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Enhancing learning through the Flipped Classroom: Shireland Collegiate Academy

Shireland Collegiate Academy is an inner city academy (an independent state school) located in the West Midlands in the United Kingdom. The school, which has over 1,100 pupils, is located in an area of substantial deprivation. Despite this, the Academy has successfully closed the attainment gap between pupils at the school, earning them the grade of ‘Outstanding’ from Ministry of Education inspectors three times since 2006.

According to Kirsty Tonks, e-learning director for Shireland, technology has played a significant role in the school’s success. The school is at present developing a whole-school Flipped Learning strategy through their virtual learning environment, which is the central focus for the school’s Living School Lab.

Track record in use of technology

For the past ten years, Shireland Collegiate Academy has worked in collaboration with Microsoft; the school is often showcased as an example of good practice in the use of technology in education, both nationally and internationally. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard, and every teacher has both a laptop and an iPad. Each member of faculty is also provided with comprehensive training and continuing professional development (CPD) in using the new technologies. 

Each pupil at the school aged from 11 to 14 have their own netbook, and all pupils aged 16 and over are equipped with iPads. Year 7 pupils have a suite of Playstations, and the school as a whole has almost 600 PCs and 1,200 laptops and netbooks.

Shireland’s technology initiatives go beyond the school gates; the school has helped to distribute almost 3,000 computers into pupils’ homes over the last five years as part of a national project on online home learning initiatives.

Shireland has been involved in numerous national and international projects, pilots and research programmes in the last decade. Aside from the Living Schools Lab project, Shireland are currently involved in the SMART I-Tech Project, the RMBooks (ebooks) Pilot Project, and the Makewaves project, an online system that awards online badges to pupils. The Academy is also a Ninja School for the Apps for Good programme, where pupils design apps for the benefit of the community and is working in an advisory capacity for an online tutoring programme,

LSL: Sharing best practices

Kirsty Tonks recognises that the Living Schools Lab project allows schools to share their best practices in the use of technology with other schools. “It is also a great opportunity to see other innovative uses of ICT across a range of countries, and the community, as it grows, will give a wealth of ideas and strategies to all schools”.

Since taking part in the project, Kirsty has observed a change in the way that she and her colleagues use technology for teaching.  “We now reflect more on how we train staff, how we implement and embed a new project or how we evaluate the impact and review current practices so that other schools can pick up not only the ideas but steps and ways of embedding it”.


A whole school strategy for flipped learning

Since 2003, the whole school community (staff, pupils and parents) has used an online learning platform. Now the school is exploring how flipped learning can enrich and streamline the learning process.

For Shireland, staff training and CPD are central to its success. “We have agreed upon a ‘house style’ for flipped learning and developed our own pedagogy around it. We identified teachers that already ‘flip’ the learning and have chosen a lead practitioner who will exemplify quality tasks and activities”, explains Kirsty.  These teachers will communicate their experiences and ideas to their colleagues through regular meetings. A team will monitor the activities, and pupils and staff will take part in surveys to get feedback on this way of working. Teachers at the school have already taken part in ‘teachmeet’ meet-ups, sharing ideas on how best to introduce flipped learning to their teaching.

Pictures and video (C) by Shireland Collegiate Academy