How to nail digital transformation in schools

Tim Williams, head teacher of Wayfield Primary (part of The Primary First Trust), discusses his school’s journey on the path to digital transformation

When I joined Wayfield in September 2016, the school had been rated as inadequate by Ofsted. I had a lot of immediate challenges to tackle, but as soon as the basics were stable enough, I wanted to do everything I could to ensure students received a fair stake when it came to technology. 

The school is situated in an area of particularly high deprivation. I wanted my pupils to be able to leverage cutting-edge technology, not only to boost their learning, but to prepare them for their futures. I really wanted to put the best-quality devices in their hands. 

Getting parents on board with digital transformation

In May 2018, the school rolled out a new iPad scheme, providing the same devices to both teachers and pupils. We launched the scheme with a parents’ meeting, which we deemed crucial for buy-in. I told parents just how essential these devices were for their children’s education. Perhaps my passion was contagious, since we secured a 70% take up straight away and hit 96% just one week later. The school matched funds for disadvantaged families, allowing them to contribute as little as £5 per month. As more than half of the students qualified for Pupil Premium, the school’s matching amounted to approximately £20,000 over three years.

All parents were able to pay in instalments. At that point, the families would then either own the iPad outright or be able to opt for the latest upgrade. We secured insurance with no excesses, and had devices on reserve so if any got damaged, the children would receive a same-day replacement. 

  We continually innovate and challenge ourselves to make sure every child has the best learning opportunities  

Supporting integration

Putting devices into every child’s hands would only be worthwhile if the tools were seamlessly integrated into the school day. Staff embraced the challenge by adapting 

the curriculum and using flipped learning. They gave children slides each afternoon with a combination of homework and an overview of what to expect from the next day’s learning. This would take 20 minutes each evening and give parents the opportunity to participate. If a child needed to, they were able to use a break to catch up. 

With so much effort to secure buy-in from staff, pupils and parents in advance, integration was secured from the start, and everyone understood it was a learning tool first. 

Staff could easily track a pupil’s portfolio of work through videos, screenshots, audio, keynotes and more, and evidence of progress across subjects like music and PE was preserved. 

digital transformation

The outcomes

What was the impact? The transformation is clear, with results increasing a full 20% since implementation. Homework completion skyrocketed, parent surveys express that they have better understanding of what their children are doing, and they feel more confident in supporting their child’s learning at home. On top of this, children’s wellbeing improved, making them less anxious about their learning and more prepared for new concepts. These results were consistent for both Pupil Premium and non-Pupil Premium children, and we are now offering advisory support to other schools looking to implement digital change.

All I want is to prepare my students for their next steps in 21st-century life. Tech isn’t just an add-on or a gimmick; if there is no impact on learning, we get rid of it. We continually innovate and challenge ourselves to make sure every child has the best learning opportunities and experience. One thing we now know for sure is that equipping them with 1:1 access to an iPad device has been a real game-changer. 

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