Digital Leaders

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The Digital Leaders Programme invites pupils to support aspects of ICT use within their school. This may be through providing technical help to other pupils or staff, through supporting staff in their lessons, or through running staff development sessions for teachers. Through exploring and developing digital literacy the programme also aims to develop personal and leadership skills in the students.

Summary of what we know

The Digital Leaders programme is one of the approaches to ICT in schools that recognise the wealth of technology experience that students have outside of school CoSN (2012). It parallels the movement towards Responsible use policies, where “We’re teaching students how to operate in this new world. We wanted to change the wording in our guidelines because we don’t want students to accept them; we want students to be responsible for them” Chaplin (2012). The Digital Leaders programme seeks to extend this responsibility into roles traditionally carried out by teachers and other adults.

The UK Digital Leaders Programme was launched at the 2010 SSAT Conference. The programme was built on ideas from Kristian Still of Hamble College and Daniel Stucke of Stretford High School. The pilot programmes at these schools involved recruiting pupils who were given a brief to provide leadership in the use of digital technologies in their school and communities. The pupils mentored teachers and supported staff development, raising teachers' awareness of potential uses of technologies in learning John (2010).

The Digital Leaders Programme is seen as having the potential to help schools raise levels of achievement, attainment, and confidence of staff in using digital technology and most importantly growing students own leadership skills Toshiba (2011). Within Bradford, for example, many students developed whole school improvement strategies using new learning technologies Bashforth (2012).

Many Digital Leaders undergo a rigorous application process to show they can take responsibility and commit to attending regular Digital Leader meetings Bashforth (2012). Job descriptions can include staff development, supporting teachers in ICT lessons, maintaining blogs, trialling new software, canvassing other students' views, and running ICT clubs Nicky Newbury's collection of documents

The Digital Leaders Programme is very much a “bottom-up” development. As such, its spread tends to be piecemeal, with some 55 UK schools represented on the Google Map on the Digital Leaders Network web site. There are also 36 Bradford primary schools participating in the programme Bashforth (2012) and several others all operating more-or-less independently.

The majority of these schools are primary schools. This has led to the issue reported at a conference of Bradford's Digital Leaders. All the pupils at the conference were apprehensive at having to ‘power down’ when they transferred to Secondary School Bashforth (2012).

Strategic advice

This material has been migrated from the Vital community website.

At Vital a group of nine teachers are working with and training students to lead the use of ICT in schools through the development of Digital Leader programmes (Creating a Digital Leaders Programme: Using students to drive ICT innovation)

Their aim is to:

  • Connect teachers with students through sharing a passion for technology
  • Enable students to support teachers with technology
  • Connect teachers through their passion for sharing technology with students
  • Offer 1st Level IT support from students for their classes

A Digital Leader Programme is aimed at developing personal and leadership skills in students through exploring and developing digital literacy. Digital Leaders applying to the Vital programme enthused about digital media and technology but often without the underpinning personal leadership skills to fully exploit that interest. Vital therefore recommends a three part strategy:

  1. Launch: Application and Interviews
  2. Digital Leader Bootcamp
  3. Missions

Following a discussion at Vital, the group emphasised the advantage of students having full-time access to hardware and software resources. Whatever product you choose, an SD card reader or adapter is essential. As a personal trait students need to be 'thick-skinned' as these privileges can also led to students as being labelled by other students. Additional hardware is also useful.

The Wordpress MU blogs provide a platform on which Digital Leaders can publish their work. These blogs also provide an opportunity for Digital Leaders schools to cross reference and collaborate with other Digital Leaders schools. As each blog has static pages and comments allowed, the blog advertises the Digital Leaders capabilities, services and promotes correspondence. Vital recommends you use your blog as your main communication portal with your schools. Each blog is moderated by the teacher, with students assigned roles pending their ability and development as a Digital Leaders. To help save you time, stock 'About us' and 'Contact us' text has been written in this Wordpress template.

Schools that have Digital Leaders Programmes

  • St John the Baptist, Southampton - blog post re Digital Leaders which recounts a day trip they took to tell people about the programme.
  • Greenfields Primary School, Shrewsbury - Digital Leaders blog which describes recent activity, including hosting a Technology show for pupils and parents. A technical support form (powered by Google Docs) is also available, offering help to staff, students and other schools.
  • Bowling Park Primary School, Bradford - Digital Leaders blog which describes recent activity, including an induction for new teaching staff by the digital leaders ready for their start in the next academic year. Includes a dedicated e-safety section.
  • Lady Lumley's School, Pickering - The college's Digital Leaders blog is run by pupils at Key Stage 3, 4 and 5. Describes their recent attendance at the National Digital Leaders Conference 2012 held at Microsoft HQ in Reading.
  • The Arnewood School, Hampshire - Their Digital Leaders blog is divided into three main categories: tools (recommendations), discussion (Q&A and support) and Videos (interviews and webcasts).
  • Fulford School, York - Digital Leaders at Fulford planned, organised and presented the first Teach the Teachers Meet in June 2012. The event was attended by over 120 teachers from a multitude of schools.
  • Prince of Wales First School, Dorchester - a blog of Digital Leader demo videos from some of the youngest learners at the school.
  • Clevedon School, North Somerset - a video about lesson starters, created and presented by two Digital Leaders at TeachMeet Clevedon.
  • Roydon Primary School, Norfolk - a Digital Leaders blog which shows activity, including the recent use of synchronous online discussion between teachers and pupils.
  • Hertford Junior School, East Sussex - the blog shows the recent creation of a DL programme in the school.

Related sites

  • The Digital Leaders Network is a collaborative blog designed to create a sustainable support network for schools running Digital Leader programmes.
  • A collaborative Digital Leaders Google Map showing networked schools across the UK.
  • A useful collection of documents from Nicky Newbury, including DL job description, application forms, contract etc.
  • Byteing into ICT - a blog by Mr Gristwood that has some posts about the Digital Leaders programme that he runs.
  • Havering schools and digital leaders


Bashforth (2012) Bradford Digital Leaders Conference 2012. Inspiring third millennium learners. Blog post.

Chaplin (2012) Welcoming Mobile: More Districts Are Rewriting Acceptable Use Policies, Embracing Smartphones and Social Media in Schools. Blog post: Spotlight on digital media and learning.

CoSN (2012) Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media. Policy Paper. Consortium for School Networking Initiative (CoSN).

John (2010) Tosh supports learners for Digital Leaders scheme. Merlin John Online. Blog post.

Toshiba (2011) Never mind the government or DfE, look to the students for the future ICT strategy in education.