Putting digital learning at the heart of the curriculum

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At Darran Park Primary, learners have regular opportunities to develop digital skills, from collaborating with other schools to learn about the Second World War, to using innovative software packages to create Roald Dahl inspired stories.

Number of learners: 340
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: September 2017

Information about the school

Darran Park Primary School is in Rhondda Cynon Taf local authority.  The school caters for pupils from three to eleven years old.  There are 340 pupils in 12 classes, three of which are mixed age.  There is also a local authority learning support class for up to eight foundation phase pupils.
Approximately 22% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, which is around the national average.  The school has identified 32% of pupils as having additional learning needs.  This is well above the national average.  Nearly all pupils come from English speaking homes.  A very few pupils have English as an additional language. 
The school is currently a pioneer school and is working with the Welsh Government and other schools to take forward developments relating to the curriculum.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

Following the recommendations in the school’s 2011 Estyn inspection report regarding a lack of provision for ICT opportunities across the curriculum, the school embarked on its journey to address this issue. 

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Digital learning is at the heart of the curriculum at Darran Park Primary school.  The school believes that establishing a vision for digital learning, involving all stakeholders, has played an important part in its digital journey. 
The school believes that staff development is vital for the effectiveness of the teaching and learning of digital learning.  When leaders introduced the digital competence framework (DCF), all teaching and non-teaching staff completed a baseline confidence assessment in each of the strands.  Leaders used the results to produce specific targets for staff to become more confident in certain areas of the DCF.  As well as this, if staff were particularly confident in certain areas, leaders encouraged them to share good practice with others and to lead training.  All teachers have worked closely with the school’s leader of digital learning to develop DCF rich tasks and opportunities to develop the DCF across the curriculum. 
Through a thematic approach to learning, the school ensures that learners have consistent opportunities to develop digital competencies in an engaging and innovative way.  Teachers carefully plan to develop the DCF and digital learning within medium and short term planning.  In the topic ‘Blitz: Wales at War’, pupils worked collaboratively with 10 schools from the Central South Consortium to learn about a child’s experience of the Second World War.  Pupils learned about their local area during the war, and created their community using modelling software, developing multimedia presentations to share with other schools.  Pupils also made a shared animation, “From Cardiff to the valleys”, about an evacuee’s experience of war.  Schools created a shared narrative, each taking responsibility for animating a scene.  Using ICT in this way helped pupils to understand how children living in different parts of Wales experienced war in very different ways. 
At Darran Park Primary School, staff use digital learning effectively to raise standards in English.  In the project ‘The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl’, pupils used Roald Dahl’s texts and emerging technology as a stimulus for writing.  To celebrate Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, pupils created their own Roald Dahl inspired narratives using innovative software packages.  Due to the success of the project, the school created a global competition, with pupils from 95 schools across the world taking part.
At the school, pupil leadership plays a crucial role in the school’s approach to digital learning.  Digital leaders are assigned specific areas of responsibility, including communicating and collaborating, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (STEM), and e-safety.  Pupils are involved in the school’s monitoring of digital learning through listening to learners and learning walks.  As part of its approach to sharing good practice, the school provides digital leaders with opportunities to work with classes throughout the school to deliver DCF focused workshops.  As part of their digital leader roadshow, pupils developed their own digital training enterprise company to support schools using emerging technology in the classroom.  Over the last two years, pupils have visited over 100 schools, delivering a range of workshops using a learning platform, and modelling and word processing programs.  In addition, pupil digital leaders were invited to a multinational technology company to support the creation of a new initiative – a consistent and engaging approach to promoting STEM and computer science. 
Emerging technology plays an integral part in providing pupils opportunities to collaborate and communicate with learners from across the globe.  Through the effective use of a telecommunications application software in the classroom, learners have collaborated with schools from many countries, including India, the USA, Sweden and Poland.  At the beginning of the recent topic ‘Hola Mexico’, pupils took part in a mystery digital conversation with a school in Mexico. 
The school has led many collaborative action research projects with schools across Wales, including a 2017 project with five schools focusing on the central question: ‘Is a well-known modelling software package a gimmick?’  Pupils used collaborative forums in the classroom to share and peer assess each other’s writing.  Pupils presented their findings to each other and invited guests at a sharing event at the University of South Wales in July 2017.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?
The school’s innovative and engaging use of digital technology across the curriculum has had a significant impact on pupil standards.  In 2017, 96% of Year 6 pupils achieved at least level 4 for oracy with 92% achieving the same for writing.  It has engaged boys and led to 100% achieving the expected level in English, a significant improvement (28 percentage points) on the previous year.  In addition to Year 6:
In Year 3, 89.7% of pupils achieved the expected level in writing
In Year 4, 89.6% of pupils achieved the expected level in writing
In Year 5, 91.2% of pupils achieved the expected level in writing
The school’s approach to digital learning has significantly developed pupils’ literacy, numeracy, ICT skills and increased their understanding of history and geography.  In 2017, the school received the digital award as part of the Welsh heritage schools’ initiative for its integration of history and digital learning. 
As a result of the development of effective pupil leadership, pupils demonstrate excellent oracy, collaboration and leadership skills, raising standards in both their own school and beyond.  The pupils’ digital leader roadshow received the pupil award at the 2016 national digital learning event.  The school’s approach to digital learning has had a major impact on pupil aspirations and wellbeing, and on their understanding of the wider world.

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has developed a culture of sharing good practice both within and beyond the school.  A digital council has been developed to lead the school’s digital agenda.  This consists of pupil digital leaders, parents, teaching and non-teaching staff and the link governor for digital learning. 
Darran Park Primary School is currently a Central South Consortium curriculum hub for digital learning and has developed professional development programmes to support the leadership of the DCF and digital learning. 
As a ‘Showcase School’, Darran Park Primary has shared its approach to digital learning with schools from across Wales.  The school shared the way it uses a range of technology, including with schools from across the country, in a first ever redefining learning event to be held in Wales.  In addition, the leader of digital learning presented how the school has integrated modelling software across the curriculum at international events in Brussels and Budapest, and at a leading educational technology exhibition.
Pupil digital leaders have shared their good practice with schools from three different consortia and worked on a digital leader programme that they have shared with schools throughout the Central South Consortium. 
The ‘Wonderful World of Roald Dahl’ was shared through a digital network and a resource for the 2017 national digital learning event.