Sir Tom Finney Community High School

Sir Tom Finney
Community High School

Based in Preston in Lancashire, Sir Tom Finney Community High School is a learning difficulty designated secondary special school with a sixth form.

A Solution to Support Sir Tom Finney Community High School
& The Needs & Abilities of Their Special Education Students

Based in Preston in Lancashire, Sir Tom Finney Community High School is a learning difficulty designated secondary special school with a sixth form. There are students at the school ranging from 11 to 19 years old, and the school has recently seen a rise in students who display complex mental health challenges, alongside special education needs and disabilities.

Mr Gillies, Art & Design Lead, Computing Lead, Head of Key Stage 4 and Behaviour Manager at the school, has been in education for 20 years and has spent six years teaching at Sir Tom Finney Community High School. Working here, Mr Gillies has said that “I just found a passion working in special education after many, many years in various mainstream establishments.”

Finding a Solution to Support Sir Tom Finney
Community High School’s Pupils’ Needs & Abilities

The school has been subscribing to EducationCity for twelve years, and there were many reasons as to why the school chose to implement the learning program, including to cater to their students’ varying needs.

Our school sought an online learning experience to benefit our students. We were looking for a package that had an exciting and attractive user interface that would meet the needs and abilities of all of our pupils.

EducationCity also supplements the curriculum and face-to-face learning, which was beneficial for our school in terms of linkage and consistency. EducationCity is used as an extension to learning and reinforces the underpinning knowledge students have gained in the lessons.

Mr Gillies, Art & Design Lead, Computing Lead, Head of Key Stage 4 and Behaviour Manager

Using Online Learning to Support Students’ Needs

Mr Gillies and his team have found EducationCity beneficial in terms of supporting their SEN students’ needs as a result of the grouping tools and the resources available that can support different ability levels:

You can set up groups on EducationCity, which supports differentiation, and this is particularly ideal for our students’ varying needs. EducationCity can be set to meet these individual needs and abilities, which is key, especially in an SEN environment. It supports both high and low sets at our school, which benefit our students’ needs too as some can be working at the P scales or GCSE level within the same group, so it is essential to have this ability to differentiate.”

Mr Gillies, Art & Design Lead, Computing Lead, Head of Key Stage 4 and Behaviour Manager

The learning program also supports students as the user interface is user-friendly for them. Mr Gillies comments that the students do not just treat it as another learning platform but see it as downtime and a ‘game’, whilst the underlying focus is always still on learning.

The certificates and the challenges have been appealing to the students and their progress, as Mr Gillies says, “the biggest problem we have with EducationCity is getting the students off it. They really enjoy using it as it is so user-friendly, it’s challenging, and it’s so appealing to them. They just love the fact that they can get certificates and the competition between themselves to see who can get the highest scores, and that’s something they can do through the PlayLive feature also. EducationCity can also be used at home to keep the retention bubbling.”

For lower-ability students, EducationCity has been a success as it can be utilised without a specialist teacher, meaning learning is accessible to all. Mr Gillies comments that EducationCity is very useful in filling the gaps where specialist teachers are not available for lessons. This is ideal in times of staff absence.”

Mr Gillies also recommends the online safety area, which is particularly important for his students and their specific needs. Mr Gillies says that “one of the great features of EducationCity is the online safety tool which supports students and the fact that they use technology for learning or recreationally daily. It is an essential resource, in particular, for our pupils as they are very, very vulnerable, especially online. Their online presence is their main social life and generally cannot be monitored outside of school for one reason or another.”

Using Online Learning to Support Teachers

Mr Gillies gives access to EducationCity to all the staff, including the administrative staff and welfare staff, to provide them with an insight into what is happening in the classroom. Mr Gillies or staff at EducationCity also deliver training to ensure staff are up-to-date with the knowledge they need. Finally, Mr Gillies also sets up the classes and groups at the start of each academic year and says, “this can be done very easily by uploading a CSV file through Excel. There’s also the option to use the management integration tool, Wonde, which EducationCity provides. It can be quite easily linked to that.

Furthermore, lesson planning folders are also set up and Mr Gillies comments on how useful it is to have MyCities where they can ‘sequence’ and ‘non-sequence’ the work for students: “we use ‘sequenced’ and ‘non-sequenced’ MyCities to deliver the learning. Depending on the group of students, if I want them to focus on a particular topic area before moving on, the content will be set to ‘sequenced’.”

