Prior to 2020, Richmond had seen improvement beyond recognition since joining The Stour Academy Trust in 2017. We had stabilised staffing, introduced consistency with curriculum and behaviour and retained staff for the third academic year running.
However, we had hit a point where we needed to do something different to take the school to the next level of success; we wanted to provide opportunities for our children that would allow them to develop the skills needed to thrive in the 21st Century.
We knew that the class of 2030 would need a very different provision to what we were providing at the start of the pandemic. During the first National Lockdown both staff and children upskilled their digital competencies and we didn’t want to lose this on returning to classrooms.
Equally, we recognised that children and staff had accessed learning in a less traditional style during remote learning and we wanted to provide learning spaces that were just as flexible and accommodating for all learning styles and needs.
We joined the Microsoft Showcase School program as we knew it would be an integral part of our journey to achieve our vision for education.
What is a Showcase School?
Microsoft Showcase Schools are a global community of schools engaged in digital transformation to improve teaching and learning. Showcase Schools create immersive and inclusive experiences that inspire lifelong learning, stimulating development of essential life skills so students are empowered to achieve more.
Showcase schools use Microsoft’s Education Transformation Framework to drive a culture of learning, innovation, and continuous improvement.
There are currently under 100 schools in the United Kingdom that have achieved Showcase School status.
Why is Richmond Academy a Showcase School?
Microsoft has recognised Richmond Academy as being at the forefront of a significant shift from the traditional philosophies and practices around teaching and learning. As a school we are leading the way to develop a greater focus on personalised learning, allowing children to encounter a truly modern learning experience that centres attention on the individual needs of the children.
Technology plays a critical role in providing children at Richmond Academy the tools to give them more control over how they learn and engage and Microsoft have acknowledged our efforts in what we can summarise into four areas: Leadership, Collaboration & Inclusivity, Purposeful integration of technology and Personalised learning.
We follow a shared vision for transforming the way we educate our children. Our vision for education focuses on developing the key skills that our children will need in the future, such as creativity, communication, problem solving and relationship building, skills that not only support academic learning but also promote well-being.
We have strategic plans and structures in place to improve the knowledge of our staff. Our staff have received extensive training and professional development opportunities to empower them to improve our children’s learning. Many members of Richmond staff are also ‘Digital Leaders’ who provide training and support for teaching staff not only at Richmond Academy, but across Kent in the other schools in The Stour Academy Trust.
Richmond has been hosting ‘Showcase Tours’ where members of staff from across The Stour Academy Trust, as well as other educational professionals and businesses visit our school to see our vision for education in action!
Many of our members of staff are also Microsoft ambassadors for a variety of educational tools. Our Digital Champion for Minecraft, Mr Kaljouw, has become a Microsoft Global Minecraft Mentor!
All of our staff hold Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Status, an achievement which recognises educators who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.
Collaboration and Inclusivity
With learning environments focused on children and access to digital technology, we allow our children to remove any barriers to education themselves, creating a level playing field for all children, regardless of any additional learning needs.
Every one of our classrooms has at least two collaboration zones – dedicated areas that children use regularly to work in pairs or groups to achieve a common learning goal.
Moving away from the traditional classroom setup, all of our classrooms follow a child-centred approach where children are able to take advantage of our flexible classroom furniture to move around the class to suit the current learning activity. This gives children more opportunities to work with others, be social or work independently. This has resulted in the improvement of the engagement and well-being of both our children and our staff.
In our classrooms we make inclusion tools accessible to all, rather than just children with a SEND need which has meant that every child can access help, when needed and confidently.
Purposeful integration of technology
With the intentional deployment of technology, children are able to have more control of how they learn and how they can demonstrate their learning.
As children progress into KS2, all classes are now effectively teaching the majority of their daily lessons via the Microsoft OneNote app. OneNote is an online digital notebook in which children record their personal learning, have access to teacher models and lesson resources and work collaboratively with other children on a single document at the same time.
All children in KS2 have an individual iPad, which becomes their own personal learning tool for them to use throughout their KS2 journey. Children are encouraged to take their iPad home with them so that they are able to refer back to, carry on with or even share their learning with parents.
Our children are able use their iPad to digitally ink using a digital pen, or type, depending on what best suits the task.
In addition, our children have access to a variety of technology to use in their learning such as green screen recording, QR codes, video recording, 3D world builders, audio recording and much, much more!
Children can insert images they have taken, links to websites they have found, audio recordings they have made and even video recordings they have created in their responses. This technology is readily accessible in the classroom to allow children to produce highly personal and powerful responses to tasks through joyful and memorable experiences. For example, children may take advantage of a green screen to produce a video response to a topic or even use Minecraft to demonstrate their learning in an interactive, online world!
Our children use Microsoft reflect as an emotional check-in tool, the insights of which are used by teacher to address issues and look for trends.
We use Tapestry with Children and parents in EYFS and Year 1 to share and celebrate their learning with their teachers and families – giving them ownership as a leader of their own learning.
Our teachers focus on teaching using more flexible, interactive and personalised methods that allow children to become more involved in the learning process.
Many of our children have access to Minecraft: Education Edition and are able to use this to engage with the curriculum on a deeper and more meaningful level in many areas of the curriculum. Learning through play is an essential step in long term retention and Minecraft: Education Edition facilitates this amazingly in the classroom.
Audio and Video are used throughout our Classrooms to provide children with an alternative way of responding to a question or task. Our teachers also use both Audio and Video to provide digital feedback for children. Instead of a traditional next step comment or mark of recognition, children are able to watch or listen to more personlised feedback left by their teacher.
Many of our teachers make use of video to record their Teacher input, so that children can access it independently, and watch it back as many times as they wish. If children are stuck or need support, they are able to refer back to any recorded input from any previous lessons, allowing them to use their problem solving and independence skills before they need support from the teacher.
All of our children are encouraged to use digital tools to determine what they need to be successful; perhaps changing the font size, space between lines, page colour, text colour, language or even using headphones to listen to text being read aloud to them.
All our classrooms have Green Screen technology available in the classroom, as well as access to our Digital Dens, which include Green Screen equipment, VR glasses and Merge Cubes, Stop-Motion animation equipment and lots of dressing up clothes related to our Wider Curriculum Topics. This enables teachers to bring learning to life, engage students in their learning and at the end of each topic, produce a product that can be shared with a specific audience.