Edtech, Covid-19 and the school community

12 Nov 2020 / Pete Atherton

What role do schools play in communities and how can technology help?

This week’s post is a summary of an interview with Adam Gough, who is a Primary Deputy Head, Assessment lead and Key Stage 1 moderator.

We spoke at the beginning of November, immediately prior top the second national lockdown.

We discussed how Adam and his team make sure that children feel part of the school community, if they are sick or having to self-isolate. We’ll also discuss the role that technology has played in all this

‘And now…the gallery’

This is relevant, so please stay with me.

Apologies to readers blessed with youth, who may not get the reference here. Tony Hart used to present a TV programme called ‘Vision On’ in the 1970s, which ‘morphed’ (ahem) into ‘Take Hart’ (geddit?) in the 1980s.

So many puns, so little time.

Tony used to wear nylon shirts, was very kind and taught children through art on television. Each episode contained a feature entitled, ‘The Gallery’. During this feature, viewers were treated to a…erm…gallery of artwork submitted by children. Incidentally. the music in the background was an easy-listening piece, which I believe was played on a vibraphone. Look it up on Youtube but please don’t judge me if you find it a little weird.

Adam and his team have re-created the magic of ‘The Gallery’. Twice a week, during online assemblies, the school have a Tony Hart-style gallery of exciting things that are happening around the school. Nylon shirts are optional.

Celebrating achievement

It’s really important that the school celebrate the achievements of their esteemed pupils. With this is mind, the school have a regular Celebration Assembly, which also involves the parents. Broadband permitting, technology is helping bring communities together.

Pupils’ attendance has been decent, despite the need for some children to self-isolate at times. The mood has been positive; the children are in their bubbles but are happy to be in school with their friends and teachers. Reception and Year 1 don’t know any difference — the situation feels normal to them.

The pupils are organised in sections; when they can, they walk around the outside of the school, to help minimise congestion and, of course, to improve the overall social distancing. Teachers and SLT are ensuring that robust systems are in place to keep people as safe as possible, for example through bespoke risk assessments. There is a danger that the children will miss out on potentially life-changing experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. Though residential trips cannot happen at the moment, the school have run successful dawn-til-dusk field trips.

How did you manage data in the middle of a pandemic?

Pandemic or not, schools at any level do well to ask themselves the following questions:

  • How are you gathering data and what is it for?
  • Does this data actually help teaching and learning and if so, how?

As you may know already, Primary schools had no statutory data drops at the end of 2020. Instead, they submitted an estimated trajectory of all pupils at the end of the summer term. From EYFS, to KS1 and 2, Primary schools relied on teacher assessment.

For year 3, the school also tried No More Marking. If you’re not familiar with No More Marking (NMM), it is a way of assessing student work using comparative judgement. Comparative judgement compares one piece of work with another and repeats the process multiple times. There is significant evidence that NMM produces more meaningful assessment data. It also saves time. To hear more, you should listen to my podcast interview with Daisy Christodoulou. Daisy is the Director of Education at NMM and her latest book is ‘Teachers vs Tech’.

The way that Adam’s school use data is significant. Data identifies gaps to help target teaching and identify pupils whose progress indicates that they are in need of an intervention. The school have drawn on Covid catch up funding to inform teaching and learning. By working with Bromcom to develop their Primary Tracker in 3 schools within the Trust, they are helping to reduce the admin burden of mark sheets and make them even easier to fill in. They have also assisted with Teacher’s Dashboards, so that staff can jump to assessment data for their classes straight from their registers.

Adam Gough hopes that suppliers of management information systems (MIS) can continue to be open to change. One example of this is the system identifying potential pupil interventions while simultaneously linking back to statutory assessment points and Aspire targets. He hopes that technology, particularly MIS, can help staff collaborate more to produce greater efficiency and a more rounded pupil experience.

What benefits have you taken from the initial lockdown?

The school were developing a new curriculum anyway but lockdown served as a catalyst to looking more closely at specific modules. When the staff and pupils were back in June, the school had a pleasant feel about it; they had been able to implement new strategies. The time that had elapsed made it feel more natural to introduce something new.

How has Covid changed how you use technology?

There has been a greater sense of collaboration between pupils, staff. Governors, MIS providers, the Trust board and parents. The use of technology has felt more natural, as circumstances have forced the issue.

The school were fortunate enough to be provided with some laptops with 4G routers. This meant that use online resources in school and not be disadvantaged when they needed to self-isolate. Pupils accessed work on Microsoft Teams. Primary pupils made use of resources on Seesaw, EYFS pupils could use packs of work on Tapestry.

Shared devices sometimes created problems within homes, especially when more than one family member wanted to use the same laptop. Another problem has been trying to balance the statutory obligation to provide learning and act on statutory data, with the less structured reality of Covid and trying to fit in activities around home life.

Next week, I will share an interview with Deborah Strain, a Trust Leader for Education with Eko Trust. Until then — stay safe and enjoy your education journey.

What would Tony Hart do?

#WWTHD