Laura Burton, Senior Education Lead at SSAT, reflects on one school leader’s experience of implementing a digital strategy that provides collaboration opportunities while also building a stronger school community
The latest national lockdown has seen a return to remote education for many pupils. Building on their experiences from the first lockdown, schools have reviewed and refined their approaches to remote learning to ensure the provision best meets their young people’s needs.
Rory McGrath, headteacher at Shacklewell Primary School and lead of the Shacklewell EdTech Demonstrator Hub, hosted a recent webinar for SSAT members where he shared his school’s journey, offering insight into the challenges faced and outlining what schools should be considering when introducing technological tools and systems.
A shared vision is essential in the successful development of all aspects of the school, and this is no different with approaches to remote education. From Rory’s experience, there needs to be clarity around the school’s vision which is shared by the whole school community. Staff must have a full understanding of the digital tools and devices to ensure success; at Shacklewell, all staff are given training and access to the same platforms and tools as the children, to ensure the quality of teaching and learning is high.
Curriculum is key
Rory believes that technology can help to level the playing field for all pupils. Central to this is remembering that technology is the tool for delivering the curriculum – it is the curriculum which must come first. Ensuring that community and context are reflected in the provision is vitally important in getting it right for the pupils.
Don’t feel the need to rush
The fast-paced nature demanded by the current climate may mean decisions are made quickly about digital strategy, in response to changing situations. Rory encouraged people to be mindful and to think carefully and with consideration, keeping the vision central, to develop plans that have greater long-term impact.
Rory shared the importance of considering evidence of what works best in other schools as a starting point when reviewing or developing the strategy. He highlighted the growing number of research studies and reports that can support schools in making evidence-based decisions for their digital strategy, signposting the Remote Learning Rapid Evidence Assessment report, published by the Education Endowment Foundation, as a good starting point for schools.
Collaboration is key in enabling schools to learn from each other, try new ways of working and consider how improvements could be made. This is central to the ethos at Shacklewell, where, by working with others, Rory believes it can help schools to continually refine their systems and approaches, leading to powerful innovation and transformation.
Now, more than ever, it is important to make considered decisions regarding the development of a digital strategy. Reviewing how the financial investment in devices or other hardware made now will impact the long-term vision is essential to ensure money is well spent and has the biggest impact. Understanding how the school’s infrastructure will support remote education in the future is key, alongside the practical considerations such as whether the broadband is strong enough to support these devices when all pupils return to school.
There will be a time, hopefully very soon, when things will return to ‘normal’ and all pupils will return to school. Rory encourages us to consider what we will take forward from this journey for the future, and how we can distil what we have learnt from the last 12 months to prepare pupils for their futures? He argues that while the current situation will pass, technology gains should continue when this period is over, and it is important for us to consider how.
As headteacher at Shacklewell Primary School in London, Rory McGrath, an SLE, has supported several schools to audit and review their curriculum delivery. He is passionate about technology in schools and believes that digital devices can be a powerful tool to ‘level the playing field’ and improve all children’s educational outcomes when used successfully. As lead of the Shacklewell EdTech Demonstrator Hub, his team has supported schools nationwide to review, refine and adapt their approaches to using the technology.
SSAT members can watch a recording of the webinar in the Exchange.
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