For our latest virtual Spotlight, we caught up with King’s Leadership Academy Warrington on how they have utilised technology throughout the pandemic.  

King’s Leadership Academy Warrington is a secondary free school established by the Great Schools Trust. The school seeks to instil leadership characteristics in pupils, through its innovative leadership curriculum. In 2019, Ofsted rated the school as Outstanding, reporting that the school’s pupils ‘achieved beyond academic measures’.  

Vice Principal Benjamin Barker outlined how the school has used the challenges of the pandemic as an opportunity to embrace new technologies and strengthen their ties with the local community. As early as February, King’s Leadership Academy Warrington diligently began preparing for school closures. Letters were sent out to parents accounting for a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios to prepare families for the change that lay ahead.  

Staff were aware at this time that remote learning was going to form a large part of schooling, and subsequently adopted a ‘classroom to cloud’ approach. Four key factors informed the home learning plan: 

  1. Having a contingency plan in place. 
  2. What systems will help you reduce clicks? (how to make remote learning easier for teachers, students and parents).  
  3. What do we need to consider other than teaching? 
  4. How can we help the stakeholders that are involved in the school? 

Reports of schools unable to provide all pupils with devices have become all too common. King’s Leadership was able to avoid this; the school ensured that all children had access to digital devices, and received the same level of attention. Early in the pandemic, the school reported a near 100% success rate of pupils accessing a remote learning plan.  

During the Spotlight, Benjamin said that teaching during school closures was easier because they weren’t concerned about the equity amongst pupils. At present, all lessons are recorded on Zoom to ensure pupils who are isolating at home do not miss classes. This, along with online school assemblies, has helped pupils feel like they are still part of the school community.  

The successful use of online platforms has not only made life easier for students, but for parents as well, enabling the school to host virtual events such as parents evening. The school has had meetings with 100% of Year 11 and 13 parents; online capability has allowed parents to fit the meeting in around their work schedules.  

Another example of a system that has emerged during the pandemic which will outlast COVID-19 is DocuSign. This system allows staff to send letters to parents, who can read and sign them, and send their responses back to the school virtually. Benjamin spoke about how this process saved the school both time and money.  

The school has also been using Google Documents internally and externally as a ‘COVID Command Centre.’ The software allows staff to share and update documents in real time, access timetables, pupil behavioural scores, student’s temperature readings, and other vital resources. Parents and students can use the documents to access timetables, FAQ’s, useful links, information on free school meals vouchers, and anything related to COVID-19.  

Whilst this has clearly been a challenging time, Benjamin spoke about how embracing technology has been the ‘silver lining’ of the pandemic. Resources used by the school throughout, will remain part of the curriculum in the future.  

King’s Leadership Academy Warrington was selected as one of eighteen schools within the EdTech Demonstrators Programme. The purpose of this programme is to help schools and college’s access training and advice on remote teaching during the coronavirus outbreaks or future lockdowns. King’s Leadership Academy Warrington documents and records webinars to try and help other schools during this time.  

It was truly inspiring to see the commitment of a school which has confronted the challenges of COVID-19 head on, whilst also creating positive changes for the future. NSN would like to extend its gratitude to Benjamin at King’s Leadership Academy Warrington for so kindly sharing the school’s experience. 

NSN is always on the lookout for fantastic free schools to share their journey with others. If you have been open for more than three years, have a Good or Outstanding Ofsted and are interested in sharing best practice, then our Events Team would love to hear from you – contact events@newschoolsnetwork.org. Keep an eye on our events page for details of more virtual Spotlight events in the future. 

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