Image

Inside the infinite loop

I am writing this in an Apple conference room in Cupertino, California as I await a transfer to San Jose airport. The past four days have been exhilarating to say the least. I’d even be so bold as to say it’s been the best PLD experience I’ve ever had. I am very grateful to be invited by Apple and SSAT to be a part it. It’s not every day you get invited to spend a week behind the curtain with Apple at their HQ.

As I await the long flight home, I’m trying to use this time to reflect and make sense of all that I’ve seen. My head is spinning.

Further, more in-depth posts will follow. Such as how impressive an organisation Apple are when you get to the core. It’s been such a privilege to be allowed behind the curtain and go places very few have been. To have walked the same corridors as Steve Jobs and to maybe have sat in a room where his team of ultimate disruptors changed our perceptions of everything, is very humbling.

For now though, three things that have really hit home for me:

1. Apple are not a company that sells tech. Instead they exist to make us think differently about what we perceive education to be. Technology is merely a means to that end. One particular comment from one of the Austin store retail managers stands out for me: ‘What we do as employees of Apple we do first for ourselves and then for the world. Our soul is our people … people who shine a spotlight on you to stand outside it.’

2. Education in England is exceptional. What we are currently doing in our schools in terms of student collaboration, innovation and creativity is top drawer. When you have the privilege to visit other high-performing schools in other countries, it reaffirms your faith in all that you believe in and that as a profession we are well ahead of the game.

3. Culture is king. And at the heart of any successful culture is simplicity. We are all guilty of over-complicating things. If we want to tell our story in a way that is compelling, engaging and authentic, then we need to strip it right back. Always begin with the ‘why’. Everything else then falls into place.

It’s been an absolute honour and privilege to learn with so many inspiring colleagues who themselves are all facing the same challenges back in their schools. But the schools and communities they serve are in safe hands because I’ve seen first hand – up close and personal – how passion stokes the fire in their bellies.

I’m looking forward to spreading a bit of that warmth around my own colleagues on my return. For now though, I’ll spend the flight home mulling over even more how I intend to change the world.

On marginal losses and mobile phones

phone-1523342_960_720-2

Earlier this week at work I had to go a day without email. It’s not until you experience an ‘internet outage moment’ that you realise how reliant you’ve become on technology.

When I first became a headteacher in 1998, email had only just begun to dribble into schools. Fax machines were all the rage and were understandably reluctant to be barged aside by the newcomer. As exciting as it was to receive your mail electronically, you couldn’t beat the thrill of teasing apart an envelope just itching to be opened. (In those days people seldom wrote to me.)

‘Email’ was clearly never going to catch on. It was clunky, could only be downloaded once a day and originated entirely from the LA. As a result, most of it was rubbish.

A few years later – at the turn of the millennium – a certain Nokia 3310 hit the scene, and like most young heads at the time, I had to have one. I considered myself to be an IT guru as I was the only headteacher out of 150 or so in the LA that had made the move to an electronic diary. I’d long since ditched the Letts, instead choosing to cart around a Filofax that was the size of a carry-on suitcase.

So when I had the opportunity to buy a digital Acer PDA, complete with stylus and touch screen, I jumped at the chance. It was a nightmare though because it wasn’t synced to the school so the secretary never had a clue what I was doing or where I was meant to be. Neither did I for that matter, but I looked cool.

You can imagine how excited I was when I heard the news of the re-emergence of the iconic 3310 as a dumbphone for a new (or old) smart generation of mobile technology users. In a sea of sameness, the current crop of phones fail to excite me like they once did. I no longer care about what the new iPhone may look like.

What was once fresh and exciting has now become conventional (which makes me all the more determined to ditch it). Eager to be reinvigorated, I visited the BETT show a few years ago but found the whole thing bitterly distasteful; aisle after aisle of seemingly over-prevaricating dotcom hipsters fresh out of college trying to convince me that everything I once knew about education was wrong. They’d clearly never set foot in a classroom. I won’t be going back.

