Chorley St James
St James’ Church of England Primary School and Nursery is a single form entry school, catering for 240 pupils aged three to eleven. It is located in the market town of Chorley in Lancashire, North West England. A significant number of pupils are from families whose socio-economic circumstances are well below the national average. Free school meals and pupil premium are higher than the national average.
Ten years ago the school had a satisfactory Ofsted report, falling numbers on roll and pupil attendance was poor. The attainment and progress of pupils was also poor and well below the national average with under-achievement common across all ranges within the school. Teaching of the curriculum was inconsistent and there was a lack of professional development for all staff. Importantly, parental engagement was very limited.
The Senior Leadership Team knew the children deserved better and began to put together an ambitious vision which had the potential to transform teaching and learning in the school. Like many UK schools at that time, technology was largely confined within the four walls of an IT suite, kitted out with traditional desktops placed around the edges of the room. Many of these were either very slow to start up or would not switch on at all. In short, it was not fit for purpose.
At this time, iPad was relatively new and schools were beginning to explore its potential as a teaching and learning tool. Headteacher Claire Greenway had, via a link with MCC through the local Cluster of schools, the opportunity to have an iPad in school to investigate what it might offer the teachers and children. It became clear pretty quickly that the device had the potential to transform teaching and learning in the classroom and beyond. Consequently, Claire ordered a number of iPad Minis from MCC and so began a fruitful partnership and journey which was to redefine the use of technology at the school over the coming decade. Claire said, “Quite early on I realised that going through MCC meant that I got better value for money in terms of the iPad and better quality of service in terms of the after sales experience”.
After the early acquisition of the iPad Minis, the school invested in more devices and MCC began to support the management of these with a local server for the distribution of apps, registering for the Volume Purchase Programme and ongoing CPD for the staff with an Apple Professional Learning Specialist. A ‘Planning Essentials’ session was organised and this helped to concretise the vision and put some targets and benchmarks in place.
A clear strategic plan for technology had been developed and woven into school development planning over the forthcoming years. The vision was driven by senior leaders, supported financially by governance and embraced by all stakeholders. MCC have been an integral partner in this process not only through supplying devices and hardware, but importantly helping with the design and implementation of the infrastructure.
The impact of this collaborative journey on teaching and learning in the school over the past decade has been transformational. As Deputy Head Andrew Clark says, “As a staff and school community, we wanted to be part of something which would transform and improve the pedagogy within our classrooms, thus impacting on children’s learning, creativity and ultimately attainment”.
In September 2021, Apple acknowledged the achievements and continuous improvement at St. James’ and awarded it the status of ‘Apple Distinguished School’. Apple defines Apple Distinguished Schools as ‘centres of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence.' This recognises and confirms the vision and hard work of the leadership team, all teaching staff and the wider school community.
Apple Distinguished School
Today at St. James’, all children from Year 1 to Year 6 have 1:1 iPads and are able to be curious investigative digital creators. They are empowered, proficient and confident in using iPad in a variety of different ways, to produce work which is of a high standard, is personalised and meets the brief. They collaborate freely with their peers and staff to share their learning and support each other. Pupils utilise a range of iPad features such as screen record, mark up, split screen, dictation, filming and photography to produce high quality evidence of learning. iPad also allows accessibility for all children, promoting independence in their learning. MCC have supported the school with making sure the network environment keeps pace with this substantial increase in devices and use of wi-fi.
The vision is to provide and use mobile technology integrated within learning opportunities and aspects of the curriculum to raise standards, enhance real-world engagement and motivate learners within the school and home environments. It is important for children to feel confident when using the iPad as a tool for learning and to be independent and able to draw on its unique functions when necessary. The use of iPad allows us to enhance the many aspects of school life for children and staff.
The school looks to encourage and inspire others, children and staff within St. James’ and beyond. Collaboration across local clusters and connections to other schools across North West England through open days and showcase events, has allowed the school and staff to share ideas, best practice and experiences of using iPad. At one event over one hundred schools were represented and saw first hand how the children and teachers use Apple technology for learning and teaching. A range of iPad features such as screen record, mark up, split screen, dictation, filming and photography to produce high quality evidence of learning. iPad also allows accessibility for all children, promoting independence in their learning. MCC have supported the school with making sure the network environment keeps pace with this substantial increase in devices and use of wi-fi.
The use of technology is now firmly embedded into everyday practice and all staff including teachers and learning support assistants have achieved Apple Teacher status. iPad is an essential tool to facilitate teaching and allows teachers to redefine teaching sequences. ‘Classroom’ and ‘Airplay’ have transformed teaching in learning spaces, enabling staff to support and share children’s work quickly and seamlessly. Teachers now use iPad in innovative ways to develop their pedagogy and design new learning experiences.
This approach has expanded learning beyond the school into the children’s homes and this has come to the fore within the recent pandemic. The use of the Showbie platform for managing the digital workflow of children’s work, assessment and feedback has been central to the shift to hybrid and blended learning. During lockdown 3, 100% of children at home successfully accessed learning remotely.
In 2020, an Ofsted inspection into the computing curriculum reported that “pupils benefit from an exciting and engaging curriculum. They attend school regularly and love learning.” It was noted, that “children of all ages embrace technology and computing.” Inspectors stated that, “school leaders have created an ambitious and carefully planned curriculum with Christian values and technology at its core”. The school regularly seeks the views of staff, parents and pupils via surveys and focus groups. 93% of parents felt that the use of iPad has had a positive impact on their child’s learning (2019). Parents reported that the use of 1:1 iPad made communication with the teacher easier and motivated their child to do more work at home.
St. James’ has been on an incredible journey over the past decade and have created an innovative and compelling learning environment which engages their children and provides tangible evidence of academic achievement. School leaders nurture a culture which encourages innovation by fostering talent and sharing best practice. Importantly, they continue to seek new ways to use technology for teaching and learning and have an unrelenting drive and commitment to want the very best for each and every child as they journey through school.