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Decision, Precision and Transparency across the School for Systemic Change Using ICT

Tourismusschulen, Bad Hofgastein , Salzburg has approximately 320 students aged 14-19 years. Whilst this school is different to many “mainstream” schools, it is a private school,...

Addressing the innovation culture and learning with tablets.

  Leaving the small village of Ingrandes, we head almost 3 hours across France by car to the second destination, just outside Poitiers . Surrounded by a technical landscape of modern...

Letting technology replace tradition?

My first visit in France is to a small, village school Eppu Ingrandes sur Loire with only 200 students. The leading teacher for this Advanced School is also the exceedingly busy headteacher....

How Are You Interconnecting Learning Spaces and Technology? A School with a Zoo and Three Kangaroos

A tour of Gymnazium Teplice in the Czech Republic leaves me slightly stunned; there seems to be something different around every corner. I am greeted by two students who are keen to show me...

"Buchty" or Learning Snacks?

  Dr E Beneᚧe School is my first visit in the Czech Republic. Set in the suburbs of Prague in an area called Zscakovice, the school has 751 pupils from 6-15 years and is classified as a...

Inspiring design ideas in different learning spaces

  At Broadclyst Academy , one of the other dominant features was the different types of classroom space available and it soon became apparent that over the years, the head teacher and the team...

Lesson Observation Number One - Collaborative Learning with the Mr Men

In the afternoon at Shireland Collegiate Academy , I joined the leading teacher for the Living Schools Lab Project, Mr Moore and his year nine students for the Literacy for Life lesson. As...

First Stop - Shireland Collegiate Academy, Sandwell, UK

Although I’ve been to Shireland several times before, I think the immediate observation for most visitors must be the celebration of cultures and faiths that exist as one. Shireland...

The Research Bus - All Aboard!

I've had several discussions with different colleagues over the last few weeks about the Living Schools Lab Project and I've decided that it is going to be an important part of my collaborative...

Observation visits Observation visits

Link observation visits schedule 2013

  • UK: 12 June and 27 June
  • Czech Republic: 16 September
  • Finland: 23 September
  • France: 30 September
  • Norway: 14 October
  • Italy: 21 October
  • Cyprus: 11 November
  • Belgium: 18 November
  • Portugal: 13 January 2014
  • Ireland: 20 January 2014
  • Austria: 27 January 2014
  • Lithuania: 10 February 2014
Journal: Observation visits Journal: Observation visits
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First Stop - Shireland Collegiate Academy, Sandwell, UK

Although I’ve been to Shireland several times before, I think the immediate observation for most visitors must be the celebration of cultures and faiths that exist as one. Shireland Collegiate Academy is based in Sandwell in the Black Country, West Midlands, UK.  

With 1115 students aged 11-19 years and 98 staff the school, this is a larger than average secondary school in the UK. However, from the moment I entered the building there is a real sense of a vibrant community. 
The schedule for the Showcase of Innovative Practice was organised down to the very last minute and it was great to see just how all the staff work together as a team to demonstrate the practice across the school. The lead teachers for the Living Schools Lab project are Kirsty Tonks and Lewis Moore, but this school has a real “open-door” approach and I really felt invited to see the practice in every classroom.
The school tour began in a year 11 classroom who were making use of audioboo and working with ipads to describe their ideas for a new product. This looked like an application that was worthy of further exploration as the students were able to record interviews, make short reports which allowed them to save and share sound files.
One of the noticeable differences in this school is the Literacy for Life (L4L) integrated curriculum, which basically means that all students between 11 and 14 years spend time with one teacher for up to 50% of their timetable. This competency based curriculum has been developed and refined over the last five years. It’s certainly something for consideration because the technology is embedded as one of the competencies and integral within the lessons. Students cover the curriculum through certain project themes. The assessment descriptors are also readily deployed the staff and students, everyone is familiar with the terminology of “Emerging, Developing, Proficient and Advanced.” I think in all the classrooms that I visited throughout the day; there was evidence of student self-assessment using descriptions against the competencies associated with each of the levels. It also became apparent that the students seemed to know their current level and were able to suggest what was needed to make progress.
In year 7, the students are doing Mathematics and the topic of probability. I visited several classrooms across the year group and it was fascinating to watch various sections of the same lesson materials led by different teachers. All of the classrooms are equipped with a SMART interactive whiteboard throughout the school. There is a clear expectation that the students will be actively involved in the lesson with at least one opportunity for the students to be up on their feet. In one room there is music playing and the students are creating their own dance movements based on the number thrown on the dice. 
In a year 9 classroom, the students were working with WordWall and the Wordpad individual response systems/clickers. All the students had their own device and were working through a set of self-paced questions. The teacher gives the students opportunity to check their progress and indicates the target they should be moving towards, depending upon their current score.
My morning tour ends with a visit to the Music department where some year two students from the local primary school are having  a lesson from an expert teacher in Shireland with the software Garageband. The young students are in the middle of their presentation and it is incredible to hear how much they have achieved with just one morning’s work. The compositions are impressive and the students have readily embraced the technology. As an Academy, the school has maximised opportunities for the local schools by encouraging their staff to lead expert sessions in various subjects. Sometimes these are held on site at the primary school, whilst at other times the younger students get their first taste of secondary school. This is also welcomed by the primary teachers who are able to share subject knowledge and it enables the students to become competent enough to support the teacher as digital leaders back in the primary school. If this is what these students can do with Music and Technology in year two, I wonder what they will be able to do by the time they get to Shireland!