On Friday 9th October 2020, the ‘EdTech Vision 2025’ report was published by the EdTech Advisory Forum in response to the Educational Select Committee’s request for views and evidence on the ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on education and Children’s Service’. The report celebrated both the tenacity and resourcefulness of teachers, support staff, schools and colleges from across the UK as they dealt with the challenges thrust upon them due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the report called for an end of governmental indecision towards Educational Technology whilst requesting the development of a dedicated Office for EdTech.
Schools with pre-existing digital deployments were cited as being at an advantage when moving to remote learning. Indeed, we are proud to report that the paper featured the RGS Worcester Family of Schools as an example of how embedded digital strategy and culture meant that we were successfully able to mitigate learning loss. The report used triangulated data, collated by RGSW at the end of the Trinity term, that proved our pupils had continued to progress in interactive and engaging remote lessons, facilitated by our Digital Learning Programme.
“…at RGS Worcester 97% of teachers and 93% of pupils agreed that they had been able to continue to progress when using technology to learn remotely. These figures are replicated in their other schools too. They also discovered that the unprecedented circumstances had also resulted in a dramatic digital up-skilling of both teachers and pupils whilst increasing their confidence to further embrace and utilise digital technology at school”
To be mentioned as a leading UK example of digital learning in the corridors of power in Westminster is really quite something for RGS Worcester. Although we cannot claim to have foreseen a global pandemic, having our Digital Learning Programme in place meant we did have an opportunity to keep learning alive for every single one of our 1300+ pupils when schools across the UK went into Lockdown. We have embraced digital technology for a number of years, knowing that a digital deployment would help prepare students for the digital world in which we all live. Our Digital Learning Programme began in 2014 and means that all pupils from y1-y13 have a personal iPad whilst all our teachers have an iPad and/or a MacBook and as a consequence, digital learning is deeply embedded within our school culture. In a small window before school closure, we re-mapped our Digital Strategy to ensure delivering a full-curriculum remotely became a reality. We designed evidence-informed remote learning models, guidelines and CPD workshops that meant pupils and teachers were fully prepared for remote schooling and would avoid any significant loss of learning. Knowing that another lockdown could be a possibility, we subsequently gathered the data cited in the report to learn what we had done well, but also where we could make improvements.
The report goes on to make a number of recommendations including a new EdTech strategy from government that would include infrastructure rebuilds, improved access to devices, further support for digital capacity, capabilities, curriculum and enhanced recognition of the positives of education technology to support teaching and learning. We know how privileged we are at RGS Worcester to already have the digital infrastructure and resources in place to provide outstanding education on-site and indeed remotely. However, we also concur with the recommendations laid out by the EdTech Advisory Forum. Already we have advised a number of schools such as the Bridge School in Malvern, The Windsor Academy Trust in the West Midlands and the Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough about developing digital strategy and adopting individual pupil devices. Moving forward, we would also like to offer our support to any other school that is considering adopting digital technology. We also shared our story with a number of other Apple Distinguished Schools in ‘Remote Learning and Teaching’ publication, available on the Apple Book Store. These challenging times offer a real incentive for schools to work together, share good practice and be there for one another as ultimately, we all share the same mission; to ensure learning continues for our pupils and they are able to fulfil their endless potential. Having a holistic and forward-thinking digital strategy goes someway to ensuring that happens.