CASE STUDY: Creating a succesful blended learning strategy
Within 3 days of Sacred Heart Catholic High School bringing forward plans to introduce GCSEPod, it was being rolled out to Heads of Department and Year 10 students at the secondary girls’ school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
It was on March 9 that Ian Bradley, Sacred Heart Catholic High School’s Assistant Head Teacher, met with the Head Mistress to request they bring forward plans to introduce the award-winning digital content and revision provider, GCSEPod.
Three days later the online learning platform was being rolled out to Heads of Department and Year 10 students at the secondary girls’ school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Whilst the coronavirus epidemic was sweeping across Europe with Italy going into lockdown on March 10 and Spain on March 14, here there was no indication at that point that the British Government planned to follow suit and ban all mass gatherings and sporting events, and close businesses and schools.
Preferring a policy of herd immunity and encouraging anyone displaying even mild Covid-19 symptoms to self-isolate, the UK at the beginning of March was still adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach.
But the talk amongst the senior team at Sacred Heart was not ‘if’ but ‘when’ the lockdown would come.
Ian, who has responsibility for whole school teaching and learning, recalls: “I had been talking with my colleagues over the previous weekend, and the overriding feeling given what was happening in the rest of Europe, was that schools probably would be forced to close here sooner rather than later.
“As such, we knew we had to act quickly to put plans into place to ensure our students could continue with their education.
“It’s been a very successful start and shows how engaged the students are. Our Year 10 students have been knuckling down with nearly 16,000 Pods watched in the two weeks before the start of the Easter holidays.”
“I was already familiar with GCSEPod, with them being based in the North East. We had already had initial discussions about introducing it to our Key Stage 4 students from this September, but when we saw the situation that was arising elsewhere in Europe we knew we had to push the button much quicker than planned.
“So I spoke to our Headteacher on the Monday and said if we had to close, then GCSEPod would be a really good platform to help with our older students’ remote learning.
“I contacted GCSEPod who said they could have it up and running for us in 48 hours. True to their word, they did. And thanks to our brilliant school team, we were able to turn things around very quickly and have everything in place for when the lockdown was announced.”
Given the logistics, the online platform with its 4,000 short and snappy teacher-written audio-visual files known as Pods covering 27 UK and international exam subjects, is currently only available to the school’s Year 10 students.
But the 220-strong cohort has hit the ground running with nearly 16,000 Pods watched in the two weeks before the start of the Easter holidays.
Ian says: “Our Year 10 students directed by the Heads of Department have really been knuckling down to home learning. Alongside their workbooks, they have each watched an average of 70 Pods as recommended by their teachers.
“Around 4,000 Pods have been viewed in Science with English and Maths close behind. That’s really good as they are the three core GCSE subjects. History has had over 2,000 views, French and individual chemistry more than 1,000 views and geography, computer Science and business have all been 500-plus.
“It’s been a very successful start and shows how engaged the students are.”
Sacred Heart Catholic High School has 1,500 students across Years 7-13. Approximately a third of students are Pupil Premium. However, the school is known for its success, is rated as outstanding by Ofsted, and has regularly appeared in The Sunday Times’ annual Top 250 list based on A-level results.
Progress 8 is currently sitting at 0.46 and Attainment 8 at 52.7%. The percentage of students going on to sixth form is 95%, and of those choosing an A-level route, 30% achieved an A or A*.
The state-funded academy prides itself on pushing its girls to realise their personal dreams and ambitions, and in preparing them to take their place in the world. On average two or three are accepted by the Oxbridge colleges every year with many more going on to study medicine or train for other professional qualifications.