Can your VLE help solve recruitment issues?

Published: March 8, 2016

It’s no secret that there’s a recruitment crisis in education at the moment. Fewer new teachers are joining, and those already here and leaving in ever-greater numbers. A recent survey found that 90% of headteachers were struggling to fill vacancies in their schools. Naturally, fewer teachers means the potential for less learning by students – no matter how dedicated or skilled those remaining are, they’re competing with high workloads and difficult conditions.
The Association of School and College Leaders have argued that the solution here lies in flexible working for teachers, and, in a manner of speaking, we’d be inclined to agree. What this situation shows, we think, is where a blended learning strategy can really come into its own. By utilising elearning, educators and their students can learn to do more with fewer (physical) resources.

A VLE, with its self-marking quizzes, learning analytics and endless customisation options, can prove invaluable in automating much of the drudgery and admin problems that so-plague the teaching profession. This leaves the teachers themselves free to improve their lesson plans and provide better tuition to their charges.
Additionally, with the heavy focus on one-to-one teaching – something which can’t be achieved with diminishing staff numbers – a VLE with integrated social platforms can prove a real boon. Give every pupil the option to engage directly with their teachers, and in turn give the teachers the option to give quick, easy and detailed personalised feedback.
Too often a VLE is seen as a “needless luxury”, something which takes time away from more pressing matters. We think this is missing out on a lot of the positives. While it’s true that getting used to a VLE can take some time, with a few advocates and the right attitude we know that one can work in any environment, joining up learning and facilitating ever-greater growth.

School Website Tips for the New Term – Planning & Compliance

Published: August 28, 2015

With a new school term on the horizon and during the first couple of weeks, many schools will be taking a close look at their website with a view to welcoming new students and their families, and making sure important information is relevant and up to date.
Not only is your website an important tool for communication with your community, school websites are now under scrutiny from Ofsted and the DfE, with certain information required to be kept visible and up to date to ensure compliance with The School Information Regulations.
There are also a few simple ways to ensure your website is easy for you or your staff to maintain, and engaging for the parents and careers of your pupils.

Before getting back into your day-to-day school routine, don’t forget to review your school’s website to make sure that the content is still up to date, and check if you could make an simple changes to improve the site’s usability. Here are a few school website tips for planning and compliance, with suggested tasks to perform and items to check before the new term is in full swing.

Update your calendar

Two key purposes of your school’s website are marketing and communication. Your site allows you to quickly get information to parents, students, staff and the local community , keeping it visible for as long as is relevant. Ideally, your site’s event calendar should be updated before the school term starts. Add all holidays, sports events, plays etc. for which the date is already set. Categorise the events based on the audience they are for so you can share different calendars via email or on separate website pages.

Make sure your site is in compliance with DfE requirements

Last year, the DfE published a detailed, updated list of requirements with all the information a school should publish on its website. There are reports suggesting that OFSTED is doing unannounced inspections at schools that fail to provide the correct information on their websites, so if you’re not sure you’re in compliance, now is the time for a thorough review. Let’s have a look at the most important points on the list.

Contact information

Your site needs to display the name, address and phone number of your school, as well as the contact information of the staff member in charge of dealing with enquiries.

Admission Arrangements

You must either publish your full admission arrangements per age group or publish information about where your admission arrangements can be found.

Ofsted Reports

Your last Ofsted report should be available on your site or you must provide a link to where this report can be found.

Exam Results

You need to publish Information regarding the KS2 and KS4 results of your pupils.

Pupil Premium

Your website must have information about how pupil premium funding is spent at your school and how it has affected the attainment of pupils who attract the funding.

Special educational needs report

If you are a maintained school, a report on your policy for SEN pupils with must be published on your website.

Additional requirements

  • Your website must have information about charging and remissions policies.
  • You should publish a declaration of your ethos and values on your website.
  • Your website should have detailed information about your behaviour policy.
  • You need to publish complete information regarding the content of your school’s curriculum.
  • A link to the DfE performance tables web page must be published on your site.
  • If requested by a parent, a paper copy containing all the information that is published on your site must be provided free of charge.

Getting started with this can be a daunting task, but an important one nonetheless.
Download this checklist and go through your site one section at a time.

Refresh your content

Don’t let outdated content sit on your website. Having old, irrelevant content on your site will not prospective families. We’re not saying you need to update your school website five times per week, but regular content updates, especially before the new school year and each new term starts, are a good idea.
Go over the content on your site and update any outdated information. Check your staff directory, any files or sites that you link to, add new social media accounts or remove ones that are not used anymore, add new photos, post some interesting news stories, etc. You could also add a social media feed to your homepage so people can see what’s going on in the community.

