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Thursday, 15 May 2014

IPACA Focus of SWGfL Newsletter

SWGfL (South West Grid for Learning) is a not for profit, charitable trust company, funded by 15 Local Authorities across the South West of England. Recently they made IPACA a feature of their newsletter which is sent to schools and colleges throughout the South West of England.

"Windows to the World" - IPACA leading the way in the digital age

IPACAThe Education team at SWGfL had a great opportunity to visit our inspirational friends at the IPACA Academy on the Isle of Portland last week. We met with Gary Spracklen, Director of Digital Learning at the Academy, whose passion for revolutionising education in this digital age is more than clear.

So what makes the IPACA Academy such an exciting place for children to learn?

Taking your shoes off as you walk into one of the ‘super-classrooms’, it is immediately evident that the Academy is breaking the mould of the traditional ‘30 same-age pupils, 1 teacher’ classroom model. Taking inspiration from IPACA patron and visionary educationalist Stephen Heppell, the school have adopted a ‘stage not age’ approach to progression where pupils are taught in classrooms with up to 90 peers across the age range, moving on when they are ready. This learner-led design ensures that the education experience really is tailored to each individual pupil.

Super Classroom

Embracing and celebrating technology is at the centre of the new approach. Following a successful trial of 16 Google Chromebooks in Food Technology classrooms, the school now provides each and every secondary pupil with their own Chromebook, with all data and applications stored in the cloud. And the best thing? This is at zero cost to families. So in an area which sits within the lowest 20% of child-wellbeing nationally, each pupil now has their own device that they bring to the classroom each day and can take home to use for homework. At primary level, in a cohort of 240 pupils, the school has 90 iPads, 90 Chromebooks and 30 desktop Windows PCs. The aim is for a ‘device agnostic’ approach in which pupils are confident and competent with a range of technologies.
‘Windows to the World’ is now a regular feature in primary classrooms and sees a group of pupils using Skype Education to connect to another classroom anywhere in the world, participating in a game of 20 questions to try and work out where the other pupils are based. At secondary level, YouTube is used in dance classes with pupils filming routines using their devices, applying filters and immediately uploading to the site. Using a cloud-based storage system encourages collaborative working across classes and years as different pupils in different locations can work on the same project, and edits are saved in real-time.

And support for the teachers? Every Tuesday evening at the Academy sees an Engage, Innovate & Inspire CPD session in which teachers are educated in software such as Google Apps and Edmodo, and how they can be proactively used in the classroom.
IPACA img2
For an approach such as this to really make a difference, both staff and students must be engaged, and the support required put in place. This is recognised at IPACA and the school has created a network of 140 engaged ‘Digital Leaders’ across the age range from 3-16 who share ideas around the use of technology and new software. Using Edmodo the group hold meetings online and provide digital support around the school, training parents and adults where required.

As we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. In sequence with all the ‘super-cool whizzy technology’, the pupils at IPACA are also taught how to behave safely and responsibly in our digital world. This is through delivery of the SWGfL Digital Literacy curriculum which provides a structured range of free resources and ideas of how to integrate with other subjects, broken down by year group.

To access the free Digital Literacy curriculum, visit

We came away from our visit with a new appreciation of what is possible in the classroom, provided the vision and passion is there. As the global community becomes increasingly digitised, this is a really exciting time for schools and the next generation, and the pupils living on the Isle of Portland are at the forefront of this.

The Isle of Portland
Published: 5/13/2014