These are my notes from a fascinating day at the Essa Academy, courtesy of Apple. We were treated to a tour and talks by a number of staff including the Principal - Showk Badat, Abdul Chohan & Jeff Ellis.
I was fascinated by not just the integration of mobile technologies (they are famous for giving every pupil an iPod Touch, and now, every teacher an iPad), but also their innovative New Basics Year 7 curriculum and their elective personalised curriculum for years 8-11. I was also impressed by the fantastic pupils and the excellent learning that we saw.
Below are basically my notes as I took them, I hope they’re of interest to some people and I will reflect on them further in relation to my IT Provision Plans.
Essa Academy – http://www.essaacademy.org/
Story over past 3 years:
- Stop doing the wrong things well. Start doing the right things better. e.g. running a 3 Year KS3 when no need – one year costs £1m+ and adds what?
- Abandon ‘nonsense & rubbish’!
- Remove barriers to creativity
- Translate or transform learning & pedagogy – especially with tech – focussed on transforming, not just translating the old way of doing things to the new tools.
- Motto: All Will Succeed
Built on 3 pillars, all supported by a bedrock of Technology For Creativity:
- Personalised Learning
- Professional Practice
- Social Capital
Technology breaks down the barriers to learning. Massively increases the creativity of staff and students. Improves communications and efficiencies. e.g. students in habit of emailing staff questions as and when they come up wherever they may be. Students ‘notes’ app is a thing to behold – completely embraced as their number one knowledge storage place!
Year 7: New Basics Curriculum
- Much like our Project 7
- Based upon Queensland’s New Basics Project, but tailored for Essa.
- Eng & Maths separate (25%)
- Everything else in New Basics projects (75%)
- 4 Rich Tasks per year. e.g. Being British, Science & Ethics.
- Classes of 50! with 2 staff. One stays with, one project specialist who rotates through all groups through the year doing the same project.
- Big room with smaller break-off space
- FANTASTIC learning, enthusiasm, confidence – really impressive!
- Staff only teach this and have the 25% time for planning
- Built on key questions:
- Who am I? Where am I going?
- How do I make sense of and communicate with the World?
- What are my rights and my responsibilities
- All work is assessed against ‘Repertoires of Practice’ – a list of learning outcomes
- These are not dumbed down – impressive language for learning used – pupils understand it perfectly well!
- All planned and matched against ECM & Functional Skills competencies
- Year 8-11 all choose 2 ‘electives’ from a bank of 4. From: WEB (work, enterprise, business); Arts; The World; Social
- Electives last 6 months
- Taught in mixed year group classes.
- Every 6 months pupils choose to continue & deepen knowledge or change and broaden
- Timetable is 9 ‘sessions’ (as opposed to 25 lessons!)
- All learning built on 5 core pedagogies.
- All learning is on Level 2 qualifications.
- Examined when ready e.g. 500 pupils sat Maths last year, 25% of Y8 got C+
- E&M will be timetabled in 3 hour blocks – up to subject leaders how that time shared out
- Allows personalisation to individual pupils needs.
- Each child has Personal Vision Plan
- Supported by Significant Adult (tutor)
- Significant Adults everyone from Teacher to Head’s PA to Site Staff
- 5-12 pupils per staff member
- ‘Tutor groups’ chosen carefully and matched to staff e.g. small challenging boys group have caretaker – and have been brilliantly behaved ever since!
- Assessment recorded every 4 weeks in every subject.
- 5 target review days each year with parents and significant adults
- Students integral part of leading school
- School Senate made up of 53 pupils – one per tutor group – elected
- School Ambassadors sit above this group
- All meet every week
- Behaviour Panel run by students – restorative justice doled out by the pupils
- Technology is the common denominator that breaks down the barrier between staff and students.
- Relationships have never been stronger, learning has never been more mutual. Student will sit and check all facts and figures on iPods and feed straight back to staff if they aren’t right!
Creativity – a new literacy. Everyone has one. Parents pay 12.50 a year for insurance. All other costs covered by Academy.
Children will try and fail and try again. Staff less so. Students run iPod clinics. Creativity ideas come from the students and are sent back towards the staff.
Sims accessible. Info direct to staff pockets. Massive efficiency savings. This leads to more time with pupils. No notices etc in form time – quality conversations instead. Form time can be outside – just email form to let them know – instant communication. Streamlined, productive, gives everyone a voice – (dinner ladies even have one!). Massive impact on quality of work of caretakers etc. Caretaker input to learning – first to tell everyone about iplayer app. Food better as catering team email menus and kids feedback what they don’t like!
GCSEPod (http://www.gcsepod.co.uk/subjects/#) – podcasts, subscription based resource. Searchable by exam board, download straight to iPods. Don’t need wifi at home then. E.g. Listen to podcast for homework, tap answers into notes, email back to staff. 900 downloads last year.
VLE – was Frog. But why? Email on iPod more powerful. All dept resources now on Dropbox (http://dropbox.com) so shared between staff and students and available anywhere. Each dept has a 50Gb account. The device is the vle. Frog no longer used.
Edmodo (http://edmodo.com)- used across the school. Excellent communication tool for each class and free. Anne Marie Duffy joined the GCSE English group’s Edmodo and helps them with their homework and revision!
Ipads for teachers: Each teacher given one this year. Massive impact on creativity. Freedom to teacher. No technicians etc needed. Finance director gifts the app to staff and students. Reviews help assess quality. Direct communication to the developer – most happy to help.
Costs: Textbook outlays slashed. Financing has to change. Less money to depts. Printing costs halved in first year with no efforts to reduce – happened naturally and continues to fall.
Policies etc handed out on podcasts. Done in multiple languages for parents. Audio is massively increasing as a resource.
Macs bringing massive increase in the quality of digital production. Slowly replacing PCs with Macs – especially for staff.
Interactive whiteboards all removed. Artificial ‘interactivity for one or two’ replaced with truly interactive learning.
2007: 37% 2008: 58% 2009: 67% 2010 99% 5A*-C.
28-55% 5A*-C E&M in same period.
Costs 7p a day over 5 years. 18p over 2 years. Going to run own insurance.