What the whole Nokia thing has done though has made me yearn for certain things in life that are stripped back and simple. To be able to open a device and simply make a call appeals to me immensely. Only last month I was getting mildly manic as the stupid touch screen key pad on my phone failed to operate. It was only when I noticed that I was using the calculator app that I realised I’d crossed a line.

All of us need to reboot at times and whilst I could never go back to a paper diary or dial-up, there are a number of things going on around me in schools that could do with being Nokia’d.

With Lent underway, now might be as good a time as any to think about what we need to give up in schools. Too often we get swept away by the rhetoric and find ourselves doing things without actually knowing why. We become institutionalised and set in our ways.

Or, more dangerously, we find ourselves doing things for other people beyond the school without thinking why. Ofsted, the DfE, local authority are all case in points.

To be fair though to the DfE and Ofsted, a lot has been done recently to demystify the myths surrounding expectations. But still, too many schools don’t want to strip back and are nervous about letting go. When I visit schools that are in the process of being brokered for sponsorship – schools that are in special measures – the one thing that stands out a mile off is that they are simply trying to do too much.

They need to de-clutter and recalibrate so that they focus only on the main thing. Forget marginal gains. From now on, I’m going for marginal losses and I urge you to do the same.

So what would be your 3310? If you could choose to rip out all the guff and go back to basics, without compromising on quality and efficiency, what would it be? I’d suggest the photocopier would be a good place to start. How I harp back to the days when I could just pop next door and press a green button and out pops a copy.

Instead, I now have to carry around with me in my briefcase the launch codes and encrypted authentication sequences required for every photocopier for every school in the trust. And that’s before we even move on to the Wi-Fi settings and door entry codes.

Maybe your 3310 would be your interactive whiteboard, stuffed so full of tech that all you do is use it as a screen to show the date? Perhaps it’s your dog-eared teacher record book or multi-tabbed electronic assessment tracking system?

Take a look at your displays. Do you quake with fear when you’ve been told that you’ve got to cram in every single child’s piece of triple-mounted work regardless of how it helps with learning?

What about assemblies? As a young headteacher I always way overcooked the goose as I thought that the show was all about me. Nowadays of course, you can’t beat a good old-fashioned story (no slides, animations or audio, just a chair), all very appropriate for World Book Day.

You’ve got me started. There are more: policies, target-setting, governing bodies, report writing, risk assessments, data analysis, homework, websites, lesson planning, school development plans, marking. I’m sure you could come up with plenty more in your school.

We could all do with taking a leaf out of Nokia’s book. Not as a commercial gimmick or publicity stunt, but as an act of real authenticity and purpose. Just as with our mobile phones, we know that we need certain things in our schools and that without them we couldn’t get by. But every now and again, wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all go a bit retro?

 

The Art of Standing Out is available now on Amazon, published by John Catt Educational.

Making the pupil premium count

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College. Tinie Tempah was there. So was Al Murray, Piers Morgan and a host of other A-list speakers. When I say they were ‘there’, I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that they were actually there in person sitting at the back of my session. That would be daft. I do like to think that they might have thought for a split second that the pupil premium panel that I was a part of might have been worth a listen. But they didn’t. The nearest I actually got to Mr Tempah was that I retweeted him. And as for Messrs Morgan and Murray, well at least I was on the same page as them in the alphabetical list of speakers in the festival programme. Not many people can say that.

So seeing as they missed it, and most probably you did too, this is broadly what I said.

Chaired magnificently by Anna Trethewey (@annatreth), and joined by @MaryMyatt and @Khawar_Malik, each of us on the panel were afforded 5-10 minutes each to extol to the masses who turned up our thoughts and views on ‘how to spend the pupil premium wisely’. This proved to be very difficult because 5-10 minutes is clearly not enough time. However, I think I made a fair fist of it.

