Wand and West Exe School - A case study partnership
A Wand Education Case Study
Marking and reporting: two words that strike fear (or at least frustration) into the heart of a staffroom! As teachers, we enter into the profession to make a positive impact on learners and inspire the next generation to be empowered members of society. But, more often than not, non-teaching tasks like marking and reporting get in the way – meaning we are left with precious little time to focus on ensuring individual student progression.
Three years ago, West Exe School decided to make a change. As part of our commitment to fundamentally change and improve the educational experience of our students, we set about finding a way to improve our processes, in part through technology.
We came across Wand Education, a platform which provides automated marking and one-click reporting in our classrooms. It has been the spearhead of a wide-scale transformation project at West Exe and has helped us to drive sharp improvements in our quality of teaching. We are proud to be one of the many successful Schools belonging to the Ted Wragg Multi-Academy Trust and we celebrated our best-ever exam results in 2018.
The Trust and all of the staff at West Exe School continue to focus on what will have the greatest impact in supporting our students to achieve success. The clear and tangible results speak for themselves – not only vastly improving student outcomes, but also the work-life balance of our teaching staff.
The West Exe ethos
We are a school with very high expectations of and for our students; only their best is good enough. By reducing teacher workload we are able to provide students with opportunities to shine, through excellent teaching and innovative practice. The school has a vibrant and rich extra-curricular provision and a curriculum that challenges and inspires from the start of year 7 and is increasingly personalised as students move up through the school. We believe in ensuring students achieve a good range of qualifications but also develop the skills to use these to move on successfully to a destination of their choice. West Exe School is a vibrant community united in its commitment to creating opportunities for students and staff to achieve success.
Technology has been a vitally important part of this for two key reasons. Firstly, it has improved our ability to accelerate students’ learning. The analytic tools allow for quick diagnosis of whole class and individual student learning needs and deficits in their knowledge acquisition, a key component in the new style GCSEs over recent years. Secondly, technology has aided our drive to reduce teacher workload. At a time where 40% of teachers are cited as wanting to leave the profession within the next 5 years, West Exe School is proud of the positive and optimistic feedback received from all staff. Whilst we recognise the need to use conventional written tests to assess how students can apply the knowledge accumulated in each subject, this is limited to three times annually. In between, our staff can use Wand to assess students’ knowledge retention with a few clicks of the mouse. They do not need to spend hours and hours marking tests.
How does it work?
We use the Progress and Attainment report, which sees each student receiving one test from each teacher at the start and at the end of each cycle (week one and week ten of each term).
After students take the first test in week one, teachers get access to PLC Charts that highlight exactly what students know at a question and learning objective level. They get actionable data and insights on where the learning gaps are.
After students take the second test in week ten, teachers and senior leaders will get access to Wand Progress and Attainment Reports. This shows a wide range of data, from student progress, student attainment, results at subject level, teacher level, year level and school level, whilst comparing various student groups (for example, boys, those with special educational needs, or disadvantaged students) This allows for early intervention and better transparency when it comes to student progress.
In terms of benefits, time savings have been enormous. We also have better visibility of student and teacher activity – as well as actionable data on student progress.
Tech tools for success
Although Wand Education plays a key role in our school, our use of technology doesn’t stop there. We use a wide range of different E-Learning platforms and software packages. At Key Stage 4, for example, we utilise GCSEPod for revision activities and to support home learning. This has been integrated in Class Charts for the tracking of homework and merits and demerits. We have areas of the school where Moodle, which is also supported by the H5P plugin, provides automated assessments in the platform.
Within Maths, we also use Sparx, Heggarty Maths and PinPoint learning to support automated assessment and digitised online home learning. This just scratches the surface – but you get the picture.
Overcoming challenges with technology
It’s a familiar issue for almost every Head Teacher but West Exe faces a challenging budgetary situation. A robust financial plan for the next five years and integration into the Ted Wragg Multi-Academy Trust has allowed us to circumvent many of the issues that might otherwise allow the financial constraints of the current educational climate to impact upon learning. We have also been very careful with the technology and software packages we have bought into. Wand’s functionality fits perfectly with our technological ethos but, critically, it is also competitively priced.
As with many other schools, we also face challenges related to academic outcomes. As one of the fastest improving schools in the area, we aim to continue the school’s upward trajectory. In order to do this, we recognise the importance of our staff and work hard to maintain the sound work/life balance that has been established – reducing meetings, marking and other onerous tasks which otherwise detract from outstanding classroom teaching.
We also know how important it is to pool best practice from around the UK education sector and actively invite high performing schools to share their practices with us, whilst also visiting top-performing schools for continued inspiration. However, we believe that our innovative use of technology is also something that many schools can learn from – and we look forward to working collaboratively with other educators in the future.
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