Dylan Thomas Community School

Facilitating access to ICT out of school hours in a Secondary setting.

Dylan Thomas Community School is located in the Cockett area of the city and has nearly six hundred children on roll. As with all schools, Dylan Thomas Community School faces the challenge of meeting a wide range of Additional Learning Needs and has a firm commitment to using ICT to raise standards in the school and to develop the children’s key skills ready for either further education after Key Stage Four or the world of work. The school has a number of well resourced suites and class room based banks of computers which are used to support learning across the subjects of the curriculum.

Dylan Thomas Community School’s ICT Co-ordinator, Paul Davies was looking to try to enable children to have access to ICT equipment and software outside of ‘teaching time’ so that the children could use ICT to further their achievements and not be disadvantaged in any way if they did not have access to a computer or the internet at home.

He wanted the children to have the facility to finish off homework, undertake individual research into a topic or issue or use the school’s Virtual Learning Environment set up in partnership with the Local Education Authority to undertake learning activities to support classroom activities.

Mr. Davies and his colleagues within the school set up a number of initiatives to enable the children identified by staff to meet their own particular needs be they development of ICT skills, improving literacy or numeracy skills, or giving access to resources which may not be available at home such as computers or internet based resources.

At lunch time in the school three computer suites are opened up to the children in the school which are supervised by members of the ICT teaching staff or other staff who volunteer their time. This means that there are seventy PC’s available for use by the children to undertake various activities to help them with their learning. These could be related to work undertaken in any aspect of their studies within Dylan Thomas Community School

For three evenings of the week the ICT suites again are opened up for use by children after school to further their studies. Key Stage Three children are able to access the learning materials in the Virtual Learning Environment using their unique pupil log on to undertake a range of tasks and activities linked to the courses that they are studying in a widening range of areas of the curriculum.

The children who attend from Key Stage Four are encouraged to firstly complete coursework for their GCSE’s which may not be able to be completed at home due to the unavailability of software or hardware. As all children undertake ICT at GCSE level within the school Mr Davies felt that it was important that the children were given as much access to the equipment as possible. If they have completed their ICT coursework they are encouraged to complete course work or research in other areas of the curriculum.

Some children though find it off putting to undertake this work in this setting. The school has identified through its community links that many of the children of the school use the Phoenix Centre in Townhill in the evenings. From discussion with the children, staff at the Phoenix Centre and the senior leadership of the school it has been decided to undertake feasibility studies into locating school equipment and software in the Phoenix Centre to widen the base of facilities which the school offers to give the children access to ICT resources outside of the classroom.

The access to the computers at both lunch and after school time has been a success with high numbers of children regularly attending the sessions to undertake coursework or other activities in which ICT would help and support them.

Mr. Davies feels that the children have made improvements in their ICT skills in not just ICT as a subject but as a transferable skill to other areas of the curriculum. The facility has contributed positively to the raise in standards for ICT in the school as the children are able to spend more time on the computers to complete their coursework to a higher standard with professional input from the teachers supervising the access.

If the school is successful in extending the facilities to the Phoenix Centre, Mr. Davies believes that it will attract children who would not normally come to an event such as this in the school setting and would think of the Phoenix Centre as being a less formal setting to learn while still being able to access the same software, internet based information and the Virtual Learning Environment that would be available in the school based clubs.