The tracking tool has been utilised, which has helped the school promote independent learning whilst the teachers can focus on individual pupils for one-to-one intervention work; Mr Gillies comments that “one of the fantastic features of EducationCity is the tracking tool which shows the students’ progress, which is really beneficial for the teachers. Not only does this provide the evidence for learning, but it also gives me, as a teacher, a quick and easy view to analyse the pupils’ progress, so our teachers use it during lessons, and they can focus on certain pupil’s needs.

“I have the two top sets for maths on a Thursday morning and use EducationCity a lot with them so they can do independent work based on the topic area we are covering. I’ve set up 67 classes  (MyCities) on ‘time’ and ‘calendar’ for my students to work on for instance, while I can focus on lower-level learners who are struggling to grasp those concepts, so it’s absolutely fantastic for that aspect.”

To support the needs of their pupils, Mr Gillies has also changed the names of classes and levels on EducationCity so that they are more relevant to them. For instance, Mr Gillies uses ‘Key Stage 4’ and ‘Top Set’, and this enables the students to recognise a label which is more age-appropriate to them.

Furthermore, the data reporting tools have helped Mr Gillies too, and especially when it comes round to Ofsted: “the reporting tools are ideal for when it comes to Ofsted as they may ask how we are evidencing learning. You can do that easily through SuccessTracker. I can easily see the information for any pupil for any subject and put this into an Excel spreadsheet and produce a report. It can tell you the content type, what score the students got, did they complete it and the actual date that it was saved as well. The information is all there if you need to report back to your senior leadership team or Ofsted.”

How Sir Tom Finney Community High School Used EducationCity to Support Its Distance Learning Needs

With many schools facing distance learning measures in early 2020, Sir Tom Finney Community High School has been using EducationCity more and more to support their students’ needs: “EducationCity has come into its own light now really. EducationCity was crucial to transition the classroom to the home for the pupils. It was very easy for us to guide pupils to access EducationCity from home to continue their learning and also encouraging them to use the activities that were available and set up by the class teachers.

“EducationCity was something that was embedded as part of the curriculum throughout key stage three, right through to post-16. Therefore, for us, we were very fortunate, but that’s the benefits of having a package like this.”

Mr Gillies and his team have also set up home-working plans for all departments to support them for any potential future school closures. They have also provided e-learning packs, and EducationCity has played a big part of these where lesson planning folders full of resources have been set up for every student. Mr Gillies says, “classwork on EducationCity can be set up in advance, and you can set a timeframe of when you want to publish it, whether you want to publish it straight away or for a certain period of time. Plus, when we went into lockdown before, all the classwork was actually already set up in preparation, and we just clicked a button, and it was all activated for the students.”

Success at Sir Tom Finney Community High School

From March to July 2020, Mr Gillies’ school used EducationCity over 10,000 times. Mr Gillies says that this “proved to us that not only were the pupils able to access it from home, but they were also enjoying using it from the amount of times it was actually used, so that was fantastic.”

Sir Tom Finney Community High School has seen huge success from using EducationCity to support their pupils’ varying needs. Mr Gillies says that “the main impact of EducationCity is the benefit it provides to the pupils that need intervention; the intervention programs can be supported by teaching support staff and parents. It also enables us to set work for any particular areas of improvement and quickly bring the pupils up to speed alongside their peers without having to impact on the rest of the class.”

Mr Gillies says that the online learning element and PlayLive feature allows his students “to learn whilst competing with their peers. Our pupils absolutely love this. Some students prefer online learning rather than face-to-face, and EducationCity is a fantastic tool for them. For the pupils that are hard to engage with or too quiet to talk out, EducationCity can be used to assign content specific to them. Some learners resist learning in a classroom for one reason or another, and using EducationCity gives them that independence of learning.

“EducationCity has been used more and more to support learning, and it will continue to do so. As more and more young people find themselves studying from home, EducationCity plays a vital part in keeping our pupils educated and engaged in education.”

In the future, EducationCity will continue to work with Sir Tom Finney Community High School to support them with delivering resources to support their students’ needs. It will also support its expansion plans where the school are looking to increase the provision of pupils with SEN over the next five years. As Mr Gillies says,

“EducationCity will play a key part in keeping pupils engaged, meeting the needs of home learning and having a platform that is seamless and accessible, as well as one that improves behaviour.”