Parents zoom into video tutorials

22nd April 2011 at 01:00
Five-minute film on how Curriculum for Excellence has changed school reports is a small-screen success, writes Jackie Cosh

Different pupils have different learning styles. Some prefer to learn through reading notes, some learn more effectively when listening to a teacher, while others progress better if a more practical approach is taken.

The same can be said for their parents. So, taking this into account, Alva Academy has launched a video tutorial for parents of S1 pupils looking to decode the new language of school reports.

Staff and pupils at the school spent a day putting together a five-minute video tutorial explaining how Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) has changed reports, introducing new terminology such as experiences and outcomes, and going through a standard report explaining anything new which the parents would not have met before.

"We spent about an hour videoing the pupils, and a couple of hours in the evening working on the slides and talking through the report itself," says depute head Stuart Clyde. "One day, but a long day."

From regular internet usage, Mr Clyde had noticed that, more often than not, videos - instead of pages of text - were being embedded into the website and video tutorials were becoming more common.

"If it is good enough for industry and good enough for news bulletins, then why not use it for parents and for the community? It makes sense to keep up with everyone else," he says.

The video went online on the Friday the S1 reports went out to parents. It explains how Curriculum for Excellence has changed the way schools report on pupils, decoding words and phrases such as "consolidating" and "securing", and working through an anonymous pupil report to explain what the new phrases mean.

"This is the first Curriculum for Excellence report," says Mr Clyde. "Parents are used to getting reports, but they are not used to this style. My son is in first year and I thought, what would I as a parent be struggling to understand? I gave a report to my wife and asked her what she didn't understand. Some of it would already be familiar - behaviour, teacher comment - but what won't be familiar is first level, second level etc.

"Many staff are writing that the child has met experiences and outcomes. It's important that parents know what this means. Consolidating and developing mean something different in real life, and there is a danger that parents take the meaning from real life instead of from Curriculum for Excellence. It is important that we help make sense of it."

When the reports went out, a covering letter was included, explaining some of the changes but also suggesting they visit the website to watch the video. A link was put on the school's Facebook page too and teachers are being encouraged to promote it.

"In future, if it becomes successful and is a useful tool, we will start using local media and Groupcall. We could really go media-daft," admits Mr Clyde.

Video work is very much part of the school culture, which made the task a lot easier. Revision tutorials for pupils have been produced before, and a couple of years ago Alva Academy was BBC Radio Scotland's Soundtown school, when a radio station was installed on the premises for a year and pupils were introduced to various aspects of media work.

"We have all the facilities here," says Mr Clyde. "We have home cameras and software for iMacs. It can also be done in Windows Movie Maker. Any school can do it."

Care was taken not to put dates on the video, so it doesn't say "Report 2011". It should be as valid in two years' time as it is today, although Mr Clyde expects to do some tweaks and improvements before next year. For those parents who are not internet-savvy, or prefer written information, this is still available.

"We are trying to cover as many learning styles as possible. Any way parents want to engage with us, we want to provide," says Mr Clyde.


Eileen Claffey, mother of Brian Claffey

- The video was excellent, really helpful. I looked at the report and the accompanying letter, and saw that there was some different terminology. Then I went straight to the website. It was really useful. It's on the front page, so you don't have to search for it. It's short and a good visual aid.

It made all the terms such as "consolidating" and "developing" really clear and, although it was short, it was really beneficial. I was able to confirm the level Brian was at and what he was working towards.

Janet Hunter, mother of Sean Hunter

- It was brilliant. As soon as I saw the video I understood everything perfectly. Even the manner in which it was done was good, not patronising. It answered my questions. I had a bit of knowledge and the school has been good at keeping us informed with newsletters, but without the video the report would have been baffling.

It was perfectly timed, just before parents' night, and really beneficial to my husband and me. It meant that when we met the teachers we could concentrate on asking how Sean is getting on instead of asking what terms mean.

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