Failure to embed digital learning a ‘national disgrace’, says Amesbury head

Amesbury School is calling on the Government to cement digital learning in the curriculum, and has published a case study outlining its own path to ‘digitalness’

Amesbury School is calling on the Government to cement ‘digitalness’ in the curriculum from year one.

“The absence of funding and commitment from the Department of Education to embed digital learning is a national disgrace,” said head of the Surrey independent school, Jon Whybrow. “Employers rightly expect the population to have these essential life skills.”

‘Digitalness,’ as defined by the school, means “the life skill of digital literacy and the purposeful use of technology being embedded as part of all learning and not simply a timetabled periodic session on as part of the computing curriculum”.

To that end, Amesbury released a case study detailing its path to becoming a Microsoft Showcase School, and hosted a meeting of 22 digital leaders from 15 nearby schools to share insights and best practise on digital learning.

In the case study, the school said: “We are now reaching out to local independent and state schools to share our experience and to explore ways to work together to expand digital learning in the future. We believe this collaborative approach is essential to maintain momentum and stay ahead of the curve, as digital education is such a fast-moving discipline.”

A recent report by Oxford University Press found that limited digital skills are nearly as great a barrier to education as lack of access to technology, with disadvantaged students disproportionately affected.

As we have progressed along the digital journey, we have seen the huge positive impact that it is having on all our pupils – often more than we anticipated – Amesbury School

Amesbury’s path to ‘digitalness’ began with fixed computer suites and an hour of ICT lessons a week, and today finds it enjoying access to an entirely online environment, including virtual classrooms, where all core academic and non-academic functions are cloud-based and universally accessible.

To enable the school to fully embrace digital technology, the growth in infrastructure has been mirrored by staff training. Amesbury reports that all staff have gained core digital skills and signed up to accounts on the Microsoft training platform. All heads of department and senior leaders are trained in 21st Century Learning Design and most have gained Microsoft Certified Educator.

As a result of the ‘digitalness’ drive, the school claims that pupils are becoming noticeably more ‘e-mature’. Ninety per cent of the time, the school said, “pupils are using computers how we want them to use them, i.e. for learning, study and exploration. [We] only lightly [use] filters and pupils can get to diverting content, but they don’t.”

The school said: “Embedding ‘digitalness’ into the curriculum in a school requires all its stakeholders to commit 100% to redefining a child’s learning. As we have progressed along the digital journey, we have seen the huge positive impact that it is having on all our pupils – often more than we anticipated.

“As an independent school we are fortunate to have control over our curriculum and finances and therefore have the freedom and resources to choose a digital route. Currently the state education sector in the UK is not prioritising this because the Department of Education does not specify digital literacy as a core skill expected to be taught to all pupils outside of the computing curriculum.

“It is Amesbury’s view that this needs to change so that all children can build these essential skills as they learn so they are prepared for their future life and work.”

In related news: Myddelton College awarded Microsoft Showcase School status for sixth time

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