Create an editorial plan and content schedule

Maintaining your website’s content on your own is a lot of work, which is why it’s great to have some help from teachers and support staff. However, if everyone who’s writing on the site uses a different voice and way of structuring content, things can start looking a bit messy.
It is a good idea to define an editorial plan that describes how content should be written and how other website administrators should go about posting new content (for example, you may want to have them send any updates to you for approval). Also, to ensure that your content is updated in a timely manner, you should create a content schedule describing when certain sections of your website need to be updated or new content should be added.

Consider a design update

If your website design is more than a few years old, you may want to consider having the design updated. Even a few small design changes can already make your site look a lot more modern. If your site is more than 5 years old, you should probably consider a redesign / refresh.

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly

One design update you should make a priority is making your site mobile-friendly (if you haven’t done so yet). More and more people are using mobile devices to browse the web. If your website is difficult to navigate on such devices, many visitors will just close it. Google has also started placing more importance on the mobile-friendliness of websites. Websites that don’t adapt to screen size may get a lower ranking in search engine results because of this. To find out if your website is mobile-friendly, you can use Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test. If you fail this test, you should talk to your website developer.

Create or update your FAQs

If you often get emails or phone calls from parents or staff members with common questions, you may want to add answers to some of these to your  frequently asked questions (FAQ) section or create one if you don’t have one yet. Some questions that are likely to pop up often include:

  • When are the school holidays / inset days?
  • What are the school uniform policies?
  • What are the admissions arrangements?

Try to answer all common questions as thoroughly as possible on your site. It may take a bit of time to collect and present this information, but it could save you a lot of time in the long term.
It doesn’t need to be called an FAQ page – as long as you have clear navigation for different types of website visitors and needs, taking them to relevant pages where you answer those questions.

Your school’s website is one of the most important tools in your marketing and communication toolkit. If you don’t update regularly though to ensure freshness and regulatory compliance, it can turn into an anti-marketing tool that does more harm than good. The start of the new school term is a fresh start in many ways, so it could be useful to make a habit of going through a checklist like the one above and performing any necessary updates.

Can we help you?

At Webanywhere, we work hard to make school websites engaging for your community and easy to use for your staff. Why not learn about our school website design and content management platform – School Jotter – or contact us for an informal discussion about your website requirements?

Children don’t have too much tech – it’s just not being used right

Published: August 27, 2015

Government advisor Tom Bennett was recently on Good Morning Britain, discussing with the hosts the issue of school students and gadgets – 20% of whom will have over £400 worth. Bennett seemed resolutely opposed to the “creep” of technology into schools, and as an education technology provider, we’re here to fight the corner of the tablet and the laptop in the classroom.
Before we start, I do want to note that Mr Bennett isn’t entirely opposed to the idea of having tablets in classroom (and indeed his ire is focussed far more on mobile phones), and happily says that an iPad could be there if teachers have “strong reasons to use them” – additionally he’s willing to be proven wrong if in five years’ time everything turns out well. However, we rather think that Bennett’s definition of “strong reasons” might differ somewhat from ours!


As an advisor on bad behaviour, Bennett’s key objections with mobile devices seem to be how open they are to abuse, and I’ll concede this is a fair point, especially with mobile phones. Their smaller screens and boosted connectivity (with mobile broadband allowing kids around school filters) provide a less-than-ideal working environment. A tablet, however, can mitigate many of these problems, especially if provided by the school and connected to the school’s managed Wi-Fi. Distraction will always be a problem, but to assume kids will automatically get distracted just because they “can” is to do a disservice to their intelligence. If a child wants to learn, they’ll learn – why not give them the best interactive learning environments possible?
I’m particularly confused as to Bennett’s problems with a viewer whose school has gone paperless, and whose homework is now set via an app. Would he rather teachers instead deal with illegible handwriting, endless paper and cramped hands from manual marking? Setting homework and assignments online can save everyone – teachers, students and parents – time and effort – indeed according to ITV, 33% of respondents are now doing just that. Teachers can even plan out a term’s worth of work ahead of time, to be automatically assigned and even, in some cases, graded. Perhaps this can’t be the case for longer, essay-based work, but why mark a worksheet manually when you can have a VLE mark 30 of them automatically, instantly?
The problems, though, come when this tech is miss-used. We’ve got customers around the country (and indeed the world) happily tapping away on iPads and laptops, utilising their VLEs without the problems Bennett seems to think all gadgets bring. As ever, it’s important to note that none of these schools have got rid of textbooks or face-to-face learning, and this is never something we’d advocate.
Interested in finding out how you can better engage pupils using your VLE and a bring-your-own-device policy? Contact us for a free consultation at education@webanywhere.co.uk

Great Resource Websites for Headteachers and SLTs

Published: July 23, 2015

Being a headteacher or part of the Senior Leadership Team can be tough of course – leading a school involves trying to meet the expectations of parents, teachers and support staff, governors, Ofsted, and even the local community.

