Learn for fun

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
For Some Schools, Every Child Matters is nothing new. Nick Capstick, headteacher at Drove Primary in Swindon, looks at how the school aims to enthuse all its learners

Step into any classroom or learning area in Drove primary school, Swindon, and you'll be amazed at the enthusiasm and vibrant atmosphere that greets you.. Why? Because it's fun. During our recent Ofsted inspection, a child told the visiting leading inspector: "It's a school in which learning, fun and good times are all mixed into one."

The Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda was part of the school's ethos long before the catchy phrase was coined. Indeed, from the outside, Drove may appear quite a challenging place to be a teacher or pupil. More than 83 per cent of the children come from ethnic minority backgrounds and 70 per cent have English as an additional language. And with over 30 languages spoken, a mobility factor of 54 per cent, and the school's base in an area of massive social deprivation, it's not hard to see that a less-than-conventional approach to school leadership might be required.

The best way of ensuring ICT makes an impact on the ECM agenda is by getting involved with it in as many ways as possible. At Drove, we actively seek to get involved in all sorts of ICT-based projects that bring different experiences to pupils and staff.

Our Year 5 children are creating a DVD with five other schools in the borough to develop a multicultural resource that depicts life through the eyes of children from different communities. Sponsored by the Barclay's New Futures charity, the project has brought in more than pound;10,000 and has enabled our children to collaborate across a range of literary genres in the digital literacy field. This project alone has ensured our children are able to enjoy and achieve a great deal through ICT, but it also helps them understand and promote racial harmony and equality across the borough. In so doing they are further able to "make a positive contribution", another ECM outcome.

Other children, some as young as Year 1 and 2, regularly test software for organisations like RM and BBC Jam, ensuring pupils and teachers are exposed to as wide a range of software and ideas about teaching and learning as possible. It is great for the pupils to feel they are valued as potential customers or users, and it undoubtedly makes them discerning about software, not to mention being among the best continuing professional development ever provided for my colleagues.

ICT is embedded into our curriculum and learning styles, so that children who speak or understand very little English can access national literacy and numeracy strategies with relative ease. We work on the principle that imagination is a universal currency and that digital imagery tends to be within the experience of most children. As a result, things like role play with a technological twist are built into every year group. In our nursery, the structured play area is about "People who help us", and we have a mock police station complete with a communications centre full of radios, phones and walkie talkies. Year 2 has a fitness centre that includes heart monitors, computer readouts and a computerised treadmill. Finally, Year 6 children have a mock TV studio.

We are also a strategic leadership in ICT (Slict) training host school, and this helps us rehearse the arguments and reasons why we so eagerly embrace ICT. This was never more evident than in the development of our "Learning Ambassadors" scheme, in which we employ seven part-time adult workers from across a spectrum of our communities. Each is employed for between three and 12 hours a week, and their jobs are divided into two parts. The first part ensures each ambassador engages in any form of learning from which they will benefit, as long as it includes an element of ICT. By being learners themselves they become good ambassadors for learning. We equip them with a laptop computer and broadband internet access from home. The second part of the job is to engage other members of our wider community into some form of learning, based either at home or in school.

By taking the learning to the customer we have: reduced the fear and anxiety of making the first step back into education for disengaged or disillusioned learners; enabled learning to take place when needed, not just when institutionally convenient; and offered individual or bespoke learning programmes based on need.

By gaining the trust of parents and carers, and by working with them via remote access, we have been able to ensure that the knock-on effect on the wider community is vast. We now run more than 20 courses or classes a week for parents and other adults, ranging from English as a second language and parenting to basic computer courses or return-to-work access programmes.

The impact on the school has also been amazing, including:

* Improved communication between home and school - parents can help

* Improved quality of effort and pupil outcomes

* Better attendance, not just at school, but also at health clinics, and speech and language therapy sessions

* Improved behaviour

* Improved literacy and numeracy skills for our parents leading to better job prospects.

One thing for sure is that you don't need legislation to ensure that every child matters and that ICT can be a tool to enhance that vision.


* Get involved

Work with as many agencies and developers as you can. It's great exposure for both staff and pupils and good continual professional development

* Create win-win situations

The role-play areas and other projects we do all enhance our curriculum and never detract from it, while also enabling us to teach in a very VAK (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) child-centred way

* Spread the fun around

Make sure it's not only your ICT co-ordinator who gets involved. We don't talk enough about teaching and learning in schools let alone anything to do with ICT so make sure there are lots of people who can talk about lots of things

* See the potential in parents

Developing parental involvement and life chances pays dividends every time

* Don't worry about cost

It is too easy to use lack of money as an excuse. Many of the projects we get involved with enable us to try software or hardware for free, and as a school it is seldom that we use a computer's full potential, so why do we need the biggest, best and sexiest kit? Recycle and re-use - don't just buy Resources

* Drove Primary School


* BBC Jam


* NCSL Slict


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