St. Thomas Community Primary School is a large primary school located on the eastside of Swansea. According to the statistics published at the time of this project being implemented, 83% of the children in the school come from properties that are considered to be within the 30% most deprived in Wales however, approximately 85% of the pupils in the school have access to a computer at home which is internet enabled.
St. Thomas Community Primary is a community focused school, sharing facilities with St. Thomas Library, St. Thomas Community Centre and Swansea Parks Department. The school qualified for RAISE grant funding and some of this has been utilized to embed a sustainable model of parental engagement using ICT that brings about meaningful learning within the home and community.
St. Thomas has recognised the importance of parental engagement with children’s learning in the home as a significant factor in the overall improvement in children’s attainment. To support this approach the school wanted to actively develop the use of community licenses for the software used in school as an integrated part of the school website so that parents and pupils could have access to a wide range of password protected high quality interactive activities either within the home or for those without internet access, within the adjoined library. It was hoped that this would ensure that coherent learning between home and school could take place at no additional cost to parents.
It was hoped that by extending the learning into the home in partnership with parents the attainment of children in the areas targeted by these pieces of software (numeracy, literacy and ICT) would improve.
The school identified 42 children initially using NFER and teacher assessments to take part in the project with their parents to try to further develop learning links between home and school. The head teacher and ICT co-ordinator visited the BETT Technology Exhibition to look at identifying and purchasing software which would address the children’s needs in class but also be clear and concise enough for parents to use at home with confidence with their children. Internet based software was identified which would take away the need for installing program on home machines which would target both literacy and numeracy skills and raise confidence.
The school then set about working in partnership with the children and parents together giving parental workshops showing both the children and parents how to access and use the software together.
The software chosen has the ability to be customised by the teacher to set the level of activities which the child undertakes at home so that they know that what they are undertaking are activities that support the areas of literacy or numeracy that the child needs to focus on.
As the children are placed into sets for literacy and numeracy, each child has a user name and password which associates them with a particular teacher. The teacher is then able to select activities that they would like to children to be able to ‘see’ when they log on which focus on the particular aspects of the curriculum which may be covered in class that week.
Each child has a laminated ‘log on information sheet’ which goes home with the learning link book each night so that parents know the user names and password to access the areas of the site to reach the activities set. Along with this, the school has produced and circulated ‘help sheets’ with the parents to raise the profile of the project. All of these services are linked from the school website which has a dedicated pupil zone which the pupils log into to access these services.
Analysis of children’s learning outcomes have been carried out annually using a variety of considered approaches such as classroom observations of the activities undertaken led by the core subject co-ordinators and Headteacher or NFER standardised tests which have shown that the targeted children have made pleasing progress.
The school’s approach has targeted individual children in certain areas of learning but the project has been structured in such a way that all of the children in the classes have benefitted from the use of the school website links and the open invitation to parental workshops and lesson observations.
With so many children living in areas of considered deprivation the school’s website gives everyone the opportunity to access high quality software for free whether at home or in the library on site.The PTA has appreciated the software on the web site and has agreed to pay the licenses in the foreseeable future.