This April we successfully secured a bid from Bradford Local Education Authority to provide an exciting and (we hope) effective e-learning based transition project for a group of Year 6 students who are about to leave our feeder primary schools and join us at Dixons Allerton Academy as Year 7 students in September. The funding has allowed us to provide a Chromebook to a large number of incoming students. This will enable them to access an online transition programme that we have put together to help improve the literacy and numeracy ability of incoming students who have not made expected progress in Key Stage 2. In this post I will outline the rationale for the project and what we have implemented.
Before outlining the details of the project, if you haven’t had a chance to read Ofsted’s report Key Stage 3: The Wasted Years? (2016) I would highly recommend that you take the time to give it a read! It informed our thinking a lot when planning this project.
While the report has a key focus on making Key Stage 3 a much greater priority in Secondary Education there is a high level of focus and emphasis on creating a solid and stable academic transition between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. The report notes that school leaders often prioritise the pastoral rather than the academic needs of students as they start in Year 7 (Ofsted 2016, p.17) and recommends that schools place an equal emphasis on the academic and pastoral needs of students during transition (Ofsted 2016, p.8). Moreover, Ansford Academy is praised for having reliable assessment data that it can apply before students arrive for the first time in Year 7 (Ofsted 2016, p.16).
Educational technology can be an amazingly powerful vehicle for assisting the transition between Key Stage 2 and 3. While technology in the classroom can be incredibly powerful, the real power of e-learning (for me at least) is that it enables 24/7 access to a high quality education. The school day may physically end at 3.30pm, but there are opportunities to learn beyond this time that e-learning opens up. This provides e-learning resources with a real opportunity to academically support students who are making the transition between Key Stage 2 and 3 when, for 5 or 6 weeks, they have no physical access to a teacher.
Our bid for the project involved finding students who were below average in their numeracy and literacy and providing each of these students with a Chromebook which would allow them to access a ‘Transition Centre’ that we developed in Frog Learn. Our goal is to ensure that the the project keeps students fresh and familiar with key literacy, numeracy and reading skills over the summer and to ensure that they have a platform that will allow them to study and make academic progress in these areas.
The Year 6 Transition Centre contains just three key features that we hope will achieve this:
- A link to Lexia Strategies – We have used this extensively over the past two years as a successful literacy intervention for students in Key Stage 3 to help ensure that they all reach their chronological reading age.
- A link to the Khan Academy – We started using the Khan Academy this year as a successful numeracy intervention tool that students can use in their own time. We have told our new students to work for 20 minutes a day on the Arithmetic course and we registered my account as the coach (for tracking). We can sit back over the summer and track who is making great progress, who needs more support with key topics and even those who are not putting in any effort.
- An e-book – In an earlier post I outlined how we built a single-sign on e-library that links with Frog (and also Google). So we’ve given every scholar a fiction e-book to read each week. This is our first venture into using e-books for fiction! So we have allocated each scholar an e-book to read each week. Using Frog rules we’ve been able to differentiate the content based on the reading age of each student (which we assessed when they joined the school). This ensures that the content is properly differentiated.
Once everything was developed we hosted two evening events to train students and parents on how to use everything that we had developed. We then issued the devices and off they went! Hopefully to have a meaningful academic experience over the summer.
Tracking in the background has been really interesting and as I’ve said on a number of occasions, being able to carefully track usage and engagement is one of the largest benefits of e-learning! Unfortunately, there’s a very small minority of students who are not using anything that we have developed. While this is unfortunate, it does give us a group of students who we know that we will need to talk to about their attitudes towards learning…before they even officially walk in the door!
However, on the whole this has been a huge success (so far), our new students are reading, practicing their literacy and their numeracy over the summer. I am impressed by the engagement of the vast majority of our new students We can track students who are making progress and where there are points for us to pick up on and support in September. This has been one of the most rewarding projects we have worked on. I’m very optimistic that it will continue to be used well and effectively over the summer!by