Digital Leaders at Long Lee Primary School
Overview of the school
Built as a middle school in 1978 Long Lee Primary School converted to primary in 2000 and is moving towards unstreamed two form entry throughout. The school is split-level with extensive, well-utilised grounds. The school (part of a federation sharing an executive head) has 305 pupils, 15 teachers and 18 teaching assistants.
The catchment is semi-rural with a predominantly white British intake. The percentage of pupils from minority ethnic groups is rising but remains below the national average. 31% of pupils are on the SEN register with 14% entitled to free school meals. The daily timetable of 5 one hour lessons includes an hour each of literacy and numeracy. However, in the Foundation Stage child initiated learning is followed.
A significant factor in the adoption of the Digital Leader initiative is the school's ethos which emphasises pupil voice, “learning together” and “giving children more responsibility over their own learning”. Prior to the initiative the school already had a “Pupil Office” which provided a context for a number of pupil-led initiatives. Thus establishing Digital Leaders is a coherent and consistent extension to existing policy and practice.
Description of ICT infrastructure and resources
The school utilises the local authority education broadband internet service which provides a 10 megabit connection. In school the network is wired but with a single wireless point which supports 6 netbooks used in Year 5 and 6. There is a curriculum and an administration server.
There are 18 Windows 7 desktop PCs in an ICT suite and each classroom has a single desktop PC. 13 staff laptops are deployed for home use. The school has no other mobile technology.
One of the Assistant Heads has the lead management role for ICT. A Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) has an ICT curriculum support role and is responsible for the Digital Leader initiative. However, she only works one day a week in the school. A further HLTA provides on-site technical support for an hour 4 days a week. Additional support is contracted externally for 3 hours per week.
During 2011/12 Long Lee successfully bid to be involved in a Digital Leader project supported by the local authority. The local authority wished to disseminate good practice already established in local schools and funded training, support and a bank of 5 netbooks to provide 1:1 access for the school's Digital Leaders.
Following the successful pilot in 2011/12 the school purchased an additional netbook to ensure that the current 6 Digital Leaders have access to a netbook each to supplement PC access in the ICT suite or Year 5 and 6 classrooms.
Case study overview
The school's motivation for establishing Digital Leaders was as a means to “embed ICT across all curriculum areas so that it becomes part of everyday teaching.” Digital Leaders were expected to become “ICT ambassadors”, raising the status of ICT and developing the ICT skills of staff and pupils.
To establish the Digital Leaders Year 6 pupils were invited to complete an application,questionnaire and interview. Confidence, communication skills, ICT capability and enthusiasm for learning were considered in the selection process. The school valued the initiative and towards the end of 2011/12 the Digital Leaders were fully involved in the selection and training of a new group drawn from Year 5.
Currently, the HLTA meets the Digital Leaders weekly to review activity and plan ahead. Her view is that the group demonstrate high levels of responsibility and ownership, needing little direction. In the meeting observed the group were proposing activities such as an e-safety poster competition. Some worked collaboratively, drafting an introductory PowerPoint on e-mail, whilst others had skills training from the HLTA.
Digital Leaders' support is largely confined to Year 5 and 6 classes although they have recently introduced blogging in other KS2 classes. During a two week period support activity included:
- Leading a school assembly on blogging and how to blog;
- Supporting Year 6 numeracy lessons where pupils were using Excel to explore averages;
- Leading lessons introducing Year 5 to the school blog and e-book “Bug Club”;
- With the lead teacher for Literacy, running weekly lunch-time blogging and e-book clubs (to provide access for pupils who have no home computer provision) in the ICT suite;
- Informal support of classroom ICT activities, teachers and each-other. For instance, creating blog posts on behalf of teachers;
- Daily switching on and logging off of computers in ICT Suite, reporting faults.
Teachers describe Digital Leaders as, “a vital resource” and feel supported in using ICT to support learning in other subjects. They also feel the Digital Leaders initiative is a “highly effective route” to achieve more independence in pupil learning. Teachers, drawing on Digital Leader support, were observed to focus strongly on subject teaching and learning whilst the Digital Leaders dealt with basic ICT skill gaps, organisational issues such as problems with logging-in and distributing print-outs at the end of a lesson.
As the initiative is closely aligned to the school's core values it has tended to affirm rather than challenge policies. However, giving Digital Leaders open access to the ICT suite and the same blog permissions as teachers may have policy implications. Digital Leaders are now represented on the school E-safety Committee.
Pupils have “respect and admiration” for the Digital Leaders and indicate they value the one to one support with ICT skills. In lessons observed, pupils were able to remain tasked focused by Digital Leaders intervening to resolve skills gaps or technical problems. By offering lunch-time “clubs” Digital Leaders are helping to secure equality of opportunity for pupils who don’t have home ICT access. The school Literacy Leader indicates that the Digital Leaders’ work on promoting blogging and the schools’ e-book provision is beginning to have a motivational impact on reluctant readers and writers, particularly boys.
Key lessons learnt
Long Lee recognises the benefit to Years 5 and 6 and wishes to extend impact across the school, possibly by identifying additional Digital Leaders from every class. As Digital Leaders are Year 6 pupils there is a need for succession planning. Staff and Digital Leaders themselves suggest an earlier selection and induction process for prospective Digital Leaders from Year 5.
When Digital Leaders are chosen through a rigorous process they demonstrate ownership of their roles and work with considerable autonomy. However, staff are aware of the need to guide their interventions to ensure they consistently explain as well as solve ICT problems for pupils. Staff believe that a regular progress review meeting between Digital Leaders and the member of staff responsible is central to the success of the project. They are aware that Digital Leaders could be over-used to the detriment of their wider curricular experience and they monitor this closely.
The role of the local authority was significant in establishing the project and facilitating cross-school networking and sharing of good practice.
Case Study Methodology
The methodology used for this particular case study followed the Vital Case Study Methodology process as described here: Research_Strategy
However, the strategy was modified slightly given the Digital Leader focus. Rather than 4 pupils, 3 Digital Leaders and 3 beneficiaries took part in the pupil focus group and diary keeping. This modification was to ensure a perspective from Digital Leaders and the pupils they worked with was secured.