St Nicholas case study
Overview of the school
St Nicholas Church of England Primary School on Marton Moss Blackpool is larger than many primary schools and has a long tradition of quality schooling dating back to the mid-19th century. The present school building was extended in 1973, and more recently in 2008 with a major re-development including 12 new classrooms, a new hall and ICT suite, giving the children a bespoke school created for learning in the 21st century. The school is organised into 12 classes according to the chronological age of the 382 pupils, taught by 28 academic staff.
ICT infrastructure and resources
Overall infrastructure and resources
The school is on the ICT register for good practice and commended by Ofsted for its innovative approach, and excellent use, of ICT for teaching and learning. The school is also ICT Mark Accredited by Naace. The school has a dedicated ICT suite of 30 Apple iMacs in addition to 16 iMac classroom computers. All classrooms have multimedia facilities with digital projectors and interactive whiteboards that are used to support the childrens learning across the curriculum. The school also embraces technology that children are very comfortable with, including Nintendo DS’s, Apple TV, and iPad minis. Internet connectivity is via the local authority secured connectivity at a speed of 10 mbit/sec. Technical support is provided onsite and offsite using a third party company. All servers and infrastructure are monitored and accessed remotely, giving a proactive approach whilst keeping costs low.
For ten years the school has increasingly used ICT in classroom delivery, promoting and encouraging independent learning, believing this will positively impact on learners. Technology is now embedded in classroom activities, rather than being seen as a bolt-on addition. Many ICT innovations are evident in the school at each key stage, and the website is a rich resource with up to date content that encourages repeat visits (www.st-nicholas-blackpool.org.uk).The deliberate and sustained growth in parental engagement is strategic, seeing ‘parental engagement as a powerful lever for raising student achievement in schools. Where parents and teachers work together to improve learning, the gains in achievement are significant’ . This has been achieved through ease of remote access to content, information, and resources to support parents understanding of their child’s work, and the impact has been significant.As early adopters of social media the school has embraced ‘blogging’ with blogs for each class (within the school website) and a headteachers blog (http://head.stnicholasblackpool.net/) that is regularly updated. Twitter is in regular use, and examples cited include child parent communication when away on outdoor adventure field trips and visits.The school has been commended for its safeguarding and eSafety practices in the use of ICT and social media, and it is the widespread use of Web2 applications that prompted a review of Responsible Use Policies. As part of a Kaizen cluster group of schools the staff are active participants in the Teaching and Learning group (http://www.st-nicholas-blackpool.org.uk/sitedir/TeachingandLearningGroupWork.htm).
Overview of the initiative
St. Nicholas CofE Primary School Blackpool, and others in their Kaizen cluster group, are innovative early adopters of ICT in classroom learning. This case study highlights aspects of their work, and emphasises the critical importance of senior leader support in embedding use of technology in the strategic thinking for the school.Through their engagement with social media resources the school has found need to review their responsible use policies. Using responsible use policy updates shared by other Kaizen group schools, and elsewhere, St.Nicholas school has taken these as a start point for review and spring-board to pick elements of good practice for adoption. This has taken them from their former acceptable use policies devised at the inception of internet usage, to a revised policy for staff and learners that meets the schools 21st century needs for people using Web3 resources.
All school academic and support staff are now using technology on a daily basis. One staff meeting per month is devoted to technology to highlight the importance of this initiative and give opportunity for detailed explanation and consultation with staff. This sustained use of ICT means staff members are no longer afraid to have a go with technology, and go out and find their own on-line resources. The ICT initiative has been pervasive in changing the nature of individuals, including some people who formerly preferred chalk, who now have e-confidence in using technology in their lessons.Impact is evident through every staff member now being confident in using ICT and embracing it. The main impact is on the children who are excited about the availability of technology to find things out, try hypotheses and to represent their learning. It is now the recognised way that children represent and share their learning.The use of technology has become part and parcel of what we do in school - curricula, office based and remote access has permeated the life of the school.At the end of Year 4 so many pupils are ahead of expectations through their use of technology.
Key lessons learnt
- Responsible use strategy is wider than the policy and is part of the school culture
- Active support and drive from school leaders is essential to push the ICT agenda.
- Since 2007 there has been a drop off in the purchase of commercial software bought by the school. The philosophy has shifted to one of investing in technology equipment and using cheaper web based applications as tools and resources.
- Financial planning is essential to sustain investment year on year, with ICT replacement strategies being a component of the school plan. It is essential to have a financial succession plan to refresh school resources every 3 years.
- Differences in the use of technology and ICT devices in the Primary and Secondary sector run a risk of exciting, thrilling, and opening eyes of primary children in how to use technology – then at secondary school turning children off by not being able to use devices in the same way, in particular without wireless access. The difference in secondary ICT being subject based rather than embedded across the curriculum and building on previous learning is an issue that needs addressing. Andy Mellor feels it is “criminal to provide children in primary with innovative ICT resources and wireless attachment, but not enable its use in the secondary school”.
- Headteachers must resist the temptation of ‘gadget lust’ and then forcing things to work.
- Not realised how critical a managed wireless service is in the modern classroom. The mobility enabled through wireless connection of devices is liberating.
- Keep pushing boundaries as technology changes, and bring it back into school to impact on children’s learning.
- Twitter and engagement with the on-line education community can be really useful in getting new ideas and pointers to innovations in technology * Keep strategy and policies aligned to the current use of technology in school, and ensure regular review to keep abreast of change, and anticipate new issues risks and vulnerabilities.