Driving through the Dorset countryside you'll hear the sound of children at play, and sports fields come into view, bustling with activity.
This is Castle Court Preparatory School. The school is set in beautiful grounds and you can almost feel the calm order and purpose behind the imposing façade of the main buildings as you enter the school site. Wandering through the classrooms you are struck by the concentration and involvement of pupils using the numerous computers, either within individual classrooms or in the air conditioned IT Centre, (a popular location on hot summer days!). Many of these children, aged from 4-13, will be using some aspect of SuccessMaker Enterprise.
RM Educational Consultant Mike Edmunds visited Castle Court Preparatory School to find out how the school has implemented SuccessMaker and why, after four years, the school is planning to expand its use.
SuccessMaker has been in use for four years at Castle Court and the school has recently upgraded to the latest Enterprise version. Such is the desire to develop the use of SuccessMaker across the whole school that a whole school site licence has been purchased. This is made use of, not only in individual classrooms, but also on a timetabled basis in the IT Centre. The majority of teaching staff have been trained on its use and there is an obvious desire to maximise its effectiveness throughout the school.
More than 250 of the 350 pupils have some use of SuccessMaker, the majority of these within their normal lessons. A whole range of support materials and rewards are used by various teachers to support their pupils, who are taught by class teachers up to Year 4 and by subject teachers thereafter. You can see examples of children with little reward stickers or 'lottery' type tickets called 'Plus Points'. Children are really pleased with these rewards and in Years 5 to 8 details are copied onto a SuccessMaker sheet within the homework diary.
Children throughout the school benefit from SuccessMaker and much of the success must be credited to the early start made in the reception classes. Here you find purposeful 4 year olds logging into computers adorned by cuddly lion or tiger heads and paws. One of the reception class teachers, Helen Hakimzadeh, says,"SuccessMaker is part of their everyday work. The children just log on and go straight to their work. They are very keen and very competent. I believe in starting them young."
Helen says, "We're relentless with it. We start them all at the very beginning of Reading Readiness when they enter in September." Helen keeps reports detailing the progress that the children have made, from a starting level of zero, many of her 4 and 5 year olds are now at a SuccessMaker level of grade 2 and above in Initial Reading, equating to a National Curriculum level of 1.8, which is impressive for such young children. However when you observe the confidence with which they don headphones and login this is hardly surprising. They also love talking about the bits they like best, such as the animated pictures when they get things right.
Helen is very positive about the benefits for her children, "SuccessMaker gives IT skills, listening skills, fine motor skills and it helps their concentration. The subject areas like Maths and English are only a part of it for the younger children and when our older children see our reception children confidently working at the computers they just don't believe it is possible."
Helen also makes extensive use of the reports to inform the teaching and learning within the class. "We print reports weekly to compare and moderate with their work. These will show the occasional areas of difficulty for the children, particularly early in the year. Teachers have got to know the sort of things they'll have trouble with". To support this, Helen has also created additional resources to aid with any difficulties that the young children may encounter.
This approach is typical of the way SuccessMaker is used effectively throughout the school. Groups of Year 3, 4 and 5 children exhibit this confidence of use both when in the class, supervised by their teacher or an assistant, and in the dedicated IT suite. All staff using SuccessMaker are very positive about its benefits.
Mr Tim Chalk, Head of IT and SuccessMaker Manager has been instrumental in its purchase and implementation and says, "There have been changes in personnel since the introduction of SuccessMaker and staff have really taken it on board and use it well. Various models have been suggested and ways to ensure its good use throughout the school have been tried." He adds, "Teachers need ownership - we're really looking to drive it forward. Some staff are still getting their IT confidence going but the assistants are very good and are really helping it to go forward as well."
It is Tim in conjunction with other committed members of staff who have developed a plan for the future of SuccessMaker. They have already come a long way and usage of the system is very good throughout the majority of classes. Tim wants to extend its use even further and his current plans include a major upgrade over the summer, which will allow the establishment of a new SuccessMaker room. This will have 10 PCs for lower ability groups to enable use of SuccessMaker Enterprise as a part of the normal curriculum. Tim pointed out that, "Some children don't do Latin and therefore do extra SuccessMaker. In the Year 6 bottom set Maths class some children have made 'awesome' progress and SuccessMaker has really boosted their confidence. For English and Maths they'll go to the new room as a part of their standard lessons."
Additionally, as part of the plan, the school is now looking to provide additional wireless laptops. They are also investigating the possibility of enabling home use of SuccessMaker. "This is something the parents would really like."
Tim Chalk, in common with all teachers, is extremely busy, but he is a 'man with a plan' and a vision for the future of SuccessMaker at Castle Court. He is supported in his IT role by the year 4 teacher Andrew Laidlar and they both talk animatedly about the way SuccessMaker is currently working for the benefit of the pupils and also of its potential and its future.
Enthusiasm from everyone using SuccessMaker and a desire to develop its use is the key aspect of the very successful implementation at Castle Court School. This, combined with a plan for future expansion ensures that the impact of SuccessMaker Enterprise will be maximised across the whole school.
Report complied by Mike Edmunds, Educational Consultant.
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