Barnsley Academy has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. In 2006, just 14% of students obtained five GCSEs or more. Four years later, this was up to 51%. The academy is now recognised as one of the most improved in England – and itslearning is part of the remarkable turnaround.
When Barnsley Academy’s new principal started in 2006, he found himself tackling challenges such as low rates of student achievement, just 65% staff attendance and a negative reputation in the community. “One parent commented that, with the same staff and the same pupils, we had no chance of making this work,” says Dave. “But we were determined. I told parents I wanted to rewrite education in the community. I wanted to change the way people thought of the school and the way children thought of their futures.”
Dave introduced a raft of changes to the school, including introducing itslearning, a web-based learning platform that Dave saw as a way to promote better and more consistent teaching across the curriculum.
Consistently high quality teaching
Using itslearning, the academy introduced structures that streamlined many of the teachers’ regular administrative tasks. Nic Atkinson, Director of Science, explains, “The entire scheme of work for science was re-written on itslearning so that we could have organised structures and a framework to map out the whole school year. Every week, every lesson, every resource is on the learning platform; students can log on from home and can see which topics they’ll be covering in classes throughout the year. They can see when they have a test that they need to prepare for. This gives a structure and format to follow that really helps students and teachers manage their workload.”
According to Scott Kroeller, who heads up English for 14 to 16 year olds, these changes have enabled teachers to spend more time on what they do best: teaching. “With so many of these tasks out of the way it frees up some of our time. We can focus on thinking beyond the curriculum so that we’re offering a really rounded experience.”
Teachers have also noticed increased student motivation when using the pedagogical tools inside itslearning. Nic gives an example. “Recently we used Zu3D in a lesson and it was incredibly popular. We took time-lapse photography of plastercine models to show sperm and egg fertilisation, chromosome division and to illustrate chromosomes pairing up inside the zygote, the cells splitting and the chromosome dividing. I had students producing 140 frame videos in an hour! They were so motivated that they used up some of their lunch hour to email them to me.”
Instant feedback for the digital generation
For Scott, a key benefit of itslearning is connected to the speed and frequency of feedback that it allows. “Work such as marking or giving feedback on what the class have done can be completed quickly on the learning platform and the students definitely appreciate the speed of feedback on their work. They can log on and see what their teacher thinks of their work quickly, which means there’s less dead time, the conversation is ongoing. We should never underestimate the importance of having this sort of dialogue on a regular basis.”
“The results for the last year group were a highlight for us,” says Dave. “On the day students came to collect their results, the parent who told me we had no chance saw her daughter get the results she needed to go on to study biology, psychology and English at A level. The parents who said they were taking a real risk told me it was the best decision they ever made. And our story isn’t finished yet.”
About Barnsley Academy
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