Innovative Practice - Go go gadgets

Engaging parents in young children's learning with computers, cameras and remote-controlled cars

Darren Evans

The background

Over the past few years, teachers at St Thomas Community Primary in Swansea have built up a positive relationship with the parents and carers of older pupils in an effort to get them more involved in their children's learning.

Following a merger with nearby Margaret Street Nursery in 2007, staff wanted to extend this engagement to the parents of early years children, too.

Working with Swansea University, the school developed special software and a website that allowed parents to create and take part in educational activities with their children at home.

The project

Pupils and parents work together using computers to bring stories to life and to draw letters, shapes and numbers to improve literacy and numeracy skills.

Parents also use video cameras and toys such as remote-controlled cars to better understand and capture their children's world.

"The reason we used hardware such as remote-controlled cars and cameras was so that parents would see that ICT was more than just sitting at a computer. They would use them with their children and then discuss what they had done," says Glyn Tiltman, the school's ICT coordinator. "It was all part of an effort to build learning links between parents and pupils."

Tips from the scheme

Tiltman says:

"It's not something you can do overnight. You have to understand your parents and the dynamics of the wider community."

"Because we have had this strong link with our parents over a number of years we have learned how to engage with them in a meaningful way."

"You also have to do research into what software and resources are available and make sure you choose the right ones for your school and your parents."

Evidence that it works?

The Welsh government's Learning and Skills Observatory Wales has hailed St Thomas Primary's work as best practice for digital classroom teaching. Teachers have noticed an improvement in ICT and oracy skills among early-years pupils and say their parents are more engaged in their learning.

The school has developed ICT skills courses for parents with awarding body Agored Cymru.

THE PROJECT

Approach - Using computers, cameras and remote-controlled cars to get parents engaged with their children's learning

Started - 2010

Leader - Nursery teacher Nicky Beynon; Dr Alex Morgan, Swansea University

THE SCHOOL

Name - St Thomas Community Primary

Location - Swansea, Wales

Pupils - 300

Age range - 3-11

Intake - The school serves an area of high deprivation and unemployment, and almost a third of pupils are entitled to free school meals

Estyn overall rating - Good with outstanding features (2007, before amalgamation with Margaret Street Nursery and move to new building).

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Darren Evans

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