Manor Park CE (VC) First School, located on the edge of Dorset's county town, Dorchester, is led by Headteacher Melanie Pallister, whose educational vision is to provide every child with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the world beyond the school gates. Where teaching staff support children to become curious, persistent and reflective learners, who are unafraid to take risks in their learning, by providing an exciting, creative and meaningful curriculum that celebrates innovation.
ICT is increasingly recognised as an important facilitator to learning, as well as a foundation skill in many of the careers that the children will one day have. However, in the summer of 2014, the school's ability to use technology was constrained with a low bandwidth internet connection, poorly deployed WiFi and an aging computer suite. The unreliable technology meant that teachers did not feel confident to use technology to support their lessons.
Mrs Pallister knew that if her educational vision was to be realised then the ICT provision in school needed to change. They needed to change their infrastructure; they needed a reliable broadband connection, a comprehensive WiFi solution and devices that had the potential to inspire students and staff alike.
“Our new broadband connection has made a real difference to our school. It’s given the staff the confidence to move forward with cloud based teaching and learning. We now have an Internet connection we can trust and are used to it ‘just working’” - Tracy Broadbent, School ICT Technician
Instead of a dedicated computer suite that children had to make a special trip to use, Mrs Pallister wanted computing to be available all the time throughout the school, so teachers could easily enable children to use ICT in their problem solving.
“Children experience new things and are more engaged with their learning when they're able to use these tools... it's really quite magical”
Melanie Pallister, Head teacher
A powerful, new superfast broadband connection; delivering 80mb download and 20mb upload speeds was provided by SWGfL. This has been distributed across the school wirelessly and a range of devices are now provided in every classroom, alongside traditional learning tools, including books and art materials.
Children can select the tool that best support their lessons and the way they, as individuals, learn. The school decided to purchase a range of different devices, including iPads and Chromebooks, so that children are exposed to different hardware and operating systems and to further increase their learning options.
Thanks to its new fast, reliable and safe broadband connection, the software applications Manor Park uses can now all be hosted in the cloud, rather than on site. For example, it now uses RM Integris, RM Unify, Google Apps, Drive, Calendar and Gmail. This means all information can be shared and, using Chromebooks, children and staff can edit or comment on a single version of documents.
Teachers have adjusted their lessons to actively embrace the new ICT model. They were tasked with finding and downloading apps they could use in their lessons - with the proviso the apps were free. The act of exploring the possibilities widened teachers' horizons, knowledge and confidence.
With most of its ICT infrastructure removed and services delivered by cloud providers, Manor Park no longer needs the level of external ICT support it did when its own infrastructure regularly created problems. South West Grid for Learning's support covers the vital broadband connection, which to date has always worked perfectly. The risk of ICT service outage at the school has gone from very high to very low.
Reflecting on the ICT decision she took a year ago, Mrs Pallister commented, “Our overriding aim is to prepare our children for their lives ahead. Being able to use really modern ICT in lessons is incredibly valuable. Children experience new things and are more engaged with their learning when they're able to use these tools. We can see their horizons broadening in front of us and it's really quite magical.”