To stay up to date with education news and best practice, and to remember that there are many others in a similar position, it can be helpful to get information and advice from peers and those who understand your role.
You’ll be aware of many great resource websites for headteachers and SLTs, but we thought it would be useful to gather some of the best into one place:

Headteacher Update and SEC ED

Headteacher Update is the only magazine that is produced just for primary school headteachers in the UK.
The magazine contains articles on leadership problems, best practices, case studies and other information and resources for headteachers. The offline publication is published every two months and is distributed free of charge to all UK headteachers. The website provides more articles on best practices, useful resources and news.
Headteacher Update’s sister publication, SEC ED, offers similar information for secondary education heads, SLTs and teachers. It has a wide range of sections organised by theme and subject.
Check out https://www.headteacher-update.com and https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/.

SSATUK

SSAT is a membership site for schools worldwide, offering guidance to all members of school staff. It has separate membership options for primary schools, secondary schools and special schools.
Membership gives access to resources on topics such as: practical advice for achieving compliance with Ofsted requirements, creating a long-term vision, encouraging student leadership, tips on how to implement innovative practices based on the latest educational research and how to better collaborate with other schools.
The organisation also organises training courses and events on CPD and other important topics.
A 1-year primary school membership currently costs £275.00 + VAT and the secondary network membership is £1015.00 + VAT (Correct in July 2015).
For more information, go to: https://www.ssatuk.co.uk/.

NAHT

NAHT is a trade union for professionals who hold leadership positions in primary, special and secondary schools, independent schools, sixth form and FE colleges, and other educational institutions.
Their website contains advice on topics such as Ofsted inspections, public engagement, performance tables, etc. They also organise training courses and events, and provide bespoke training for schools.
To get access to these resources you need to apply for a membership.
Find out more at https://www.naht.org.uk/.

School Food Plan

School Food Plan was created to help head teachers, senior leadership teams, and other members of school staff improve the quality of food served at school and help pupils enjoy food that is tasty, but also good for them. The website provides a ton of information about the impact of serving better food to students.
They also provide a complete checklist for headteachers with tips to help ensure that good, affordable food is served in an attractive environment, and that lunch is a time during which all children (including the ones eating their own packed lunch) can socialise and engage in fun activities afterwards.
The information on the website has the support of the Secretary of State for Education.

Totara for Teachers – the workplace LMS goes educational

Published: July 6, 2015

Our resident Totara expert Ben Wagner explains how using the LMS in schools can help improve your staff’s training and CPD.
For those that haven’t heard of it, Totara (pronounced “To-Tra”) is a workplace-focused LMS used by organisations around the world for compliance training and continual professional development (CPD). It’s based on another open source LMS, with additional extensions on top to add the feature set required in a modern workplace environment. The idea behind the system is to reduce barriers to training and ensure that learning can take place at any time, anywhere, ensuring that staff can keep on top of their training.
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How a VLE can reduce teacher workload

Published: February 12, 2015

Reducing teacher workload – how a VLE can help

The government recently released the results of the Workload Challenge Survey, a questionnaire sent out to over 44,000 teachers on their workload and job satisfaction. Predictably, the key pressures listed were those of extensive marking, planning, and most importantly Ofsted inspections.
As a result of this, the government has boiled their response down to five key areas:

  1. Fewer, clearer Ofsted requirements
  2. Giving more notice of curriculum changes
  3. Making it easier to find out information from other schools on “what works”
  4. Supporting teachers through continuous personal development (CPD)
  5. Track results through surveys every two years from 2016

We at Webanywhere feel that the future of learning is a blended one, with more and more content going online, and we believe that a VLE can offer a solution to unnecessary workloads, preventing duplication and streamlining the assessment process.

How a VLE can reduce your workload

With a VLE you can take your tuition and learning online. Rather than spending sleepless nights marking stacks of exercise books you can instead give feedback via your computer, tablet or mobile device. As everything is digital, there’s no need to worry about the endless organisational headache that is paperwork.
Lesson planning becomes substantially easier when a VLE is factored in as well – rather than writing out your plan manually then trying to stick to it in class, you can create it as a course which can be deployed again and again – you can even include content from elsewhere through formats such as SCORM and Tin Can.
Of course, schools like to see what works before they try something for themselves, and this was a key recommendation of the governmental report. With online learning, it’s much easier both to demonstrate, whether that be to other schools, parents, or even Ofsted.

Using Totara for CPD

With teaching quality at the forefront of governmental reforms, the ability to track and show this is absolutely crucial for a school; in this sense, a VLE is useful not just for students but teachers. The enterprise-focussed, Totara LMS is the perfect solution for all your CPD needs.
With its advanced tracking features, Totara is designed for the staff and enterprise markets. If you’re familiar with an open-source LMS you can easily pick up Totara, and managers will find its permissions-based learning and tracking features to be extremely useful, especially when it comes to providing reports to Ofsted. With new standards for headteachers being a big focus of government action, being able to show effective leadership is essential. Let Webanywhere help provide the evidence of your successful management.

