The Castle Phoenix Trust is a growing multi-academy trust which was founded in February 2013 on the success of the Caludon Castle Teaching School (the original trust member). Currently there are 6 schools within the Trust, which specialises in ‘Leadership’.
We caught up with Alex Handy, Lead for Digital Technology, and Victoria McManus, Deputy Headteacher at Caludon Castle School, to ask them about their experience of using Firefly across the schools in the Trust. Download the full case study.
Caludon Castle School adopted Firefly 7 years ago with the initial goal of improving student engagement in home learning. As the Trust has grown their challenges have also centred around sharing best practice across the trust and embedding the use of technology in creative teaching and learning.
Finding the right balance of giving autonomy to schools whilst also providing consistency in ways which helps with sharing best practice and making workload easier for teachers can be a challenge for any Multi-academy Trust. Although Firefly was well established at Caludon Castle, the arrival of COVID 19 further accelerated the use of Firefly at other schools across the Trust.
How did Firefly help?
Firefly has provided a platform which enables Castle Phoenix schools to share resources; embed consistent practice; and improve the use of technology in creative teaching and learning across all departments. Through a consistent structure for menus, resources and pages, Firefly helped the schools make sure that the experience was the same for everyone. This has helped engagement as it makes it simple for everyone to know where to go for the information they need.
“Having consistency across the trust and having all of our admin on Firefly cuts down on the time and workload of those tasks.”
In common with many schools, there was a concern regarding whether students would be able to continue their studies online during this time. This was a particular worry for those students in the school SEND unit, but these students were able to access remote learning through Firefly and in many cases saw 100% attendance. Indeed, for some students, the volume and quality of work actually increased in the digital environment.
Castle Phoenix Trust has created a trust-level Firefly environment, separate to the school ones, where just the staff have access. Here is where they have created a learning hub to support staff, at any level, to progress in their professional development. With the disruption due to COVID, the trust's annual learning and teaching conference, usually held in person, was moved online. However, through Firefly, they were able to add all of the resources from leaders across all six schools to deliver the day remotely. With all of the resources and sessions available online, this has created a vast shared bank of CPD resources and top tips
What were the key benefits?
- Consistency - a consistent structure ensures that all staff, and students, can easily find any resources they are looking for - from home learning tasks through to admin forms and daily timetables.
- Engagement in home learning - students know where to go for home learning, how to complete tasks, and where to find work in cover lessons. Parents can access and see what their children need to do, as well as accessing training to help them support at home.
- Shared resources - shared best practice top tips, bespoke courses for CPD, and 7 home learning page templates all help to share resources across the whole trust using the import/export features.
What is next?
Although there is strong use across the trust there are schools who have joined at different points which means there is still work to be done to get everyone to the same level. Alex aims to have every school to a level, from which they can share even more, to both provide impact for all students and reduce workload for staff.
Firefly, Apple (iPads) and Microsoft are the three main tools in use and Alex estimates that 90% of his training for teachers now centres on those three technology providers. This will, moving forward, help him to keep a consistent approach with all schools and free up training time to focus on the teaching and learning aspects of digital technologies, with a vision to upskill students and make them even more independent with using technology meaningfully in their learning.
With the primary schools, particularly, Alex is also keen to keep exploring how Firefly will look for them long term as they have joined later than the secondary schools. Work is ongoing and successes, such as the parent videos for home learning, are helping to form this.
The use of Firefly at Castle Phoenix Trust has increased student engagement in home learning; provided a virtual learning environment for students both in the classroom and at home; and given all staff a place to easily find resources, administrative forms, and bespoke CPD offerings. Firefly has enabled creative solutions to a number of needs across departments and provides the schools with a consistency of approach. The “shared language” of Firefly means students and staff always know where to find what they need and this enables the trust to make the use of digital technology both meaningful and manageable.
“Firefly has become part of the language here.”
For more information about how Castle Phoenix Trust are using Firefly to deliver outstanding teaching and learning across their schools, download the full case study.