One of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal in the education sector is the ability to collaborate and share; one thing is certain, schools understand each other.
All schools want to do better and achieve more for their pupils and to this end, working with other schools to ‘share’ ideas and insight is a highly-valuable process; it’s certainly something that I feel more schools should consider.
The most important thing to recognise is that this is not simply about schools of excellence helping failing schools. Once a school takes the initiative to invite other schools in to share their quality practices and soak up ideas, the visiting school will also benefit from the experience by simultaneously re-affirming their own infrastructure and practices.
For us, change for the better started in the Autumn term last year during lockdown. Based in a low socioeconomic region, many of our children were struggling with remote learning due to shortages of IT devices. We were lucky enough to receive advice and guidance from a local EdTech ‘Demonstrator School’; Pheasey Park Farm.
Pheasey is one of just 43 schools across the UK to be awarded the ‘EdTech Demonstrator School’ status by the DfE. We knew the team had already helped to inspire, motivate, and strengthen many schools’ remote education and catch-up plans, but more importantly that they worked from a partnership perspective. Rather than just telling us what to do, they worked with us to agree the priorities and necessary changes against budget.
The Pheasey team started by carrying out an audit of our school, looking at where we were in terms of supporting the students, their parents and our teachers, while also reducing the workload. By February, the other seven schools in the trust stepped on board and were also audited.
The audit was really just the first step, providing us with a starting point for discussion. Each school and teacher within our MAT reviewed the audit and reflected on how well they felt we do in these areas.
The audits highlighted the fact that our schools and teachers had varying approaches to sharing their lesson materials; they were often wasting time duplicating preparation and planning. Historically, we channelled a lot of our work through Microsoft Teams, making sharing that much harder. Pheasey helped us to consider utilising the strength of SharePoint. All learning content created by each teacher now links to related resources, presentations and even video recordings of the actual lessons which can be accessed by each child or parent remotely; making a more streamlined, continuous learning journey.
The Covid-19 pandemic taught us a lot about online education platforms, not only how we use them to support our teaching practice but how they can help us stay connected with students, teachers and parents. Eighteen months on and we’re using a highlyeffective hybrid approach to teaching in the future.
Another fundamental outcome was realising the importance of continuing professional development (CPD). It was actually the CPD that was really instrumental in changing our culture; managing the change to our new infrastructure and way of working and ensuring all teachers were optimising the value of our technology and in turn, facilitating excellence. I would absolutely encourage all schools to work with EdTech demonstrator schools. A
focus on collaboration internally and externally is a key factor in improving and maintaining teaching standards; opening our eyes to a greater level of sharing!
Elliott Hateley B.Ed (Hons) L.L.E, Executive leader of Hill Avenue Academy, part of the Manor Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) - Published in 'The Headteacher' - September 2021