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Why, and how, are schools introducing 1:1 computer schemes? George Cole talks to three school leaders

When it comes to 1:1 computing, there is no such thing as one size fits all. Each school will have its own educational goals, needs and challenges. Bolt-on ICT has never been effective. Schools need their own vision for their future and a strategy for achieving that, which includes the ICT. 

In the following case studies – Cramlington Learning Village (Northumberland), St Thomas CoE Primary School (Kendal) and ESSA Academy (Bolton) –  we show some of the options open to schools when it comes to provision, funding and management.

Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland

Number and age of students: 2300, 11-18
1:1 Provision: 300 Samsung Galaxy Tabs (7-inch) for Year 8 students, who use them at home and school

Phil Spoors

Phil Spoors, assistant headteacher:

Cramlington PadAnywhere anytime learning at Cramlington“Our philosophy is that learning leads the technology and not vice-versa. We have an enquiry-based curriculum, with lots of project work, and we wanted our students to be able to move around the classroom; move between groups; move around the school and go outside of school while still being able to access the technology. We were looking for mobility and flexibility.

"We tried many devices – tablets, smartphones and minibooks – and decided that the tablet was the best one for our needs. I know that Apple is the default for some schools, but in our view, Apple devices don’t offer a lot of flexibility for education in terms of apps and support for Flash. The Galaxy Tab offered more flexibility and we could easily create our own apps for it.

"We decided to run a small trial with a Year 7 tutor group and we got good feedback from staff and students. I think it’s essential that you run a trial and it amazes me how some schools can buy hundreds of devices before testing them in the classroom.

"The biggest thing is staff training – you have to bring your staff on board. That means helping them understand how the devices can be used for learning and built into their planning – you don’t want the devices simply to be an add-on. You need to explain that it’s not a computer for typing up coursework; it’s got another purpose. If teachers don’t include the devices in their planning, then they won’t get used and pupils start to wonder why they are bothering to bring them in. We made one person from each department responsible for developing lesson plans that incorporated the devices.

"It’s also important that you remove distractions from the device. Tablets can be used for games, listening to music or chatting to friends. We didn’t want to put management software on to the tablets, so we gave the responsibility to the students. We made it clear what was appropriate use in the classroom and the consequences of inappropriate use.

'We've been very pleased with how students have responded'

"We have a sliding scale of sanctions, from a warning to confiscation to getting their parents into school. In extreme cases, we can install management software on to the device and limit the student’s access to apps, but we prefer to give students an opportunity to show that they can use the devices responsibly. We’ve said that the students can use the device as they want during lunchtime, break or at home, provided it isn’t illegal or inappropriate, and we’ve been very pleased with how students have responded to this.

"We decided to roll out the tablets to each year group, starting with Year 8, which has some 300 students. We fund the programme through a parental contribution scheme that is run through the e-Learning Foundation. We sold the benefits to parents. Parents don’t pay for the device; they contribute to the scheme. We suggested £10 a month over two years. We then give every student a device whether the parents have contributed or not. If a pupil is on free school meals they get a device, even if their parents can’t contribute. We made that very clear upfront, so parents do know that we are relying on the contributions to be able to run the scheme.

"We also put in £5,000 of our pupil premium money to support students on free school meals, and last year, the e-Learning Foundation gave us a grant of £5,000 to help fund those pupils who parents weren’t contributing. We’ve had a very good response and 96 per cent of Year 8 students participate in the scheme. The 4 per cent who haven’t participated is because their parents have already bought them a device, like an iPad, and didn’t want them to have another one.

"The battery life on the tablets is fine, provided the students remember to charge them at home. We do have USB charging cables for anyone who forgets to do this. The technology isn’t just for learning in school; it’s there for students to use at home and for their parents to use if they want. Security hasn’t been a big issue. The biggest issue has been damage rather than theft, with some students dropping the tablet and cracking the screen. We’ve got insurance to cover this. We’ve had 12 damaged tablets out of 300, so that’s not a bad ratio. The devices cost £157 each and insurance is £23, so it’s manageable.

'We haven’t found anything that we’ve needed to purchase'

"To manage the devices, teachers need to establish some classroom protocols, such as getting the students to remove the tablets from their bags and leave them on the desks in front of them, so the teacher can always see the tablets and what students are doing with them.

 "We did a lot of research on apps in order to find which ones were essential for the students. We picked them and put them on to our VLE on a single web page. We go solely for free apps – we haven’t found anything that we’ve needed to purchase. During induction, we show the students how to log on to the apps page and download apps. The students are responsible for installing the apps. We have a team of three app designers, who have developed apps for subjects such as literacy, grammar and the periodic table. We’ve also got an interactive response system app, which uses red, amber and green colour coding to determine how much a pupil understands a particular topic or activity; this is useful feedback for the teacher.

