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Leading Derby IT company says more schools need to make the most of innovative education technology

Mickleover Primary School work closely with L.E.A.D. IT Services and have their own ICT Department. Image: Penguin PR.

SCHOOLS in the UK have a way to go if they are to make the best use of information technology, according to a leading IT company.

L.E.A.D. IT Services, based in Derby, offer fully-managed IT support across the UK and currently work with 25 internal schools, 100 external schools and businesses.

They support primary and secondary schools across the UK, including MATs such as Reach2 Academy and Embark Federation. And, thanks to the expertise of their technicians, these schools are leading the way when it comes to using platforms such as Microsoft Teams for learning, and apps including DB Primary and cloud-based education software like Senso.cloud.

However, there is a distinct gap in knowledge between primary school teaching staff, and those working in secondary and further education which needs to be addressed, says senior technician Sophie Jepson.

Sophie, who has an education degree and had originally planned to be a teacher, supports primary schools in and around Derby dealing with issues such as connectivity and offering guidance to technicians within the schools to resolve issues and learn new skills.

She said: “Primary schools embrace education technology – edtech for short – and the schools we work with love innovative apps such as Scratch Junior, which enables children to create their own interactive stories and games, and Audacity.

“But we often find that children who leave primary school with relatively advanced IT skills move to secondary schools and are then using low-level IT such as Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.

“This can be due to a number of reasons but, more commonly, it’s because the staff at secondary school have a lack of knowledge when it comes to teaching IT. Our aim at L.E.A.D. IT Services is to help bridge this gap in knowledge and empower teachers and teaching staff to learn new skills that can be passed on to their students.”

Sophie’s words come as the government plans to shelve its flagship edtech demonstrator programme after just two years, claiming that it is no longer needed now that schools have returned to face-to-face learning following the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Education programme saw several schools, colleges and academy trusts given funding to become “demonstrators” that would enable them to help other institutions harness edtech. Despite the scheme being scrapped, the DfE has acknowledged that schools have “some distance to go” to make the best use of technology available.

One school that is leading the way, though, is Mickleover Primary School.

The Vicarage Road school has its own ICT suite with all children – including those in Reception – encouraged to use the facility.

Erica Clennell is the IT co-ordinator at Mickleover Primary School. She also leads on the i-vengers project; a peer-led digital programme funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire, together with Derbyshire County Council. I-Vengers seeks to engage, educate and empower young explorers of digital technologys and Erica has been working with four youngsters – Year 5 pupils Coco and Lucy, and Y6 students Florrie and Archie – since September.

Together, they have produced a video for their peers on how to use TikTok safely, and how to stay safe online.

“Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have an age restriction of 13,” she said, “but we know that, quite often, our young people have access to these platforms. We want to ensure that they know of the dangers of social media and how they can stay safe when online.

“At Christmas, we created a letter for pupils and parents which had tips on online safety and, if children were receiving new devices as gifts, how to use them safely.

“The i-vengers project has been a huge success here at Mickleover Primary School and it compliments our ICT suite perfectly. We’re proud to say that we have had our ICT suite for more than 20 years – it’s had a bit of a makeover during that time – and it is used by the whole school, even the Reception children.

“Each teacher has access to the ICT suite and we have tech monitors who keep the place tidy and ensure that all classes are logged on to the relevant pages for online learning.

“We have interactive whiteboards in school and new hardware and software are evaluated as they become available to ensure that the children have access to the latest resources which support their learning. ICT is a foundation subject in the national curriculum and we’re proud of the fact that children who leave Mickleover Primary School have a higher than average level of IT skills.”

Erica also praised the expert help the school has received from L.E.A.D. IT Services and, in particular, Sophie.

She said: “Sophie is a great help around school. She helps us to source equipment, makes sure that it’s safe to use, and has trained staff on how to use various apps and software. Sophie has also empowered me to teach other members of staff and even created a ‘How To’ guide for everyone to follow.

“All this meant that it was a relatively seamless transaction for our school when we had to switch to online learning during Covid; our children were learning online from Day One, using apps such as DB Primary and delivering assemblies on Microsoft Teams.

“Sophie has also helped to instil confidence in me when delivering sessions. She has been a great help and, as a result, our school is thriving with children who are confident in their IT skills.”

ENDS

For further information please contact Kerry Ganly at Penguin PR on 07734 723951 or email [email protected]

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