How Webanywhere can help you

We’re a Totara partner and have over ten years’ experience working with schools. We’re happy to discuss your needs and requirements and will work with you through deployment to ensure a smooth transition. Additionally, we’re a Platinum Totara partner, so we can guarantee you’re in safe hands when it comes to VLE management. Contact one of our experts today for a free demo or to discuss your needs.

What Is… ETAG? | Webanywhere Blog

Published: February 5, 2015

Recently the Education in Technology Action Group (ETAG) released a report on what they believe the future of technology in education should be. As a follow up to the FELTAG (Further Education Learning Technology Action Group) the ETAG report has plenty to say about how education will change, but what exactly does it suggest for the future? We caught up with our education consultant Callum Craig to ask him: What is ETAG?

https://youtu.be/DeIds1u6ei0

If you’re interested in ETAG we’ll be hosting an event on the 25th of February at our head office in Leeds. If you’re interested in attending register for a space now.

We’re Working With Britsafe To Help Keep Students Safe!

Published: June 26, 2014

Webanywhere’s Corporate division has been working with the British Safety Council for some time. We have provided them with their learning platform for delivering health and safety training – and now, we’re working with them to help keep secondary school students safe on work placements.

Off the back of recently published Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics – 148 people were killed and 21,000 seriously injured at work in the UK last year; a young worker is 50% more likely to have an accident – we’re helping them to provide safety training courses to schools.

British Safety Council’s Entry Level Qualification in Workplace Hazard Awareness is designed for 14-19 year olds, and is an ideal way of preparing them for work experience, or leaving school and entering employment.

You can purchase qualifications for your students now – and, if you’re a Webanywhere customer, you’ll have received an email this week offering you an exclusive discount on bulk ordering of assessments!

If you want to find out more about the Entry Level in Workplace Hazard Awareness, click here.

Sean Gilligan on BBC Breakfast News with Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull

Published: April 30, 2013

 

Webanywhere’s Managing Director Sean Gilligan was a guest on yesterday’s BBC Breakfast News TV show presented by Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull, discussing the possibility of including gardening as part of the revised National Curriculum.

Sean was interviewed alongside Chris Collins, Blue Peter’s resident gardener, who participated from his own back garden in London promoting the benefits this new subject could bring to the children, such as physical exercise and team work.
Sean expressed his support too, stating that what he would like to see is “gardening combined with entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education”. “Kids need to get out of the classroom. Their learning environment affects their engagement, and engagement in education is so, so important” he added.

During the interview, he highlighted the importance of having an entrepreneurial mindset even at an early stage. From his point of view, employability is fundamental for the education process, and should start at Primary schools.

You can watch Sean’s appearance on the video below.

Get More for Less from your ICT Budget

Published: November 16, 2010

Michael Gove has made the decision that the Harnessing Technology Grant for 2010/11 will be cut by £100 million to contribute to the development of “Free Schools” nationally. This translates as an in year cut to local authorities and schools of at least 50%.
This suggests essential ICT systems will be unable to be maintained and improved – unless schools can find smarter ICT solutions, or use technology to achieve efficiency savings elsewhere in the value chain.  Here are some ideas worth exploring.

1. Switch your email exchange servers for cloud-based services
There’s a viable alternative to maintaining your own email exchange servers – services like Google Apps or Microsoft Live are free and both provide fully secure, branded virtual space for email, document sharing and storage. You can even retain your existing school-specific email address.  London Grid for Learning estimates that London schools have saved approximately £11m since transferring to Microsoft’s service last year.
2. Forget software licences – go Open Source!
Open Source software for learning platforms and e-learning content enable development and ongoing upgrade costs to be minimised.
3. Upgrade to the latest OS and save on power management
If you upgrade to the latest operating systems you will be able to take advantage of enhanced power-saving features, saving costs of between £23 and £46 per computer per year.
4. Switch to remote access
Microsoft’s latest operating platform (Windows 7) makes setting up remote access much more straightforward. Additionally some VPNs make use of free software packages that need no special hardware or software on the network to enable remote access.
5. Allow pupils to use their own laptops
Recent British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) research revealed that secondary schools spend 48% per of their ICT budget on new computers. Schools may consider asking parents to contribute by providing their children with their own computers for school and home use.
6. Change the way you communicate
Like encouraging parents to provide computers, this requires a significant cultural shift. The way in which student relationships at school are formed and nurtured are being reshaped as hallways of classrooms switches to social networks on digital learning platforms. There are inherent dangers in students using social networking that need to be managed – however, safe messaging tools for use in the classroom and at home can be provided, enabling students to access multimedia resources in a controlled environment.