Ravens Academy is a primary school based in Clacton, Essex – an area that is listed amongst the most deprived in the UK. The school is situated in the Percy King estate and has, since its conversion to an academy, moved from being branded the 5th worst school in Essex to celebrating an Ofsted inspection rating of good with outstanding features. The school has achieved its best ever results this year, having moved from 30% combined L4 in 2013 to 93% this year and also recording a substantial increase in attendance. Ravens has invested extensively in technology using Gaia Technologies as their partner and the senior management team are convinced that this has been instrumental in their progress.
When Karen Hammond was appointed the principal, with a remit to turn the school around. In 2013 she inherited an organisation almost completely without access to ICT. Equipment was limited to a few out of date computers, 4 tablets shared by the whole school and 6 laptops that were not utilised in teaching. Interactive whiteboards were not working and consequently there was no technology being used in class teaching. Gaia’s education team worked with the school to identify a vision and developed an action plan based around the priorities identified.
Very few of Ravens pupils have access to computers or the internet at home so giving the experience of multiple types of device and operating system in school was identified as a very high priority. Pupil access during lessons was also seen as essential, to enable the use of online learning systems and resources.
Gaia, as part of the project, provided an increase in resources including class sets of iPads, Chromebooks, laptops and fixed machines in a computer suite. This had had a substantial impact on learning and teaching.
Gaia also installed a large format 3D enabled screen, together with its own critically acclaimed Gaia 3D Viewer and content. This has had a considerable impact on pupils’ development. One of the school’s problems is that pupils have very little experience of the outside world and consequently have difficulty with visualisation. For example, despite being only 3 miles from the sea, many Ravens pupils have never been to the seaside. Using the Gaia 3D solution the school were able to send pupils on ‘virtual field trips’ to the rainforest, a roman village and outer space.
Cloud based services are now forming the backbone of the teaching tool kit at Ravens, with Gaia providing a high speed broadband connection to replace the current inadequate provision. Online services provided access to texts, learning activities, and an online reading programme all being cited by the school as fundamental to the progress that has been made.
With equipment now in place and working reliably, the focus of the project moved to impacting the quality of teaching and learning across the curriculum. Following a meeting with Gaia’s primary curriculum specialist and the studio services team, a programme of activities has been agreed for the spring and summer terms of 2016, including two hands-on training days for staff and a number of curriculum projects to follow. These were facilitated by innovative technologies such as green screen video, virtual reality and 3D sculpting and were supported by the studio services team’s industry experts.
Rather than focusing on traditional ‘chalk and talk’ training, this approach allowed Ravens Academy to embed the use of innovative technology and digital learning material into its project-based learning curriculum. Thus giving pupils a 21st century learning experience. Teachers are supported with professional development that is rooted in real learning contexts and in which professional learning is itself delivered through a project-based learning methodology.
Ravens Academy is now a solutions focussed school aiming for the best for their pupils. Now that they have the technology in place they are in a position to transform the lives of their pupils.
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