The headteacher of Heartlands High School in Wood Green, north London, was interested in finding ways to share technology and ideas with other schools in his borough. "There is a family of schools in Haringey, and that is more than rhetoric," Simon Garrill says. That closeness had previously enabled the schools to share some recent technology.
Heartlands was one of the last schools in Haringey to get funding from the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, so an opportunity existed to create a new kind of space on its site. "The whole idea," Mr Garrill says, "grew out of the technology forum that was held in the past for schools in the borough."
Heartlands set up the "Tecxitement Room" - a name devised by the students - to share technology and innovations with other schools. The room is open to all 12 secondaries in the borough and has been equipped with a selection of the latest technology: green-screen film kit, stop-motion animation, tablets, netbooks, iPads, visualisers, web-cams, voting pads, touchscreens and digital cameras (still and video). It also has support staff who can demonstrate how to use the technology in learning.
"It encourages creativity," says Babar Mirza, director of ICT at the nearby Northumberland Park Community School. "It's easy to get students to engage in bog-standard ICT, but this brings in new ideas and adds a new dimension. It brings us up to date with what ICT is all about these days."
The room was set up with sponsorship from RM Education. "I hope that it will inspire teachers and give them confidence to feel empowered and try new things that will be effective for them and for the students in Haringey," says Carol Ellis, the organisation's senior education development manager. "We believe that it is cost-effective and will enable the sharing of best practice and projects, not just at Heartlands but across the borough, and help us to develop interesting case studies that can be shared."
The collaborative aspects are crucial. Teachers come to Heartlands both during school time and after school to use the room. "Teachers' curriculum groups are supported," Ms Ellis says. "They work together here in the room and then continue in other schools. I hope that we can enable them to see how to use ICT more effectively in their lessons."
Tips from the scheme
- Identify a set of schools you know are willing co-operate at all levels, and people at those schools you can work with.
- Find a good sponsor.
- Ensure all senior management teams are supportive.
- Value the input of students.
- Agree a joint budget.
- Use one centrally located school as a base.
Evidence that it works
The room has only opened very recently, so it is difficult to demonstrate longer term "success". But, just two weeks after opening, it already had a diary full of events, ranging from subject-based innovative ICT sessions for staff to Year 7 enrichment-group activities.
Three schools have already brought groups of staff into the Tecxitement Room to start planning. All Haringey BSF schools intend to use the room, with ideas including: a special schoolmainstream introduction video project; a multimedia Year 9 newsletter activity; and an animation task, based on a news headline.
Approach: Setting up a technology room to share resources and innovation with other schools
Leaders: Simon Garrill, headteacher, and an RM Education co-ordinator
Name: Heartlands High
Location: Wood Green, north London
Intake: Opened in 2010 with places for 162 students. Will grow to 1,080 students by 2014. The school has specialist autistic provision
Ofsted overall rating: Not yet rated.