Leading the way online

Print this page
Leading the way online

Ysgol Maes Hyfryd, Flintshire, has invested in the latest technology to improve teaching and learning and equip students with the skills they will need in the future, whilst ensuring their online safety. Staff use a particular software tool that improves the quality of teaching and learning in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and across the curriculum. It has contributed to a more student-centred learning approach and promoted greater independence across the school.

Number of pupils: 135
Age range: 11–19 years
Date of Estyn inspection: January 2012

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Ysgol Maes Hyfryd is a special school for up to 135 pupils aged from 11 to 19 years. The school opened in September 2009 following the re-organisation of special educational provision in Flintshire. The school operates on two sites. The main, purpose-built school, shares a campus with Flint High School. There is an additional teaching resource base for up to 12 pupils, Cyswllt, at Elfed High School, Buckley.

Pupils at Ysgol Maes Hyfryd have a wide range of special educational needs. These include moderate, severe and complex learning difficulties including autistic spectrum disorders. Many pupils have associated communication, behavioural or sensory difficulties. All pupils have statements of special educational needs.

Around half of Ysgol Maes Hyfryd pupils spend part of the week included in mainstream classes developing their skills and independence, and following mainstream accredited courses.
Ysgol Maes Hyfryd is a special school which has invested in the latest technologies for use by students and staff. The school aims to significantly enhance the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in classes, improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning, and equip students with the skills they will need in the future. E safety, internet safety and cyber bullying are major issues affecting the lives of young people today. A report to the Welsh Government: ‘Transforming Schools with ICT’, cited research by Becta (2006), which concluded by stating that ‘the most common breach is the viewing of unsuitable online material’.

Providing good access to online learning resources and tools makes a significant contribution to ensuring information and communication technology has an impact on students’ learning and raising standards. At the same time, ensuring online safety is a challenge for every school. Ysgol Maes Hyfryd aims to actively engage learners and staff to create an online learning environment that empowers learners whilst keeping them safe.

At a local authority level, there are procedures to lock down the system and firewall unsuitable websites, but it was essential for the school to find a way to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis. Ysgol Maes Hyfryd explored a range of options and decided to use an online tool that monitors computers for safety as well as supporting the teaching of information and communication technology.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The system
The school uses a web-based classroom-management software tool, designed for teachers to interact with and teach students on an individual, group and full class basis. The ICT teacher monitors the use of computers in each class and interacts with students via instant messaging, audio instruction and group demonstrations. This allows support to be given to individual pupils. Snapshots of screens are taken to help to monitor how effectively ICT is used across the curriculum. It is also an invaluable tool for the technician who troubleshoots problems remotely and monitors student activities at lunch and break times.

Teaching and Monitoring
In ICT, students follow the National Curriculum at key stages 3 and 4 and schemes of work linked to OCR accreditation at Entry Level to OCR Nationals Level 2. This software assists staff to assess how well students use the skills they acquire in ICT lessons across other subjects. The ICT teacher can analyse and interpret data by observing students’ skills, adapt the curriculum appropriately and provide instruction and learning activities that meets students’ individual needs.

Staff find the software tool easy to use. It has made computer management more effective which has significantly improved student attention and interaction. Students understand that the teacher has access to all the computers. This acts as a deterrent to cyber bullying and to downloading illegal or inappropriate material. It makes the teaching of ICT more effective with a better use of lesson time and improved student performance.

The software tool is used to:

  • broadcast and share information;
  • record tutor screen for lesson playback;
  • show a student’s screen to others for peer assessments;
  • annotate live demonstrations;
  • monitor and log student activity, use of applications, printing and websites; and
  • take time and name stamp snapshots of student screens for assessment purposes.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The system helps to keep students safe. It informs the teacher when specific keywords are typed, blacklists specific websites and notifies the teacher if students attempt to access forbidden sites.
The web-based tool enables the teacher to control computers from one central workstation. Internet and application restrictions can be created by the teacher or network manager to maintain security. This is a major component in maintaining e safety in the classroom.

The evidence the school has collected using video clips and screen shots has shown that learners’ motivation, concentration and independence have improved as well as their skills in critical thinking and teamwork.

The software tool monitors how many computers are used on a daily basis, the transferable skills of individual students and the development of students’ ICT capability. Since the school started using this new approach, there has been a significant increase in the number of computers being used in all subject areas, with students being more directly involved in the learning activities.

ICT has helped to enhance a more student-centred learning approach and promote independence across the school.