Technology at The William Allitt Academy:
Why we are proud to be ahead of the curve
As a school we have always looked for the best for our students, working creatively and innovatively to ensure that they are successful learners at school and continue to be successful adults in their futures. Recent events thrust the use of technology within all schools into the public arena. The need for students to be educated remotely and for parents to easily access and support their progress is now a crucial part of daily life. Even more critical, now and in the future, is the staff and student connection allowing school work to be continually updated and progress of the student to be monitored.
The plan started with wanting to embrace technology to exploit the constantly developing opportunities in learning and new ways of working. Supported by the governing body, the school leadership team recognised that affording students the chance to learn through the platforms of the work place could help them make a seamless transition to post school life.
Our aim and vision
Initially our vision was to see every child within our school benefit from identical devices. This was a huge financial undertaking but it would allow all students, regardless of family circumstances, to receive an equal opportunity. We were determined to ensure none of the cost burden was passed on to student’s families. The final decision to purchase laptops weighed cost with both versatility and the real world scenarios of work life that eventually awaits our students. This was endorsed by our governing body that draws on experience at senior levels of public institutions and the world of commerce. By the summer of 2020, 80% of our students will have been furnished with their own device and the roll out should be completed by the end of the year.
Whilst the switch to technology for all will be an inevitable transition in education, it is pointless without a uniform method of delivering student and teacher interaction. After due consideration we chose Microsoft as our preferred partner. Microsoft offered a cost effective functionality with a vast array of learning tools. It also offered 24/7 access and storage that allowed for far more than teaching. The school is able to utilise the many attributes of the system to create a corporate identity; it allows teachers, support staff and students to use and understand a common language and process. Even governance is now collated and delivered through Microsoft OneNote allowing governors to access crucial information in real time and not just at meetings.
The Microsoft Teams app has opened up a completely new world of interactive learning. Students now have the facility to receive work remotely and to complete it in the same way. Teachers can collaborate with students and students with their peers. Submitted work can be returned, and reflected on, at any time, and so too can the marking and comments of the teachers. Parents can see what pace students are working at and can easily see the teacher’s response to that work; this will allow parents to get a transparent real time review of their child’s progress.
Beyond this there are huge inclusion benefits to be derived from this system. Students who are unable to attend school for whatever reason can now access their lessons from home. Questions can be responded to quickly and teachers can mark work more conveniently. Microsoft additional tools will allow, for example, pupils with dyslexia to benefit; text can be enlarged, background colours changed and the Line Focus facility highlights a line at a time which can be played as an audio.
Cost and funding
The initial funding of such a scheme demanded a complete review of school infrastructure spending. However, once it was explored properly it proved to be possible through a raft of derived benefits creating substantial savings in other areas. These included: Microsoft cloud based systems reducing server requirements. The replenishing of traditional IT suites being diluted. Paperless technology massively reducing printing and photocopying costs and even staff travel to external meetings often replaced by remote options. This impacts staff time in school too. The invisible benefit was the reduction in the school’s carbon footprint. Teacher workload and the ability to share high quality resources at the press of a button are further endorsements of a new educational landscape.
For us, as a school, it is gratifying to see that as more and more television adverts depict the benefits of Microsoft teams as the way forward for the work place, we were ahead of the curve. Not only were our students beginning to benefit from this initiative within school but are now ideally placed to access it at home. For the older students they can move into work life well equipped with the skills of the future.