1. Build a shelf. Despite the fact that almost 80 per cent of those listening were not aware of the EEF toolkit, I still made the point that you should choose carefully. There is a danger that schools adopt a ‘supermarket sweep’ approach to filling their trolley with strategies and interventions in the hope that if they pick the ones at the top of the list, the gap will close. It’s really not as simple as plucking them off the shelf if, as a school, you do not have a shelf yourself on which to sit them. By shelf, I mean an organisational culture or set of core values and beliefs that underpin and support all that you do. Spend time building your own solid shelf and getting the climate and ethos right before you start raiding the store.

2. Back to basics. Better still, whilst building the shelf, invest time and effort in going back to basics and being clear about what good quality first wave teaching looks like in your school. Agree on a set of ‘non-negotiables’ around effective learning and ensure that these are applied consistently across the whole school. Once you have these, you can then begin to use strategies that are consistent with your pedagogical approach.

3. Don’t weigh the pig. As a general rule of thumb, if I come across something that works in a school and it’s difficult to measure, it’s probably a good thing to do. Be cautious if the strategy that you are pursuing requires constant and continual measurement. Don’t fall into the trap of seeing pupil premium funded activities as only being of value if they improve test results. Of course this is important, but simply viewing the toolkit as a means of plugging gaps in knowledge is shortsighted. Avoid interventions at all costs. Instead, consider using pupil premium funding to provide opportunities to teach children how to become better learners by allowing them to develop their soft skills such as resilience, independence, collaboration or critical thinking (shelf, notwithstanding). With this in mind, perhaps one of our highest impact projects is our pupil premium funded social enterprise that teaches children how to be social entrepreneurs in a purposeful context. It also prepares them for the world of work. You can read more about this here and here

4. Greatest good for the greatest number. Choose strategies that have the most impact across all subjects and areas of learning. One of the earliest approaches we took was to spend funding on technology, ensuring that it impacted across all areas of learning. Each child now has a device and 24/7 broadband connectivity at home. This allows us to flip the classroom which has shown to have a significant impact on closing the gap. Have a look at @mathsflip, an EEF funded project we took part in for more information. A utilitarian approach will also be well-served by adopting strategies that impact on meta-cognition, feedback and peer-assisted learning (PAL). We use our funding to employ a team of DIRTy teaching assistants to ensure the gap remains closed as part of Directed Improvement Review Time. We also employ staff to run PALs sessions where a more able child teaches a concept they have mastered to a group of pupils that require additional support. It is also entirely appropriate to spend the funding on partnerships with external organisations who develop the whole child. Examples of those that we currently work with include Real Ideas Organisation, Creative Alliance, University of the First Age, and of course the Whole Education Network (we are a partner school).

5. The killer question. Finally, ask yourself this question: If pupil premium funding was stopped tomorrow, which (if any) of your strategies would you continue to fund yourself? If the answer is ‘none of them’ then you are doing the wrong things. The strategies that you use to close the achievement gap need to be sufficiently valued such that you would be doing them anyway because they are fundamentally at the heart of all that you believe to be high quality teaching and learning. If this is so, then you are indeed spending your pupil premium wisely.

Twenty First Century Learning

A guest post by Carly Sconce, teacher @VicParkAcademy

As a member of staff of  an academy that embraces change and pushes the boundaries of innovative learning I was privileged to be asked by my school to be involved in a new research based project run by the European School Net centered on using ICT in the classroom. Having just completed the huge learning curve that was my NQT year, I was eager to start experimenting within my teaching practice and take on new ways to challenge, enrich and motivate pupils’ learning. Victoria Park Primary Academy provided me with a great insight into how elearning can be implemented throughout the curriculum to raise standards, so when presented with the opportunity to be involved in this project I was both excited and intrigued to be part of a new shift in the way we teach.

