ESW Associate & Strategic Leader of Teaching & Research Schools, Roger Pope CBE inspired colleagues to look forward and plan more strategically for the next academic year with this quotation from Fletcher-Wood & Zuccollo:
“Professional Development is likely to be the most impactful tool at our disposal for improving teacher quality and increasing pupils’ learning”.
You can also find out more about the new NPQ's, the SWIFT membership 2021-2022 offer, live Q&A sessions with Ofsted Subject Leads, and the Meet the CPD Providers event after half term; as well as a wealth of latest CPD offers from our partners.
As a 100% EdTech focused company, and SWIFT corporate sponsor for the next three years, we are delighted to share Computeam's blog posts and case studies.
In today's article CEO Owen Napier shares his thoughts on Edtech After Covid and Maintaining the Gains.
Over the past 14 months we’ve seen an unprecedented disruption to the way we all live, work and learn. While the many negative impacts of Covid are clear, the pandemic has also been a driver of positive changes, some of which have been brought about through the enhanced use of technology.
Positive technological change has been widespread in UK schools, enabling remote learning and keeping teachers in touch with colleagues and pupils alike.
However, with schools mostly open and classrooms mostly full, there has been an understandable desire to return to the old ways of doing things.
Nobody is advocating a continuation of eight hours a day in front of a computer screen; but the EdTech sector and schools should work together to ensure that some of the best practices are retained.
Here are our Top 3 suggested priorities:
1. The Power of Asynchronous Learning
Early in the first lockdown, forward-thinking, tech savvy schools were able to switch to live remote teaching using Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom. This enabled continuity for their pupils and allowed the curriculum to be taught at more or less its usual pace. But they soon started to encounter issues.
Teachers and pupils reported “Zoom fatigue” and parents struggled with the time commitments of work calls and virtual lessons for multiple children; not to mention, access to the devices required.
Soon, a more balanced approach emerged whereby teachers had live contact with pupils for short periods each day, but the majority of lesson content was delivered via pre-recorded video and digital resources. Essentially, this was the realisation of the “flipped classroom” model that has been around for over a decade and we think it has huge merit after the pandemic.
Pupils learn at different paces, and some are more receptive to learning at different times of the day. By continuing to provide a rich range of lesson content and pre-recorded video delivered by familiar teaching staff, schools can enhance provision and help to support and stretch learners at different stages.
2. Streamline and Synchronise
Last year over two million new accounts were created in Google and Microsoft platforms for the delivery of home learning through the DFE’s successful platform provisioning programme, as Computeam and other leading providers from across the sector set up over 7000 schools with a brand new digital learning platform.
It would have been impossible to manually create and maintain so many user accounts and ensure they were grouped together correctly, so we used synch tools to generate the right accounts from each school’s MIS.
We also deployed tools to ensure that the details from one account were then synchronised to others removing the need for users to log in multiple times every day.
These innovations mostly happen behind the scenes, but they are an important area for schools to continue to invest in on an ongoing basis (synch services will cost around £500 a year for a primary school and around twice that for the average secondary school).
Switching off the synch will probably result in little immediate disruption, but over time the smooth running of a system that has been taken for granted will start to frustrate users, pushing them away from their new digital platform.
3. Keep Meeting Virtually
Most of us have had our fill of web meetings and many are keen to go back to meeting in person.
But virtual meetings should continue because they are shorter, greener and more efficient.
At Computeam, we can engage with clients far more easily than we used to and we are seeing record numbers of teachers attend our video training session.
It is far easier to ask everyone to log in for an hour from 4pm – 5pm, perhaps after heading home, than it was to arrange a twilight in person session for a school and it costs half as much for us to deliver.
The key is to identify which meetings are best held in person and which are most beneficial to keep online – for example there is already a vocal movement among teachers to retain the time-saving, overrun-proof innovation of the virtual parents evenings!
As with any period of innovation, there were good and bad things about the way technology was used in schools during the pandemic. While we’re all keen to move on from the chaos of the past year, identifying and retaining the positive changes that have been made is a worthwhile endeavour for schools and EdTech providers alike.
If you’d like to discuss this, or highlight examples of positive technological change in your school then please do get in touch with us.
We were delighted to support our partner, CPD Provider, Ilsham English Hub in their recent event for schools with celebrated author, Michael Rosen who led a session on Reading for Pleasure on Wednesday 28 April 2021.
Author of over 200 books, Michael was recently awarded the 2021 J.M. Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his work in championing the arts for children and his many achievements as a performer and author.
"Reading for pleasure," he noted, "is a cosy title. But it does an important job." Indeed, research shows that reading helps children to attain, achieve and get the most out of school, with many children and young people staying on longer in education. Which must be a good thing.
