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Preparing for the new academic year: 3 unmissable tips from a digital leader

We caught up with David Horton, Head of Digital Strategy at Orwell Park School, to discover how they are preparing for the new academic year. David talked about the tough challenges the school faced over the last year as well as how they will be improving their parent communications and digital infrastructure over the coming months.

David has nearly 25 years in EdTech in both technical and teaching roles across a number of schools, and recently spearheaded the school's COVID19 response, resourcing and training teachers to deliver a full curriculum, all day, every day. 


What has been the experience of teaching & learning at Orwell Park over the last year? 

While clearly a step change from what we had been used to, the experience of teaching and learning at Orwell Park over the last year has been very positive, delivering a full curriculum in Online, Hybrid and COVID secure school contexts, with no discernable learning lag for our children.  The greatest challenge was probably getting all of the pupils and parents connected, but by centralising Firefly as our primary interaction, this was overcome within three or four days of starting the first lockdown.


How have you been rethinking teaching & Learning? 

I think the major effect that the last year has had on teaching and learning for us is a much greater willingness to mark work and provide feedback to the pupils fully electronically.  The combination of the Firefly Teacher iPad app and the Apple Pencil has been a huge asset in this area, and most teachers who adopted their use when working online are continuing to do so now we’re back in school.


What are your plans for the new academic year? 

My main plan for the new school year is to generally improve integration and interaction between various systems. We're planning to buy into new products which will allow us to integrate some minor paper / spreadsheet based admin fully into our MIS (and therefore Firefly), and also move over to Firefly’s parent messaging system which is much better than the one we’ve been using for the last few years.


What are your top 3 tips for schools looking to improve their digital strategy? 

  1. The Governors, Head and Leadership Team all have to want it, and make the efforts required to achieve it.

  2. Consistency is king: try to settle on as few processes and as small a range of hardware as possible - a teacher should be able to move between classrooms without needing to retrain.  This creates an environment where confidence and cross-pollination of ideas can flourish.

  3. Get the right person to lead it, and make the job fit the person rather than trying to find the person to fit the job. They need to have vision, the ability to communicate that vision and enough technical understanding to oversee its implementation.  And they need the time to do it.

If you’d like some more tips on how to improve your digital approach for the next academic year you may enjoy watching our recent webinar - rethinking your digital approach - or reading our latest blended learning guide

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