Living School Labs is a two-year project being run across Europe by the European School Net with the aim of schools improving their pedagogy through sharing their use of innovative practice in ICT and embedding it into their teaching. There are a select few Advanced Schools (AS) across the UK, whose role is to embed technology into teaching and learning across the whole school. Each AS school has to form a regional cluster of Advanced Practitioner Schools (AP) where technology is embedded in areas of the school, which is where Victoria Park Academy fits in.  As a school we already actively enhance children’s learning through the use of ICT, all of our children engage with elearning throughout the day. A great example of this is the 1:1 tablets we recently introduced to Years 4, 5 and 6 as part of the Shape the Future Project with Microsoft and RM.  They have had a significant impact on raising standards with 93% of Year 6 children achieving a level 4 combined in last year’s SATS.  Consequently this project has enabled us to take the use of technology to the next step within the school in the form of Flip learning.

Flip learning is an area our Advanced School has focused on. But before this project I had not heard of this new way of teaching but after researching it I could not understand why this was not the ‘norm’ ? In this day and age where technology dominates our culture, flip learning seems an ideal way of teaching that our children can relate to and access easily. To those of you that are novices to flip learning like I was, it is in essence flipping the way you structure your lesson by keeping the students’ learning at the center of teaching. A flipped class inverts the typical knowledge and application upfront that we are all so used to delivering and allows the children to gain the information before the lesson using technology. Therefore the teacher can facilitate the children’s clarification and application of the knowledge during class.

Many of our classes use the one to one device at home to access this work. Although not all classes have these devices yet, we are not allowing it to become a barrier for learning. Personally I am using flip learning by setting homework on our Open Hive site (whether this is a website, RM books or videos) to prepare the children for the learning that will take place in the classroom. Children can access this using their home devices.  Children’s feedback of their understanding is a crucial part of flipping; practitioners create many ways for children to do this from discussion forums to audio recording. As a class without the means to always do this interactively I have adapted the process to suit my Year 3 class. For example, children write down their thoughts on our yellow and black thinking hats which are on the learning walls in class. This has been beneficial as it informs my planning. Whatever technological situation your school is in ‘where there is a will there is a way’.

Subsequently, the  European School Net are involved in many projects to encourage the use of ICT in learning and to facilitate their vision of future classrooms. A course I recently attended was run by Microsoft in partnership with the European School Net. The focus of the course was Twenty First Century Learning. Microsoft  are supporting schools in making fundamental changes to their pedagogy so that it is centered around the needs of the children.  Twenty First Century learning is essentially equipping the children with the skills needed to interact in the ever-changing world around them using ICT as an enhancer.  There are six main areas that children need to develop:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Knowledge construction
  3. Self-regulation
  4. Real world problem solving and innovation
  5. ICT for learning
  6. Skilled communication

Findings suggest that children are doing all of the above although they are only being taught them at a basic level. However, using these skills at a higher level is proven to have a bigger impact on progress as they are learning them in-depth and are able to apply them.  For high level usage teachers need to design learning opportunities for children to develop and demonstrate these skills. Each skill has a rubric showing how the depth of the skill is developed.  It is important to note that these are not grades that the children should be assessed against but an overview for us as educators to assess the level of the skill we have been teaching our children at.  Therefore as reflective practitioners we can adapt our teaching to ensure that the children get a balanced experience of the skill. Recently I have introduced the Collaboration Rubric in class and the children have independently used it by identifying the level they are working at as well as a tool for critiquing their own and others’ work.

Continued professional development and risk taking teachers are needed for future classrooms to facilitate learning, giving the children the tools needed to succeed in life, not dictating facts from a board.  Teachers that do not recognize and embrace the need for change will be doing their children and themselves an injustice. Therefore I will end with something to think about: ‘If we teach the way we were taught yesterday then are we preparing our students for today or tomorrow?’

 

 

 

Being Secondary Ready

Judging by the response at the recent Westminster Briefings in London and Manchester, the concept of ‘Being Secondary Ready’ is a controversial one. Asked by the organisers to speak at the events on the subject, it was clear that Gove’s latest proposal to test and rank 11 year olds was a non-starter. So rather than go there full of doom and gloom and attempt to present how it might work in reality, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of seizing the moment.

