The National Academy for Educational Leadership Wales contributes to the development of the professional capabilities of current and aspiring leaders across the education system in Wales.
Our Innovation Grant can be accessed through the Innovation Pathway and is also encouraged among those who attended the Innovation Series. The 2022 Innovation Series explored ‘Digital Innovation’ and participants submitted project ideas to improve digital opportunities within their schools.
We spoke with Naomi Edwards, a class teacher at Ynystawe Primary School, to find out how she heard about the Innovation Grant through our Digital Innovation series and was informed of the benefits of developing and progressing educational leadership through our Innovation Pathway.
Post-pandemic, Ynystawe Primary School wanted to focus their project on developing the independence and resilience of learners and provide more opportunities for staff training. Their digital innovation would be used alongside a ‘Quest’ system. Naomi explains: “From Nursery through to Year Six, these Quests will provide opportunities to develop independent, resilience and thinking skills throughout planned independent ‘challenges’. We will map out how this develops from Nursery through to Year Six, with a primary focus on how coding can be used for learners to work both practically and independently.”
Previous funding had allowed a staff member to be trained on Bee-bots, Blue-Bots and Ohbots and as part of the project the school wanted to implement this into the curriculum so learners could have more opportunities to try new technologies as part of their learning journey.
After receiving our Innovation Grant, Ynystawe Primary School wasted no time getting started on their digital innovation journey. As a staff member had already been trained in the subject area, they had a better idea of how to implement resilience and innovation opportunities into the curriculum. The grant was used to fund equipment which could then create these opportunities for all learners throughout Nursey and Year Six. Naomi elaborates: “We sourced Bee-bots, Blue-bots and Ohbots, as well as a range of supporting resources, which would provide a range of opportunities to allow learners to develop both their coding knowledge and gain exciting hands-on practical opportunities to work independently.”
The project did run into some challenges; the main challenge was the lack of staff training in the area of coding and the time constraints to provide this training to members of staff. Training sessions were provided initially, to share the ideas for the project and the ways forward for the whole school. But this obstacle was soon overcome, Naomi continues: “We developed staff confidence and understanding through the use of higher level teaching assistants (HLTA) who were already confident in coding to rotate around classes, running small activities with learners. Staff could then learn through observation and getting involved alongside the learners.”
Since receiving the Innovation Grant, Ynystawe Primary School has been able to develop creativity in staff members, allowing them to be more innovative in the ways they teach certain concepts. As a result, they feel more confident in their use of technology and can see the benefits to both their teaching and the learners. Classroom setups have also evolved to allow more independent learning, which was the main aim of the project. Through the funding and purchase of new equipment, mathematics is now taught through coding, the development of language, both oracy and Welsh language, are taught through various media resources. Ynystawe Primary School has truly reaped the benefits of digital innovation, Naomi confirms: “Coding has provided opportunities to ‘develop all staff as leaders’. Teaching and learning are constantly evolving and the importance of all staff taking on responsibilities and leading particular sectors has never been more important. We now have a range of experiences in the training of both teachers and teaching assistants.”
Part of our Innovation Pathway is looking towards the future, and it is easy to see how schools across Wales can be inspired by the digital innovation fostered by Ynystawe Primary School. It is important to introduce learners to new technologies such as coding to enhance their learning experience, but also ensuring they are having fun and are engaged. This is just as true for teachers; having an excited and confident teacher can ensure learners have the best opportunity to develop their skills in a new area. The school has even had the opportunity to enter learners into a robotics competition as a result of their newly acquired skills in coding. Naomi elaborates: “We have started to work with a group of more able and talented (MAT) learners to develop coding as an extracurricular activity. This group is working closely with the Science and Technology AoLE lead and they are developing Quests based on different topics. These children will become experts and in time share their knowledge through teaching other children across the school.”
Over the years, we have supported many educational organisations in Wales on their innovation journey, Naomi reflects: “Digital technology is ever evolving in the real world and practitioners in the education sector have a key responsibility in providing opportunities and preparing learners for working in the digital age. As an education sector, we need to give learners experiences and opportunities to work alongside experts in an ever-evolving field of work.”