Starting with the empirical evidence, Michael cited a study by the National Literacy Trust that he presented to Schools Minister, Nick Gibb on "Family Scholarly Culture and educational success" (MDR Evans et al, University of Nevada). Essentially, exposure to books and high culture provides important academic advantages for children - wherever they are in the world and no matter their parents.
But, Michael pondered, how can doing something cosy and ordinary like sharing books and "book blether" (talking about books in case you didn't know!) and the magic of books transform into creating attainment, success and access to schooling?
This is where Michael turned master of this reading for pleasure masterclass with his checklist below that is worth resuming in its entirety for all our book-loving teachers who aspire to inspire their pupils and as a reminder of the value of reading:
1. Empathy - get into the shoes of the characters in the books. By going outside of ourselves and comparing to someone else can lead to abstract thought. It helps children cope with a range of emotions: fear, anger, danger, sadness, pity etc.
2. Standard English - immersion in books is like learning languages. The reader is getting used to specialised ways in which English is laid out differently to how we speak it.
3. Structure of Story as narratives - stories are full of patterns and sequences/archetypes, e.g. Cinderella, the classic rags to riches story.
4. Wisdom - we get it from books and pass on these values and wisdom.
5. Figurative language - metaphor, similar, personification and images in literature. These can be quite complex for some children. But told through a story they can build on their understanding.
6. Symbolic Representation - does the story represent something more than it is?
7. Possibility of Change - someone can learn something from what's going on. This is a powerful message for children.
Even though the audience of over 260 were remote, watching Michael on screen as he read from "Where the Wild Things Are" brought all the magic of reading, picture books, language, atmosphere and stories alive. And had the audience been together in an auditorium I have no doubt you would have heard a pin drop. Utterly rapt!
With an almost effortless energy and enthusiasm, Michael oozed ideas to encourage children to read and engage actively in reading. Interviewing each other to discover the motive of stories - how did Hansel and Gretel feel? Writing prequels and sequels (with references to Daphne du Maurier's enduring classic, "Rebecca").
Find the Secret Strings (a beautifully catchy turn of phrase). The links inside stories. Turn poem detectives. Group activities. Yes! One teacher quoted in the chat how her pupils in her Year 1 class have been reading "The Little Red Hen" this week and have made links between "The Three Little Pigs" and "The Gingerbread Man," which "has instilled confidence, knowledge and understanding, particularly with my youngest children." Wonderful!
For our Early Year readers when stories are so essential in their development of language. Read out loud, sing and recite poetry. Help children to find the joy of language. Because "What they can say can be written." One teacher cited her class who love reading the story 'Chocolate Cake' and find it "hysterical." Another teacher added that her class changed the title to "Choc Lick Cake!" playing with the language. Showing how the best stories are often based on an element of truth, Michael shared how he used to pinch food from the larder - especially caramel wafers!
So how can a book-friendly school promote books for their children and families? Not surprisingly Michael had a feast of ideas:
We thank Michael for his joie de vivre for language and life in this "Reading for Pleasure" session delivered with fun and mischievousness and also thank Ilsham English Hub for organising such an enjoyable and engaging event.
The good news is that Ilsham will be hosting a further Michael Rosen session on Poetry in the Classroom on Wednesday 23 June 2021.
In the meantime, you can visit Michael's YouTube channel that has had more than 100 million views!
Report by Jude Owens
SWIFT is pleased to be supporting the Devon Right to Read initiative that launched at the end of April.
Primary School colleagues gathered together on Monday 26 April 2021 for the online launch of the new Devon Right to Read initiative (www.devonrighttoread.org.uk).
Director of Kingsbridge Research School (KRS), Jon Eaton introduced proceedings, joined by Lorwyn Randall, the Regional Delivery Lead, South West & South Coast for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), as two of the partners in the project. Also present were partner representatives: Samantha Chapman, Strategic Lead for Effective Learning, Babcock LDP; Zoe Milligan, Evidence Leader in Education on behalf of KRS; Tatiana Wilson, Education Adviser with the Diocese of Exeter and Alison Jones, Primary English Adviser for Babcock.
The partnership originates from joined-up thinking about exploring ways to tackle the stubborn achievement gap for disadvantaged pupils in Devon with reading at the core of the programme. As Alex Quigley said, “Reading is one of the most metacognitive things you can do.”
Devon Right to Read focuses in particular on reading in Years 3 and 4, as analysis of reading outcomes in Devon has found that Disadvantaged children currently do less well than disadvantaged children nationally in achieving expected standards at KS2 in reading: 56.6% (Devon) vs 59% (National). There is a 20.2% gap between Disadvantaged Pupils and non-Disadvantaged Pupils in Devon: 56.6% (DS) vs 77.6% (Non-DS). Based on verified 2019 SATS data. In addition to this on average approximately 60% of our NQTs are assigned to Years 3 and 4 classes, which often sees a slump in children’s progress. Head Teachers deduce that reading goes under the radar in these year groups with an earlier focus on phonics.