For too long, we as a profession have allowed the curriculum to become a political battleground. Rather than huff and puff at the current plans, I appealed to school leaders to reclaim the curriculum and make it work for our schools. Whether an academy or not, the content of the curriculum is largely irrelevant if it is underpinned by a set of fundamental beliefs and core values. Heads need to go back to their schools and have discussions with pupils, teachers, parents and governors about what they believe to be the non-negotiables of a real and purposeful curriculum that is at the heart of a whole education. Regardless of changes to the national curriculum, these will always outlive any proposal by a Secretary of State. Pedagogical context is far more important than content and will always stand the test of time.

A good starting point is the school prospectus. Packed away as a PDF or stashed away in a box somewhere, the glossy brochure is likely to contain a very useful and relevant set of aims and values. They look great as a set but how often do we actually assess whether or not a child has achieved each individual one when they leave Year 6? We tend to be so driven by performance at SATs that we lose sight of the other more valid and valuable ideals. Almost every school will have an aim to do with ‘high standards of achievement’ which is obviously measurable. But what about the other more important ones such as ‘positive attitudes and values’ or ‘lively and enquiring minds’ and so on? We don’t of course dwell on these because they are harder to measure, but that doesn’t mean that we must abandon them. If anything, these are the really crucial ones that really and truly make a child ‘secondary ready’. Indeed, a recent survey by the City and Guilds showed that the majority of employers see vocational skills as being far more important than academic achievement. According to the report, half of the polled businesses/employers believe the current education system has failed to meet their needs. As educators, we have known this all along. We just need to convince the policy makers of its importance.

For me then, being secondary ready consists of 3 key elements. If pupils can leave any given school with these competences then they are well placed to become members of a highly productive workforce of the future. (And don’t get me going on PISA rankings and the ‘hothouse flowering’ of students who wither and fade as soon as they leave school.)

1. The ability to speak fluent Learnish.

In this particular school, pupils speak over 40 different languages. However, the one language that unites them all is ‘Learnish’. First coined by Guy Claxton, Learnish involves pupils being able to use the language associated with deep-rooted learning to help them build their learning power. Pupils need to Yearn to Learn so that they have a natural thirst and desire for knowledge and enquiry. Children must not expect immediate answers and instant gratification in the pursuit of knowledge. A pub-quiz curriculum is of no use to anyone. They need to  be continually involved in active JOBS  during a lesson (the Joy Of Being Stuck) that requires pupils to build up a mental sweat in order to become unstuck without turning to the teacher. Pupils need to relish and celebrate this moment in the knowledge that they will shortly be learning something new. Pupils who are secondary ready will possess the emotional intelligence to be able to acknowledge this feeling and thrive on it. They will roll their sleeves up, deal with the turmoil and get stuck into the learning. As a result, children need to be expert at meta-learning and use the language of Learnish to articulate not only what they’ve learned but more importantly how they’ve learned.

2. The digital pencil case.

Every child needs a pencil case where they keep all their bits and pieces to help them learn – pens, rubbers, calculator etc. These traditional pencil cases are very important, but in order to be a 21st century lead learner every child should have a Digital Pencil Case as well. Essential kit within their digital pencil case will include a one-to-one device to use at home and school giving pupils 24/7 connectivity. The device will include the latest innovative software such as the Microsoft Learning Suite and a range of Apps to support learning. By blending their learning children will have access to iPads, netbooks, laptops, green screens, iMacs and PCs as well as the more traditional methods. We need to teach our children to be digital lead learners and to be able to ‘Digiflex’ by choosing how best to learn at any given moment.

By ‘flipping’ the classroom we can ensure that the learning of new content is completed at home using their digital pencil case and then extended and challenged in school. In much the same way as selecting a club from a golf bag to play a shot, the digital pencil case allows pupils to choose the most appropriate application to complete a task. When playing golf, you don’t need to use every club for every hole, but it’s good to know they’re there if you need them. It’s about being able to make the right shot selection at any given moment. The same applies to pupils who can Digiflex. Having access to a well-stocked digital pencil case is at the heart of being secondary ready.

