£250,000 investment in North East schools to benefit disadvantaged children

FIFTY North East schools have the opportunity to place cutting-edge technology at the heart of classroom learning thanks to a new partnership.

Education charity SHINE is investing more than £150,000 into the schools, in a bid to significantly boost pupil attainment and give teachers more time to teach.

The charity has teamed up with classroom technology innovator Learning by Questions (LbQ) to deliver the project. LbQ, which is funded and operated by the Bowland Charitable Trust, has also committed £100,000 to the initiative.

Schools will receive tablet computers for every child in the class, plus the multi-award-winning LbQ app, which comes loaded with 66,0000 questions.

Pupils answer sets of questions on their tablet screens and the app automatically marks them as they go, giving immediate and constructive feedback to every answer. The teacher can keep track of every child in real-time, meaning they can swiftly pinpoint any areas of weakness.

Several schools have already signed up for the project and now others are being urged to join them.

The SHINE project is open to primaries and secondaries with an above-average intake of free school meals, meaning the most disadvantaged children will benefit.

One of the first schools to take advantage of the programme is Balliol Primary in Longbenton, North Tyneside.

Ryan Longstaff, Year 6 teacher and maths coordinator at Balliol Primary School, said: “The fact that we not only get access to a major bank of quality questioning and assessment but also the tablets is a major boost to teaching and learning in school.”

He said the introduction of LbQ had made a big difference in the classroom. “The children are engaged in a low-level competitive activity without the threat of being identified as struggling in front of the rest of the class.

“If there is a misconception this can be addressed discreetly on a 1:1 basis or I can display a question to the whole class and have a discussion that will hopefully help resolve the problem.

“The children look forward to new question sets and even practising the same Question Sets several times. It is breaking down barriers for EAL (English as an additional language) children in class as well as those children who have physical restraints to their learning.

He added: “I have noticed an increased percentage of active participation within maths and literacy lessons. Previously children could have been quite passive with the teaching of mental arithmetic, spelling, grammar etc but the fact I can monitor the children’s access and perform immediate interventions means the participation has been 100 per cent.”

Another school to take advantage of the programme is Lanchester EP Primary, near Durham.

Mark Stephenson, Year 3 teacher at Lanchester, is a passionate advocate for LbQ having seen the difference it has made in his classroom.

“Using Learning by Questions has made the teachers’ job a lot easier,” he said. “You’ve got thousands of questions sets already there for you and the question sets are all matched into your objectives for your year group. It’s very easy to find something that you can then use within your lesson.”

Mr Stephenson’s pupils adapted to the new teaching method very quickly.

“The children love the interactive side of it,” he said. “They love that nobody’s looking over their shoulder, or if they’ve got something wrong, that it’s not the end of the world.

“We can watch who is doing what particular question and if they’ve got a particular difficulty, we can go straight to that child, so it’s very centred towards their learning rather than the children themselves feeling under pressure.”

Mr Stephenson says staff who were originally wary, have quickly taken to the new teaching methods and he urged colleagues across the region to join the project: “I’d certainly say to anybody, try it, get somebody out, have a look at it, try it yourself, because you will be amazed at just how easy the children pick it up, but also, how easy it is for staff as well.”

Children at Balliol say they are enjoying using the new digital teaching methods. Callum said:

“I like LbQ because if we get stuck on the question the interactive screen gives you the chance to work it out or revisit it later if you move on.”

Lexi said: “I like doing LbQ because it gets our brains warmed up for starting lessons and it’s a little bit competitive. It gets us thinking loads because there are different types of questions some make us think more than others.”

Fiona Spellman, CEO of SHINE, said:

“As a former teacher myself, I can personally attest to the huge number of hours that teachers must spend on setting questions and marking books. Learning by Questions uses technology to reduce workload while improving outcomes in the classroom. It would have made a huge difference to me when I was teaching, and I hope teachers across the North East will take up the opportunity of trying it in their classrooms.”

Schools interested in taking part in the project should visit www.lbq.org/shine