Cramlington Learning Village is a Comprehensive School in the North East of England, ranked ‘Outstanding’ in the last four OFSTED inspections. Previously a high school catering for years 9-13, Cramlington has now become a Secondary School with 2,300 students, following the acquisition of years 7 and 8. They have developed an international reputation for driving innovation within ICT alongside a commitment to personalised learning.
serving 2,300 students
Improvements in student attainment
fast and easy app development
With the arrival of years 7 and 8, the school created the Junior Learning Village, a purpose-built addition to the school. Designed to foster enquiry-based learning, so heavily championed by the school, each classroom has been created to enable students to take control of their learning, with ICT at the heart of this environment.
Phil Spoors, Head of ICT & E-Learning at Cramlington, explains, “Initially classrooms had a digital toolkit which included cameras, microphones, projectors and such like. With the arrival of tablet technology it was obvious that much of the toolkit could not only be replaced, but enhanced by a single device."
The plan was therefore to make a mobile device available to every year 7 and 8 student. It was hoped that this would inspire responsibility and be a tool which students could use to personalise their learning experience. The thinking stretched beyond the classroom however, as the vision was for a community device at home, extending value through access to the internet and an array of ICT services away from the school.
Working with the eLearning Foundation, the school devised an opt-in scheme, so parents would contribute monthly towards the cost of the device, case and insurance over a two year period. The scheme was welcomed with resounding approval from the parents.
With 340 students requiring devices this would not be a simple project. According to Phil Spoors, logistics would be critical to ensuring the project went off hitch-free. “For the first year of the scheme we were working with another partner but decided to engage with Softcat after they demonstrated an eagerness to assist with reducing costs for the second phase of the project. After evaluating their capabilities and the importance placed on delivering good customer service, we felt confident they could ensure delivery deadlines would be met meaning the scheme would not be compromised."
Nick Berry, Education Development Manager at Softcat picks up the story, “Softcat’s education team had developed a strong relationship with Cramlington, through experience of supplying them various ICT technologies. We were delighted when they asked us to help with the scheme, as our longstanding partnership with Samsung, combined with an in-depth understanding of Cramlington’s desired outcomes, ensured there was a good fit. In particular, our vendor relationship allowed us to engage with a Samsung Galaxy tablet specialist to provide free training for both staff and students on how to get the most out of the devices."
With a proven track record working within the education sector, Softcat understood the challenges that Cramlington was facing and the importance of getting the scheme right. “It’s the little things that matter – making sure the cases arrive with the devices, being mindful of the deadlines and having a back-up plan, should things not go as expected. After all, this is a school and things like term dates are fixed,” comments Nick Berry.
Sympathetic to the objectives of the project, Softcat worked tirelessly to ensure the devices arrived as planned, were configured as required and ready for student use as needed. Training around using the devices within lessons was provided free of charge to ensure learning outcomes were maximised.
The scheme has been a runaway success and has revolutionised teaching and learning experiences alike. Students are no longer tethered to a desk, classroom or even the school, meaning devices can be used as a learning aid literally wherever the student is. Simple things like scanning QR codes enhance the way content is shared too, “Teachers now put together packs of the right information, so all we need to do is direct the student to the QR code and they instantly have everything necessary for their exercise,” explains Phil Spoors. This avoids worksheets and other less interesting ways of transferring information to students.
Spoors also highlights new-found flexibility delivered by the app driven devices, “There’s a plethora of apps available to teachers and students, plus we have the resources in-house to build fit-for-purpose apps of our own. If a teacher needs something creating for a field trip we can literally create something of our own within 24 hours."
Whilst Cramlington cannot categorically attribute improvements witnessed in subjects such as numeracy and literacy to the introduction of the tablets, they do believe there is a strong correlation to advances in student attainment. “We now see the devices as an essential part of the school bag just like a pen and pencil. Whilst lessons are not specifically geared around the devices, they have the potential to play an important part in the lessons and have empowered students to shape their approach to learning."
One thing is certain however, the technology is helping lessons in a way that was previously not possible. Commenting on a recent OFSTED observation Phil Spoors demonstrated the power of the new tools, “During the lesson I wanted to gather feedback on prior knowledge of the devices. Using a quick form and QR code, I was able to obtain all student feedback within a minute and then display all of the results on the board for discussion. In the past, I would have had to hand out sheets or get them to log in on a conventional computer. At best, I might have been able to achieve the same result in 15 to 20 minutes."
The school has even setup blogs for students to post updates for teachers on projects and coursework. Whereas once it would be time prohibitive for teachers to frequently check in on these projects, with the tablets students can now share progress and even photograph projects to demonstrate achievements.
Softcat has been a breath of fresh air all through this project. The key to their success has been a deep understanding of the purpose of the project and what it’s been about for us.
Phil Spoors, Head of ICT & E-Learning
CRAMLINGTON LEARNING VILLAGE