3. A thinking toolkit

Regardless of the curriculum content, in a school where Learnish is the language of choice, children can be taught how to think from the moment they enter Nursery. This allows children to learn to yearn and be naturally inquisitive and tenacious in their thinking. Edward de Bono’s thinking hats and CoRT 1 tools ensure pupils quickly become resilient and resourceful learners who are able to capitalise, distil, imitate and revise. Teach children how to use TASC wheels and a whole new dimension to enterprise and initiative opens up. Thinking Actively in a Social Context not only does exactly as it says, but it also provides the perfect arena for the speaking of Learnish. Mastery learning, immersion and learning in depth all serve to equip pupils with the mental obstinacy and doggedness required to be powerful learners.

Irrespective of the curriculum  a school chooses to follow, be it academy or maintained, the above 3 competences will serve learners well and guarantee they are secondary ready. Of course, all of these will be irrelevant if a secondary school does not value and promote them on entry to KS3. Indeed, this was one of the main concerns raised by primary colleagues – being ‘secondary ready’ is all well and good but what if the local High School is not ‘primary ready’?

Never will the day come when we as a profession are able to agree what being secondary ready means, let alone test and rank it. It’s an absurd notion and means absolutely nothing to educationists. We shouldn’t even waste time trying to build consensus. Instead, let’s seize the moment and seek to steal an advantage by reclaiming the moral compass once and for all.


 

Five reasons why blended learning is a good thing

Twice this week I’ve taken the train to Manchester. On both occasions it was to present at two very different conferences, one on closing the attainment gap using digital technology and the other on delivering an innovative and creative curriculum. The former was opened by John Dunford in his role as DfE Pupil Premium Champion and he spoke passionately about the importance of ‘looking out and not looking up’ when seeking innovative solutions. Then there was the Primary Curriculum Review conference in which delegates were urged to take risks when designing a fit-for-purpose curriculum. But one theme for me that ran deep throughout both events was the important role digital technology will play in driving up standards. Enter Blended Learning.

Blended learning is nothing new.  Most schools do it all the time without even knowing it. At its simplest, blended learning is the combined use of online learning and offline learning. In other words, activities that take place in the virtual and real world. The virtual world requires the use of a digital device, whereas in the real world it’s to do with ‘bricks-and-mortar’ – traditional tasks that take place in and around the classroom. The trick for the teacher is to get the blend just right.

Here are 5 reasons why I believe children’s learning should be blended:

One | It fits the learning needs of all pupils. Every lesson should contain a blend of some sort. At the most basic level it involves the interactive whiteboard and exercise books.  The best lessons though always involve groups of pupils immersed either in a netbook or tablet device or both. As an inspector, I rarely see blended learning, with most ICT lessons taking place in a computer suite once or twice a week. When technology is readily available in class, teachers tend to plan for only one group to use a device during a lesson, perhaps with a TA supporting them whilst the rest of the class are on ‘bricks-and-mortar’. At some point, the group learning on devices will then blend with the real world and move onto pen and paper or discussion. The ‘Station Rotation’ method however ensures that all pupils are involved. Here, the teacher plans for groups to rotate through a variety of learning stations ranging from group discussion (in our case perhaps using a CoRT1 thinking tool or TASC wheel) to individual online or digital learning (such as Espresso, Mathletics, Blaze, RM Books or OneNote). By blending in this way, it allows all pupils to adopt different learning styles when learning online or off and to learn the pros and cons of both. This approach tends to be most commonly used during the afternoon sessions when pupils are working in their thematic books. As teachers, we need to try to ensure that every child in our school, especially those that have one-to-one devices, has the opportunity to blend their learning frequently throughout the day both at home and in class.

