In this article, Annette Quinn, Education Development Manager and Lorna Thompson*, RM Education Associate Consultant share what they found so inspirational about this primary school.
"We thought twice about extending this article to our secondary community, but the visit to Anson Primary School in Brent was so inspirational that we decided to share some of the great practices observed more widely...
Taking into consideration the current and on-going changes in the secondary curriculum, and the prospect that ICT may cease to be a discrete subject in the future, it becomes more relevant to hear about the way technology is transforming learning in the early years and primary phase. This is just one example of a school where technology is fully embedded; where parents and children learn seamlessly between home and school. This is great to see, but in secondary schools, do we need to make further preparation for this looming challenge where we can expect a future of young digital natives arriving on our doorsteps with high ICT expectations?
Anson Primary School has a long tradition of using technology to support school improvement and in the words of their Head Teacher Jeff Smith, it has been pivotal in moving them from "worst to first".
Transformation is due to a passionate belief that technology is a great enabler and the whole school community: staff, parents and students share, live and breathe a vision which is the epitomy of 21st century learning. During our visit, Jeff Smith referred to convincing information about the impact of ICT and the indisputable argument that ICT is an integral part of the school's continuing success.
In January this year, Anson Primary School was awarded the new 3rd Millennium Award from NAACE where they were acknowledged for:
• Full embedding of technology in the life of the school
• Strong use of the wider audience made possible by technology
• Continuity of learning between home and school
• Engagement of parents in supporting learning
• Pupils motivated and inspired by the curriculum
• Creativity in teaching supported by technology
• Use of data to inform teaching
• Measurement of impact and correlation of this with engagement of parents
More information about this award can be found here.
Rather than just commend the school to you in broad brushstrokes, here are a few of the outstanding features that we noted on our visit which may inspire you:
As part of the speaking and listening element of the literacy support programme they use an in-house radio station that is run by teachers and students. It is broadcast from the school in the lunch room and via the school learning platform to families at home and in their community. The school are seeing a great impact from this work; a 'real' radio station with real audiences lifts children's motivation, encourages them to aim high and this is exactly what is happening when the children have their 'moment of fame' on radio.
The school's website and learning platform is well managed and provides excellent information for every key group in the school: children, teachers, parents and the wider community. When they began in 2008, the school was getting around 2500 hits in the year and now they are exceeding 5000 hits per month. Online communication is central to the school's communication strategy; it is very visual and offers multimedia experiences. It is not part populated but an up-to-date hub of dynamic information that is relevant to each audience group. It is a place that children's school work is truly celebrated. Take a look here.
The school use technology to:
Above all, the whole school community is engaged and on board. Teachers use ICT to support the learning process, which is uninterrupted and available anywhere. In a short chat with the year 1 teacher, we learned that the school provides maths support via their learning platform and Maths-Whizz for families to access from home. The fun learning activities are offered around the clock but children are expected to only to work online until 8pm each evening. The school monitors the usage data and notes a direct correlation between those that use the available resources and student achievement. The users of the home-maths support programme have made significant progress this year.
Staff are embarking on a 'paperless school' project which has been trialled for a year, in Years 5 and 6. This has been so successful it is now being rolled out throughout the whole school. Teachers are using iPads to support administration tasks, the gathering and recording of assessment information and planning. Read more about this here.
Everyone has access to notebooks for use at home and in school. Technology is used as a natural part of the learning process and is used where and when appropriate. This has impacted on the design and delivery of the curriculum. Classes are centred on project working with lots of activities being undertaken at the one time.
We spent a day at the school and a good few hours walking into classes and talking to teachers and the children. It was abundantly clear that this was embedded practice not just a mere 'one off' performance. Children precisely described what they were doing, and if they were using technology, can explain why and how they were using the technology. This was the school's vision, alive and consistent throughout. These children truly are not only digital natives; but digital leaders promoting the use of technology as a natural tool to support their learning.
'Embedding technology' - just words?
We often hear the words 'technology' and 'embedded' in the same sentence. Well, this was it and this is what we found to be the most inspirational part of the visit. These are not just words in their school strategy; this was observing children naturally and confidently using technology on specific and varied tasks. The technology was not viewed as 'special' by the children, it was not being used by all the children at the same time; we were not observing ICT lessons but technology being used as a tool to aid learning.
We couldn't help but think about the typical challenges we face on a day to day basis. It's hard to show our schools what we mean by an ICT enriched school where the use of technology is as every day as pen and paper but this is what we were seeing. There have been costs associated with the Anson Primary School vision but the benefits far outweigh them. This has been and continues to be a long term strategic approach. Consistent financial planning means that costs have been spread over many years and every technology purchase stems from a clear purpose for supporting teaching and learning and defined impact measures.
So, does ICT make a difference?
The answer is a resounding YES! At Anson Primary School, the impact is wide: from management efficiencies and costs savings to impact on learning, teaching and pedagogy. Yes, it is truly inspirational and transformational!
The most convincing argument of all, is that it has made a significant difference to pupil achievement; both in standards of attainment and the wider aspects of engagement and empowerment. Technology is highly valued by parents, staff and children."
*With thanks to Annette Quinn, Education Development Manager, RM Education and Lorna Thompson, RM Education Associate Consultant. Prior to working with RM Education, Lorna worked with Becta as a consultant on the SRF, ICT Mark and Parental Engagement project. She is an ICT Mark Lead Assessor and part of the development group for the 3rd Millennium awards. Lorna is a Director at IET Associates and co-developer of the new strategic Leadership programme EXite.
What do other people think about this article? What do you think?