Johnstown Primary School support their pupils’ digital skills through using a range of technology and guiding them to use online resources. This includes pupils developing their digital competence in lessons and working together to write articles for the school’s online learning blog. Pupils then share their work with the rest of the school, parents and governors. This has also had a positive impact on enhancing literacy and numeracy skills and improving pupils’ confidence.
Date of inspection: February 2018
Context and background to the effective or innovative practice
In 2012, Johnstown Primary School was identified as a pilot primary school for the Carmarthenshire local authority to trial a new online learning platform for Wales. Subsequently, with the agreement of the governing body, the school established two model ICT classrooms to examine the impact that an increased digital approach would have in furthering pupils’ acquisition of skills and facilitating learning across the curriculum. If successful, these model classrooms could then be used as centres for colleagues to share ideas and explore innovative digital workflows through peer-tutoring models.
From the initial scrutiny of the pilot project it became apparent that the opportunity to provide rich and creative experiences for pupils improved engagement and cultivated a confidence to explore ideas and themes in more creative ways. The potential for working collaboratively using a variety of media within an online environment helped to nurture pupils’ confidence, whilst also helping to reduce the difference in the achievement between boys and girls. In order to harness the potential benefits of the available online learning platform, school leaders developed a five-year strategic action plan to gradually improve provision and the access to digital resources across the school.
The subsequent publication of the ‘Successful Futures’ report regarding the new curriculum for Wales placed the school in an advantageous position to continue developing a creative and innovative programme of study that would succeed in engaging all pupils and also address the four purposes of the new curriculum. School leaders offered training and support programmes to staff that motivated them to trial new ideas to foster digital competencies within their own classes. Consequently, school staff now plan purposeful cross-curricular activities that supplement pupils’ literacy, numeracy, ICT and digital skills within a broad and balanced curriculum.
Description of nature of strategy or activity
Johnstown Primary School has continued to utilise its well-resourced digital mechanisms to successfully embed digital skills across a broad curriculum, which appropriately balances both written and digital work. As a result, pupils are increasingly able independently to undertake purposeful digital tasks that supplement and enhance their learning, recognising the inherent benefits of completing work digitally. At its core, the curriculum cultivated over several years is designed to adopt digital mechanisms as a vehicle to encourage a range of cross-curricular skills.
Pupils are provided with worthwhile opportunities to transfer digital competencies across a range of hardware, such as desktop computers, tablet computers and other devices, in order to access a wider range of online learning tools through the Hwb learning platform. Using the All Wales Learning Platform, the pupils are encouraged to use a range of devices to combine a variety of digital elements and improve their proficiency with cloud computing. The use of mobile devices allows pupils to capture images, audio and video unaided, with the captured media automatically syncing to the pupils' online file repository. Consequently, the pupils have been able to share, collaborate and store their digital work within a central online location, from any device capable of connectivity. This has accelerated workflows, with the technology purposefully used to support and evidence the acquisition of skills across the curriculum. The process of capturing the digital media in this way has facilitated the development of pupils' literacy, numeracy and digital skills. Pupils have been empowered to gather multimedia elements independently, which enrich their work and make it increasingly interactive and creative. This work sits alongside written work in the pupils books and is accessible via ‘QR’ codes.
The school’s online learning blog, ‘The Johnstown Journal’, is one such example of this multi-skilled digital approach. Pupils in Year 6 who are eligible for free school meals and those who are identified by the school as more able and talented work collaboratively. They adopt the role of ‘Johnstown Journalists’, and assume responsibility for editing and validating their newspaper-styled blogs before publication to the wider school community, through the school website. Consequently, this has enabled the school to communicate a wealth of learning experiences to its audience of pupils, parents and governors, who are able to view and post moderated comments. Each new edition of the blog reflects the recent news and events of the school. Within each year group, pupils create all of the digital elements and collate the written articles. Under the stewardship of their teachers and the capable guidance of the Year 6 ‘journalists’, pupils work collaboratively to construct the articles and capture the multimedia elements needed to captivate the intended audience and meet the needs of each individual blog. This successful project received a national accolade for ‘Best Digital Project’ during the 2016 National Digital Learning Event in Llandudno.
Furthermore, an additional national digital prize was awarded to a group of key stage 2 pupils in 2017. These more able and talented pupils worked collaboratively, applying higher-order thinking and numeracy skills to produce block-coding algorithms to animate a poem, as part of a national competition established by Aberystwyth University.
Ultimately, digital competencies have become integral to the learning workflows in the school. Opportunities to harness the pupils’ skills by establishing further community links have also been a benefit to all school stakeholders. For example, key stage 2 pupils have greatly enjoyed the experience of undertaking an inter-generational project to establish an interactive book, capturing school life during the 1950s, by using ‘green screen’ techniques to interview past pupils. In doing this, the pupils have experienced and shared new skills with senior citizens and built strong partnerships with members of the community.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?
During the implementation period of the school’s strategic action plan, nearly all pupils have made at least good progress with the acquisition of digital skills across the curriculum. This has also had a positive impact on enhancing their literacy and numeracy skills and improving their confidence. Pupils at the school are now well-informed and engaged in their learning experiences, and most are able to make appropriate and independent judgements about when to adopt digital processes for tasks in order to enhance their learning. Projects that have targeted groups of pupils have clearly reduced the performance difference between boys and girls and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. These projects have also cultivated an ethos of collaborative learning, improving inclusivity and pupils’ key skills in ICT, numeracy, literacy and thinking skills.
How have you shared your good practice?
The strengths in the area of digital learning continues to be recognised both nationally and across the ERW regional consortium. As a result, the school was awarded the status of a ‘digital lead school’ for the region. This means that the pupils and teachers of Johnstown Primary School were able to deliver school-to-school support, by opening its doors to other schools, who have been keen to learn from the digital learning model. The school recognises the support and backing of its governing body, who have sought to endorse digital learning systems and worked in partnership with the school to cultivate an ethos of lifelong skills that are relevant for 21st century learners.