Fran Duinker (Head of Primary) and Helen Robinson (Head of Sixth Form), Nether Hall School have been working on a the Mapping Achievement Digilit Leicester project designed to introduce the use of software to log students’ achievements against framework standards, and document achievements through images.
The school wants to adopt a new approach in order to sharing photos and information with parents and carers, providing them “with regular news letters, reminders and capturing those important moments when their children have achieved a milestone at school.”
Prior to the project, the school used a wide range of assessment systems, the majority of which rely on staff to take photos which then need to be downloaded onto the school network. Photographic evidence plays a key role in both formative and summative assessment at Nether Hall school.
Initially the project will focus on staff development, introducing new software and processes to support formative assessment. Following our initial training and research, all staff at Nether Hall will be supported in adopting the system. The school will build a comprehensive recording system which will capture a wide range of pupils’ achievements, and allow all subject leaders to evaluate their area of responsibility by being able to track pupils’ progress against objectives and outcomes.
User Guides will be created within the project to allow Nether Hall staff to become mentors for other Special Schools within the city. The project will benefit both the school and parents by providing a means of dialogue between parents and staff. It will allow staff to send photos of pupils’ success easily and quickly electronically to parents. It will also allow the office staff to send out notifications to all parents.
The resources created by Nether Hall project leads will be shared via open licence with staff from other schools within the city. The user guides produced will be used to provide staff training for staff at other schools. The project leads will become mentors for staff at other schools; they will be committed to spreading the knowledge gained to other schools.
Project lead Fran Duinker writes:
Nether Hall’s achievement project has two main streams of activity:
Firstly, improved gathering of photographic evidence for formative assessment of our pupils. Pupils who have Severe or Profound and Multiple learning Difficulties often produce very limited written work, and photographic evidence accompanied by a written narrative, is an excellent method of providing evidence that a learning outcome has been achieved. “A picture says a thousand words”, especially when fully annotated.
Secondly, greater sharing of images and information with parents and carers. We are a multicultural school with 16 different languages being spoken by our pupils and parents. Photographs are a superb medium for enhancing our relationship with our parents and providing parents with information about our pupils’ achievements.
Having investigated a range of software options and spoken to a number of mainstream school who use a variety of software packages for collecting evidence of learning, we felt that 2Build a Profile would best meet our requirements for creating a whole school system for gathering observations, and photographic evidence, and we would be able to use this as a means for supporting formative assessment.
This software was chosen because:
• It is easy to quickly link photographs to objectives. These objectives come from a variety of assessment packages which we use throughout school. P levels as provided by central government; Pivats, a scheme produced by Lancashire Education Authority; Aim awards which are used in the majority of Leicester City Special Schools and have QCF criteria, as well as any other assessment tools which we have developed in school specifically for using with our pupils.
• It is a simple system that all staff can use.
• Photographs can be taken & stores on the device which can be annotated and included in the school system at a later date.
We looked at a variety of devices that all staff would be able to use and that would be capable of running the software package, and selected the iPad mini. Whole staff training on 2 Build a Profile took place in January 2015. In the interim the managers of the project were trained to use the software and the management system was set up ready for staff to use and staff training material produced.
Staff from other city special schools were also invited to attend the January training session, and three schools chose to send representatives. Having since spoken to the other special schools that attended the training, two schools have since purchased different software packages which meets their specific pupil’s needs, and have decided that the data will only be entered by teaching staff.
This training included:
- Importing class lists from SIMS via CSV files.
- The management of class groups, so that pupils can be added or removed and class groups can be populated each academic year from existing classes so there is no loss of data.
- Downloading photographs to the school system.
- Uploading video clips into pupils files.
Staff are now exploring the software by capturing images of both groups and individuals within their class settings. They are also exploring how best to use it to annotate pupils learning and find the appropriate level on different platforms (e.g. PIVATS; AIM; P levels).
- Teaching assistants need to be familiar with the PIVATs format in order to quickly find the appropriate learning objective.
- Staff will need further training to more accurately capture the learning that they are trying to evidence and this may include taking a sequence of photos.
- Further training is required that provide staff with how to write appropriate narratives that contextualise learning.
- Address training issues by providing training time in academic year 2015 – 2016.
- To identify a small number of parents to participate in a trial for 2 Engage Parents.
- To create a guide on using photographic evidence to support the assessment and feedback process.
To date 2build a profile is being used in all classrooms. Some Teaching Assistants remain less confident using the technology and this will be address in the near future. After completion of the training staff were ‘upbeat’ about the possibilities provided by the software and were thinking creatively as to how it might enhance the pupil profiles, provide evidence for moderation, provide a source of material for reporting to parents and provide evidence of needs to other agencies.
This project is still in its infancy however staff have responded positively to the trial and all classes are actively using the package.