"We’ve now got a far more flexible classroom. Some people think that 1:1 computing means less collaborative work, but we’ve found the opposite. Groups of students will sit around a table and brainstorm and record their ideas on their device and even take pictures. It all comes down to how you deploy these devices in the classroom. We’re now planning to extend the scheme to our Year 7 students."

Cramlington Learning Village      
Cramlington web page for keeping parents up to date on tablet use  
Cramlington case study produced with the e-Learning Foundation, partner in the scheme   
RM Education case study of Cramlington Learning Village

How to save £291,346.37 with a learning platform: Video from 2012 International Learning Platforms conference

St Thomas CoE Primary School, Kendal, Cumbria

Number and age of students: 220, 4-11 years
1:1 Provision: class set of Google Chromebooks 

Paul Brown

Headteacher Paul Brown:

“Under the old ICT regime, we were constantly adding things on to our network and it all became high maintenance. We had desktops, a few laptops and low-quality wifi. We wanted to spend less on maintenance and more on hardware, and to replace the desktops with a mobile alternative. It was ICT consultant Steve Moss that suggested we look at Chromebooks.

St Thomas Primarycy schoolChromebooks at St Thomas': £220 against £500 for iPad"We looked at the iPad, Chromebook and other options. The fact that the Chromebook offers students free 25GB storage in the cloud was very attractive. The iPad doesn’t support Flash, but we had educational software and websites which used it. Another thing we liked about the Chromebook was that children could access their learning at home or school using the Chrome browser. It also helped that a Chromebook was £220 compared with £500 for an iPad. There were other savings to be made, because there are so many free apps, and there would be less maintenance, although we still have an MIS (management information system) server.

"I had a look at the Chromebooks at a school in Bristol and, to be honest, I got a mixed response. The teachers said they were great for learning, but not so good for admin, as they weren’t compatible with Windows. But the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks, and we purchased 33 Chromebooks. We also upgraded our wifi, so that it’s now managed by Aerohive and is much more robust.  

"The Chromebooks are stored on a charging trolley. Because everything is held in the cloud, nothing is stored on the Chromebooks, so whenever a pupil logs on, they receive their personalised content and resources. We had hoped that a pupil could walk in, pick up any Chromebook and log on, but each Chromebook is limited to around 90 users. So, we’ve split the school into four groups – each with its own colours – and colour-coded the Chromebooks. So all a child has to remember is the colour of the Chromebook they need to use.

"It’s early days with the Chromebooks, and we are busily converting files and folders. We also have a Google-certified teacher who is helping us during this transition. You do notice the odd issue; for instance, the Chromebook will connect to our interactive whiteboard, but isn’t compatible with the interactive pen software. But the path we’ve taken is a very economical way of using IT and it removes a lot of the problems you normally have when managing IT.”

St Thomas CofE Primary School  
Steve Moss' blog 


Essa Academy, Bolton, Greater Manchester

Number and age of students:  900, 11-16 years
1:1 Provision:  An Apple iPad for all students and 140 staff

Abdul Chohan

Abdul Chohan, director:

“I think it’s important that before any school embarks on a 1:1 computing strategy it has a vision of what it wants to achieve in terms of academic achievement, engagement and so on.  And the leadership team needs to understand how that’s going to work. A 1:1 programme just provides a solution for that to happen. The focus should not be the technology, but the experience and the learning outcomes that the technology helps to deliver. So the first question is why do we want to do this? The answer to that question will be different for each school.

"Then it’s about the pedagogy; the student engagement and how things will change in the classroom, and how you will measure attainment and progress. If a school simply sees 1:1 as a replacement for laptops, it’s not going to work. In some ways, it’s harder to manage a small number of devices: if you’ve got 30 iPads in a room and students from different groups come and use them, then they’re not really personalised, because they will use different apps and content. iPads are not really meant to be used this way, although some schools do it quite successfully. But you are limiting their use.

"Before we went for 1:1 computing, we had computer rooms and a laptop trolley. We started our 1:1 programme in 2009, and initially, all staff and students had an iPod Touch. All staff have had their own iPad for a while now, and in November 2012, we started rolling out iPads to all students. We are going to send the iPods to schools in developing countries, and because they often don’t have internet access, we’ll be pre-loading them with content we’ve produced.

Essa Academy visitVisitors to Essa Academy pick up insights from the students"I often hear schools say that they cannot afford 1:1 computing, but all we’re doing is shifting money from the backend. We used to spend a lot on infrastructure – the ICT room, servers, cables – and now that’s moved to the front. We used to spend a lot annually on text books, printing, photocopying, Windows licences, site licences and a management system which involved an outside company looking after the computers - all that’s gone and been put into the pot. Students can access Dropbox and that saves us money too.

