In this podcast episode, we speak with David James, Head of Education at Cornerstone Academy Trust and Anthony Lees, Deputy of Westclyst Community Primary School.
The Cornerstone Academy Trust is made up of four primary schools, including Broadclyst Community Primary School, Westclyst Community Primary School, Yeo Valley Community Primary School and Monkerton Community Primary School.
Broadclyst has an international reputation for its use of technology in education and has been awarded EdTech Demonstrator School status by the Department of Education.
“At Broadclyst, we’ve been using Microsoft for the last 18 years and had been using it as a teaching and collaboration tool. When lockdown struck, we were in a good position and were able to support our other schools in using it,” David explains.
“We faced similar issues to every other school where there was a variable level of staff confidence and competence with the technology, so we found the ability to host live training events via Teams invaluable.”
Watch the full podcast episode on blended learning for primary schools here:
Using Microsoft tools to train and onboard staff.
The trust uses Microsoft Stream to create powerful learning resources for their staff.
“We’re all learners, aren’t we? Not just the students but also members of staff,” Anthony says.
“Microsoft Stream enables you to create automatic transcripts of the training session, allowing teachers to jump straight to the information they need by using the search tool.”
“We can also drop forms and links into a recording, which means we can check staff retention and ask them to respond to questions throughout the recordings.”
Saving teacher time with Microsoft 365.
Teachers at the Cornerstone Academy Trust have been able to save time when creating centralised learning resources as OneNote and Teams have allowed them to collaborate across different schools within the trust.
“Teachers use the collaboration tools to plan together so four people in four different schools aren’t all spending time planning the same lesson,” explains David.
“We’ve been doing this to reduce the workload on teachers and decrease the amount of time they spend planning so they can use it creating additional amazing resources or focus their time on training and upskilling.”
During the UK school closures in 2020 and 2021, the four schools in the trust pulled together to deliver online lessons to students with one teacher remote teaching to several classes.
Starting digital learning early.
Embracing Microsoft 365 at KS1 and KS2 level has allowed the young students at the Cornerstone Academy Trust to feel comfortable and confident with the tools from an early age.
“Even our nursery staff have started using Microsoft. It may just be a ‘What’s happening today’ picture, but gradually it teaches the children that this is how they can access learning,” says Anthony.
“As they move up through the school, they become more confident, more independent learners who take ownership over their learning.”
Upskilling the parents and their children.
A challenge the Cornerstone Academy Trust faced when the UK first went into lockdown was that many of the students were accessing learning on their parents’ mobile phones or shared devices.
“We’ve run a proactive campaign with parents to help them understand how and why we’re using the technology. It’s about being mindful about the learning content so it’s suitable to be viewed on mum’s phone,” Anthony explains.
“Within two days of knowing the school was set to shut, we created a website and dedicated a team of 15 people to produce resources. We wanted to give them everything in one place, with resources and links for parents, as well as a help desk.”
Student engagement and success with Microsoft 365.
Tracking student engagement with blended learning has been a huge benefit for the Cornerstone Academy Trust. Each school has been able to have a clear picture of which students are succeeding and which ones may need extra support, as well as who is attending and engaging in the learning material.
“A member of our leadership team is buddied up with a year group for a set amount of time to work with the teachers to find out what’s going well and what needs to be improved.”
The future of the Cornerstone Academy Trust and Microsoft 365.
“Our vision is to create one school with four campuses – this way, we can bring together those economies of scale and make things more efficient and effective. Teams is the place where everyone goes and accesses what they need,” David tells us.
If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.