Two | It allows the classroom to be flipped. Now that every pupil in Years 4, 5 and 6 has their own tablet device, flipped learning is achievable. Teachers should plan to flip the classroom at every opportunity when sending the devices home. Flipping the classroom involves pupils learning new content at home by completing specific tasks on their devices. They are structured in such a way that the pupil needs to explore and question their own understanding, perhaps through a video clip, pre-recorded task, Photosynth clip etc. It may also involve the simple researching of facts and information as a pre-requisite to starting a new topic, perhaps using RM Books following a non-fiction virtual loan. One obvious use is Photosynth prior to going on a school trip, getting the pupils to interrogate, perhaps, a picture of a Castle. In the past we’ve adopted a similar approach when requiring pupils to complete a wiki on ‘everything you know about (new topic)’ prior to the new term, often during the school holiday. Having completed the flipped task, pupils then have the opportunity of practising and refining their skills in class where the teacher is able to coach and facilitate as well as correcting misconceptions. As the children’s skills improve, face-to-face feedback at this stage is crucial, something that would not be possible when practising at home. In essence, it ensures that low level Bloom thinking is done at home so that the higher order skills can be used where they matter most.

Three | It ensures pupils are lead learners. When using the Station Rotation model, the teacher will invariably decide when the groups rotate (a bit like the old integrated day model). However, it is far more effective to allow the child to make the choice as to when to blend by choosing either bricks-and-mortar or a digital device. This teaches learners to ‘digiflex’ and understand that some tasks are better suited to a laptop or tablet and some aren’t. Pupils need to learn the limitations of technology in the same way we teach them that there is more than one way to calculate a sum. Having a device with a pre-recorded activity on it (video clip or audio) allows groups to go straight on task at the start of the lesson with the teacher moving away from ‘Sage on the Stage’ to ‘Guide by the Side’. (It’s also a lot quicker than preparing and photocopying worksheets.) The children soon learn that they have to take the lead, knowing that if stuck, a quick search of the virtual world is likely to find a solution. The same applies to when learning at home. When learning outside the classroom, perhaps on a trip, their device opens up doors that would not otherwise be possible. For example, by allowing learners to record video clips and dump them into OneNote immediately gives the child a sense of ownership and lead.

Four | It ensures learning is imaginative. We know from the visit to our school by Professor Egan that ‘the more we know about something, the more imaginative we can be about it.’ This is why we are introducing Learning in Depth across the school. At our training day at the start of term we all acknowledged the key role online research can play in ensuring our pupils master their learning. However, a significant proportion of the pupils’ research and quest for knowledge will involve using more traditional methods. It’s crucial that we get the blend correct and that pupils have opportunities not only to research using a blended approach but to also capture and record their learning on both real and digital platforms. More importantly, the one-to-one devices allow for the classroom to be flipped so that the pupils can do all the research and fact-finding at home and then receive face-to-face support in class in regard to organising, refining and presenting their ideas. I’m sure also that our parents will appreciate it as well, as (like me) it’s unlikely they will have many books at home on the subject of Dust. Once again, RM books plays a key role here.

Five | It’s the future. Online learning is here to stay. All our pupils will be engaging in online courses by time they leave high school. It’s likely that for our youngest pupils, almost all of their learning will take place in a virtual world. So whether we like it or not, we have a duty to prepare our learners for the future. You only have to look at the emergence of the knowledge economy as the fastest growing world market. MOOC pioneers (Massive Open Online Courses) are popping up everywhere, with India being one of the fastest growing markets, second only to the US. The recently launched FutureLearn Mooc sees the UK enter the market with 21 universities (Birmingham included) offering free public online courses on a number of devices, mobile phones included. Moocs by themselves of course are not blended in that they rely exclusively on the virtual world. Thankfully the University of Oxford has already acknowledged that a Mooc needs to be blended with more time in the classroom if deep learning is to take place.

So if we want to close the attainment gap, make good use of Pupil Premium funding and produce a world-class curriculum, blended learning has to feature strongly. Be it online or offline, in the bedroom or classroom, all our pupils need to experience a blended approach to learning if they are to stand out in the knowledge economy and keep ahead of the race.