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 Matthew Brooks, a class teacher at Clase Primary School, to find out how he heard about the Innovation Grant. The school’s deputy headteacher had informed him of the benefits of developing and progressing educational leadership through our Innovation Pathway.
Following the lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, Clase Primary School found that learners’ verbal and social independence had been impacted and they needed to look for new ways to increase literacy skills in an engaging way. Their idea for the Innovation Grant was to utilise the digital platform Flip, so that learners could easily access online learning, demonstrate their knowledge and allow for authentic assessment. The school’s current method of ‘Prove It’ sheets, which are used to monitor learner progress with self and peer assessment, would be replaced by Flip which would provide learners with the opportunity to ask questions and challenge misconceptions. Matthew explains: “Assessment within Flip is something that I felt would benefit our setting at Clase Primary School and would allow practitioners to watch the instructional videos whenever they had time to check for understanding. This would also be beneficial in relation to the independent missions that we provide to learners.” The school planned to use the Innovation Grant to purchase iPads for classrooms which would remove the need to repurpose their current digital zone and create a new zone for learners’ independent missions that primarily focused on Flip. The funding would also be used to release a member of staff to learn how to use Flip effectively and feed forward the information.
Clase Primary School received the Innovation Grant at the beginning of the academic year which allowed for optimal time to purchase the equipment they needed for the project. During this time, Matthew had the perfect opportunity to spend time getting used to Flip and accessed training on how to use the app via Microsoft courses.
Just like every project, Matthew and the school ran into some complications along the way. Matthew elaborates: “The whole project is still ongoing as issues arose around the installation of applications and setting up of the iPads. We were ready to implement the Flip app as we had laptops available in the digital area, however, this took away from those key digital missions.” To combat this, Matthew and the team stayed flexible around timescales and kept the learners engaged through continued discussion about the upcoming changes. The initial interest in the project was high and learners were keen to engage with the app. The project focused on one class from Years 3 and 4 and over time Matthew expanded the digital innovation across the whole Year 3 and 4 cohort. Matthew continues: “Once I had become established in the effective use of assessment for learning (AFL) strategies within Flip I was able to pass on the knowledge to NQTs during a meeting and all staff within the school during a staff meeting.” Over time, both staff and learners will continue to adapt and become more familiar with the Flip app and use it to its full potential.
Despite some initial setbacks, the digital innovation has had a positive response, Matthew explains: “I conducted a presentation about my findings and the benefits of using Flip for assessment to a group of NQTs which received praise from a previous headteacher at Morriston Comprehensive School. Although the project has changed slightly, the benefits were clear to see as engagement was high for learners, especially among those that do not normally engage.” As a result of these initial findings, the school has purchased more iPads for other classes and Flip will continue to be utilised as an assessment tool. To further promote this, in a recent staff meeting, all staff at Clase Primary School were given training on how to use Flip by Matthew using the skills he had learnt over the course of the project. Matthew notes: “The Innovation Grant was key to the successful launch of Flip as we would not have had the funding to release myself for training nor have the money for the two iPads that were exclusively used for Flip. This prevented the digital area from being repurposed and added an additional area designated for Flip assessment purposes.”
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 Clase Primary School. Although the project experienced some initial challenges, these were soon overcome and now learners and staff are able to see the benefits of bringing learning processes online. This will make learning more accessible and ensure learner progress is more easily monitored so all learners have an equal opportunity to improve and gain confidence. This process will only improve as more time goes by. With more time and some refresher training the school hopes to eventually use Flip as a full replacement for the ‘Prove It’ sheets for all learners. Matthew elaborates: “My next steps will be to support all practitioners that require help and solve problems that will occur, such as the setup of applications across all devices. I will also look to create a pro forma within Flip that could be used across the school to assess learners’ understanding and outline a potential marking system.”
Over the years, we have supported many schools in Wales on their innovation journey, Matthew reflects: “A key point to remember when setting up a new digital application is to allow plenty of time for any problems that may arise.
Matthew continues: “It is important for others to get involved with the Innovation Pathway for several reasons:
Getting involved with the programme and starting an innovation journey can be a rewarding experience for educators who are committed to improving the education system.
Digital innovation should be a priority in education to enhance learning by making it engaging, interactive and accessible for all. It can also improve efficiency which can streamline administrative tasks and allow them to focus on teaching and learning. Most importantly, it prepares us for the future, as the world becomes increasingly digital, we need to prepare our learners with the skills that they will need to succeed in a rapidly changing world.”