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 Ben Saunders, Science and Technology Lead at Pentre’r Graig Primary School, to find out how he heard about the Innovation Grant through the local education authority and discovered the benefits of developing and progressing educational leadership through our Innovation Pathway.
After conducting a staff audit through a Forms questionnaire, Ben was able to see that staff members at Pentre’r Graig Primary School needed help with the development of their computation skills as one of the ‘What Matters’ strands from the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE). Ben explains: “Through the questionnaire, I could see that staff confidence was low. Through delivering staff sessions with plugged and unplugged computation skills, I could see how staff responded to the different activities.” As a result, Ben simultaneously realised that he needed to develop his own computation skills through professional development. Therefore, Ben applied for our Innovation Grant by proposing that, through his attendance of a Technocamps CPD course for Computational Thinking, the grant would enable him to be released from class to work with staff members to deliver computational thinking lessons. In turn, Ben hoped this would give staff the confidence they needed while also ensuring Pentre’r Graig Primary School’s digital vision and its adaptability for the future. Ben elaborates: “Through developing and mapping digital competence across all the AoLEs, we will be able to see the progression of the learners as well as any gaps in understanding. Professional learning will be paramount as part of the application and linking up with other professionals, sharing ideas, as well as developing my personal skills, will enable me to disseminate and equip other teachers within the school.”
Pentre’r Graig Primary School received their Innovation Grant at the start of the academic year and Ben’s first steps were to find ways to develop his own skills so that he could support staff members. This involved Ben attending a Technocamps course which ran from mid-October and was completed in January which allowed him in February to deliver two staff training sessions to give teachers a basic introduction to unplugged and plugged computational thinking through Scratch. The Innovation Grant enabled Ben to be released from class to help the teachers develop their own teaching skills through one-to-one, half day sessions by working with them in their own class settings on computation linked to their topics.
As with any change, Ben was met with some challenges, he explains: “I have always taught key stage 2, so supporting foundation phase and key stage 1 was a bit of a challenge for me at first. However, working with the staff we were able to plan and deliver suitable sessions and this built my confidence.” Therefore, not only did the Innovation Grant help Ben develop the digital competencies of staff and learners, it also supported Ben’s own professional development.
Now that the project is complete, Ben, as well as everyone at Pentre’r Graig Primary School, can see the difference the Innovation Grant has made to digital innovation within the school. Ben confirms: “Staff are now using computation in lessons as much as possible and on a recent learning walk, I was able to see computation skills used in all classes. There was a variety of plugged and unplugged used and staff are becoming more confident and are taking calculated risks e.g. teaching outside of their comfort zone.”
The teachers also had nothing but good things to say about Ben’s digital innovation:
But that is not the end of Pentre’r Graig Primary School’s digital innovation journey, Ben will continue to support all members of staff with training in computation thinking. He will do this through planned staff meetings and during school assemblies so all members of the school can continue to have up-to-date knowledge in computation thinking.
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 Pentre’r Graig Primary School. The Innovation Grant allowed Ben to train staff in computational thinking, the use of algorithms, the use of the Digital Competency Framework, and develop coding programmes like Scratch across the curriculum. This ensured staff could keep learners engaged as they were confident in their training and knowledge. As Ben looks to the future of the school’s digital innovation, he thinks teachers will use computation as a tool to help deliver other subjects across the school, helping the whole school improve their digital skills. Ben continues: “The next step in taking the school’s digital agenda forward is looking into purchasing Osmo Coding kits as well as Microbits and Raspberry PIs to further enhance everyone’s skills. I’m also interested in looking at other ways to develop databases for upper juniors; J2Data is good, but I would like to look at other ways to deliver this.”
Over the years, we have supported many educational organisations in Wales on their innovation journey, Ben elaborates: “Without the Innovation Grant, I would have found it difficult to share what I’ve learnt with others. Because I was able to share my knowledge, learners are fully engaged and they are developing skills for the future.”