly appointed Headteacher, Tom Rees, and his leadership team recognised that taking the decision to embed new technologies across all areas of the school would help to improve communication and collaboration with parents, staff and governors as well as, crucially, offering more engaging and flexible teaching ways for children to learn.
The school’s plans included further investment in hardware, alongside the rollout of the LP+ Learning platform, blogs and a new website, as well as an ongoing programme of staff development. Tom Rees (head teacher) said, ‘’we knew that staff already had many demands on their time and so we helped them to understand how technology would support and improve outcomes. This was combined with an expectation that staff would adopt these new ways of working.’’
The school focussed on using the learning platform for school organisation in the first instance, using it for email, sharing documents, planning an online calendar and giving access to information for school governors. Once staff were confident at logging-in and using the platform for organisational tasks, the platform was used in teaching and learning, engaging children in activities like contributing to message boards and blogs. Children started regularly logging in beyond the school day and parents were encouraged to work with their children on activities at home, with the platform being used to organise and share a range of resources, including literacy games.
Now recognised as a Learning Possibilities ‘Centre of Excellence’, more innovative projects followed including broadcasting a whole-school assembly at the end of Anti-Bullying Week. As part of this, children showcased some of their learning in the assembly, which was broadcast via ‘Ustream’ for parents to watch at home or at work. This gave the parents a great opportunity to be a part of the school community without having to actually be in the building. The children also had more incentive to produce interesting and informative presentations, some of which included live experiments, photos and work. This type of work led to the school expanding its vision for sharing information to collaborating with others internationally, including a project with a school in Dubai, where children used the LP+ learning platform to learn about the local environment and work on shared stories and discussions.
Now, provision has expanded so that a range of mobile devices are now commonplace across school with children regularly taking part in online learning at home and interacting with others through collaborative learning opportunities.
By 2010, pupil achievement at Little Harrowden had risen significantly with 3-year rising trends evident in all measures at the end of KS2. The number of children achieving the national expectation (Level 4) in both English and Maths in KS2 and rise from 60% to 89% and the school now achieves results in line with the highest schools within the County across all measures. In addition, the dramatic increase in pupil engagement has led to a 3 year falling trend in absence rates (4.8%, 4.2%, 3.5%).
When inspected by OFSTED in May 2010, the inspectors saw how by embedding ICT across the school, children’s learning was more rich and enabled them to learn more effectively.
“Significant improvement is evident in the school’s performance since it was last inspected in 2006. Pupils are thriving academically and in their personal development. The school… is recognised within the local authority and nationally as a leading school for its use of technologies”. (HMI 2010)
In particular the school was delighted that, as well as improving the learning of less-able children, the attainment of the more able children had almost doubled such that the number of children achieving Level 5 in Maths rose from 30% to 50% between 2008 and 2010 while English Levels 5 scores doubled from 27% to 54% in the same period
“Opportunities are plentiful for pupils to use their literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills extensively across the curriculum. Their application of these skills across many areas of school life is highly effective, preparing them exceptionally well for future learning and their place in modern society”. (HMI 2010)
The school remains passionate that children should be given opportunities to learn in ways which allow children to develop more generic learning skills such as collaboration and communication as well as extending their skills in academic areas.
“There are so many pressures on schools to perform that, sadly, some believe that online learning will be a distraction from achieving success. I hope that, through the evidence at Little Harrowden and a growing number of other schools, it is now clear that methods of learning such as blogs, discussions and other collaborative tools add significant value to learning as well as enabling children to learn through the methods which are now second nature to the vast majority of youngsters at home. For schools to remain relevant to children’s learning at this point in the 21st Century, the movement to embed technology in learning is one which cannot be ignored”.
(Tom Rees – Headteacher, trees2066)