"Teachers also have MacBooks which they use to create feature-rich interactive content, and they are easy to create. Students can now take textbooks home, look up word definitions instantly and personalise content. And it’s easy for teachers to update content. Tablet devices go beyond the IT budget and into lots of different parts of the school budget. We don’t have interactive whiteboards any more, for example. Our telephony now runs on the iPad and that saves us thousands of pounds a year You’re using the same money, but in a different way. There are lots of things that can contribute to a 1:1 environment and you need to think outside the traditional financial model.

'I wanted a complete ecosystem and you get that with Apple'

"We looked at many devices, but I wanted more than a device – I wanted a complete ecosystem and you get that with Apple. You are not going to get much, if any discount, by choosing the iPad, even if you order hundreds of them. But if you to think beyond the price of the hardware, you see that you get a lot more in terms of reliability, as well as hardware and software that works together.

"Our iPad programme is not just for students; it’s a family iPad programme. So you’ve got parents accessing the iPad and using the content - we are thinking about putting parent courses on the iPad. We have a one-off insurance contribution of £65 per family, which can be paid over two years – it doesn’t matter how many children are in the school. The majority of parents are contributing and we can help those who can’t afford to contribute.

"Over the last few years we’ve seen some very good mobile device management solutions (MDM) that allows us to push apps out; lock the device or track it, and that makes life a lot easier. There are all sorts of security features: I can stop people installing apps or deleting them; I can switch face time off, and that can all be done wirelessly. If we are using a free app, we can push it out to the iPads. The Apple Volume Purchasing Programme gives us a 50% discount and we can push those apps to different devices. Because the iPad is the student’s personal device, it’s like their mobile phone – they are responsible for charging it. All students have their Apple ID, which is done in conjunction with their parents, and they can install their own apps.

"The impact of going down the 1:1 route has been immense. For example, our students immediately had access to email and (filtered) internet access at any time. My message to any educator reading this is that they should be moving away from the traditional school computer model and into solutions that offer a more personalised approach to learning, because the technology is there now. It’s no longer about finding answers but learning how to ask the right questions, and students need access to the right kind of tools in order to do that.

"And the effects are measurable. We used to be a school where 28% of pupils achieved five A*-C grades; in 2011 the figure was 100%. Obviously, it is not all down to our 1:1 policy, but it has made a huge difference in terms of learning and achievement.  If any educator would like to visit our school to see our 1:1 computing policy in action, they can contact me. They would be very welcome."

Essa Academy 

George ColeGeorge Cole is a freelance journalist who writes about technology and learning. A former teacher, he is also the author of The Last Miles, a book about the jazz musician Miles Davis, and runs The Last Miles website

New 'iPod Scotland Evaluation' report – essential reading

iPad Scotland Evaluation by the University of Hull is essential reading for any school considering a 1:1 tablet scheme. While it specifically looks at the use of iPads in schools, its executive summary sets out its store with its first key finding: "Use of tablet devices such as the iPad was found to facilitate the achievement of many of the core elements required within the Curriculum for Excellence framework and could be further developed in order to achieve these aspirations."

iPad Scotland Evaluation's recommendations for schools

1. Robust connectivity and school-wide access to wifi are essential and should ideally be in place before mobile computing devices are deployed.
2. The adoption of mobile computing devices incorporating wifi Internet connectivity, camera and video recording capability and storage is strongly recommended.
3. Teachers should have access to mobile computing devices on a personal basis, preferably before they are used in a school, to aid familiarity and improve successful adoption.
4. Professional development in the use of mobile computing devices appears to be a largely experiential, collaborative process and formal ‘training’ should only be offered if requested by the teacher.
5. The use of a ‘full personal ownership’ model for implementing mobile computing devices in school, where pupils are able to make use of their device at all times in school and are also able to take it home, is strongly recommended on educational grounds and for strengthening parental engagement.
6. The use of a full personal ownership model in schools will require traditional practice surrounding the school-work / home-work divide to be revisited to take account of the capabilities of this technology for supporting more seamless and integrated patterns of learning.
7. The use of tools such as Configurator and Volume Licensing is helpful in the management of mobile computing devices and the use of software of this nature is recommended.
8. The use of Apple TVTM or mirroring software such as AirServer to allow pupils and teachers to share the materials on their iPads with a wider audience is recommended as a tool for collaborative working.
9. Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) will need to be revisited to consider the inclusion of mobile devices especially if, as recommended in 5 above, the devices are to be taken off school premises

1:1 Learning Myths at 

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