Indeed, the statistics speak for themselves. Devon is in the lowest third of Local Authorities in terms of months gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. At the end of KS2 disadvantaged children in Devon are 10.8 months behind and by the time of GCSEs, disadvantaged children are 20.8 months behind in Devon compared with 18.1 months nationally
The main focus, or the DNA of the Devon Right to Read project, is to focus on the principles behind literacy and to ensure a strong implementation with a focus on improving the teaching of reading by supporting teachers to provide children with effective reading strategies. By closing the reading gap for disadvantaged children there is the double positive impact in boosting pupils’ confidence, and their successful outcomes in all aspects of schooling. Ultimately enhancing children’s life chances.
With its decisive and alliterative use of “Right to Read” the project feels dynamic, strong and positive. A call to arms. Or a call for school improvement to confront reality and to use practical ways to tackle and close the gap through evidence-based assessment and diagnosis, and targeted interventions and principles that make them effective. EEF Key Stage 2 guidance support is the basis of nine modules delivered over three days training.
Literacy Content Specialist for the EEF, Caroline Bilton joined the event from Newcastle. Familiar with some areas of deprivation in the North East, she is co -author of the EEF Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1 guidance report, and is now working on the Key Stage 2 report.
Caroline reiterated the importance of understanding the context and evidence in knowing your own schools and families and making evidence as accessible as possible. There is value in supporting and developing a trusting relationship with those families who desperately want their children to read, and are struggling in understanding and the complexity of that task.
The most important thing is talking. By giving children every opportunity to learn through talk they are provided with the foundation and essential starting point to develop as confident readers. “Talk is the sea upon which reading and writing float,” (James Britton, 1970).
A teacher herself, Caroline understands that teachers make it look easy; but it is vital to get children involved in high quality interactions and to show genuine interest in them with effective modelling/scaffolding and to use explicit teaching as building blocks for fluent reading; referring to The Matthew Effect, of creating a rich literacy experience. Remember the mantra: talk with children, not to them! Talk will build on the architecture in a child’s brain. Those children who have benefitted from a rich experience write instinctively.
Caroline’s joy of reading with children and inspiring, motivating and engaging and making reading an adventure was palpable. “Be a reader of children’s books. Your love of reading is infectious…Take children on adventures in the books you share…Allow all children to feel successful as readers.”
Ultimately, teaching children to read is a moral imperative. All the more essential in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdown effect. Again, the data is stark. Comparison of reading tests between 2017 and 2020 showed that children were two months behind and disadvantaged children seven months behind.
Dawn Stabb, Head of Education and Learning at Devon County Council, reflected on how society has changed rapidly in the past year. Not least the ongoing context of interactive technology in which children are immersed. She reminded the audience to remember the power of simply reading, which can transcend barriers to learning and spark the imagination and build curiosity. Reading also has the added benefits to help children build their own vocabulary, develop their fluency and help their writing. Reading can help children understand what is written and what they hear, as listening outcomes make a difference to help children achieve in the classroom, with the added awareness of children with visual or hearing impairments.
The lockdown has also impacted on mental wellbeing with a special role for books and reading to play beyond raising academic achievement. Reading can develop emotions and interactions with friends and family and help children and young people work through difficult situations and build up children’s thoughts. With both wisdom and passion, Dawn reminded the audience, “Don’t forget what made us fall in love with reading and impart this to children.”
Professor Jonathan Sharples, who works with Lorwyn and Caroline at the EEF and is based at UCL, explained the processes of effective implementation. Citing Dr Jake Anders on the EEF Projects Review, he noted that “Where there are problems of implementation these often appear to be linked to a lack of shared understanding among senior leaders and teachers of what is involved.”
Implementation is lots of small things done well, what he termed, “uncommon common sense.” A shared and a central vision with tacit expertise and knowledge that is explicit and structured. In other words, the essential thing is that implementation is manifested in day-to-day work with an enthusiasm so that staff feel trusted to lead the changes. Drilling down needs to be done to identify the active ingredients (using a memorable stick of rock image) as the essential practices and principles for intervention in order to achieve the intended outcomes. Using a gardening metaphor, Jonathan explained the value of preparing the ground, clearing out the garden and creating space to plant: Explore, prepare, deliver and sustain.
Action for schools as part of this exploration, understanding reflection phase, was to set up an implementation team and to complete a CPD Short Course questionnaire.
Lorwyn and Samantha concluded the launch by thanking schools for attending and expressed their excitement to work with so many schools on the project. The emphasis on long-lasting embedded sustainable literacy practices was one of the many memorable takeaways from the launch, with the benefits of the Devon Right to Read programme for ALL children, as well as the disadvantaged.
We will watch with interest.
Report by Jude Owens
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