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IT has been something of a saving grace over the past couple of terms and we’ve made some significant steps to promote a stronger home/school connection when it comes to technology.  Tom Newling, Assistant Headteacher at Rustington Community Primary, has been leading on the implementation of Google Classroom to secure more effective remote learning capabilities across all our schools and shares an overview of how he kicked the project off at Rustington. 

On joining Rustington in September 2019 I was keen to implement the use of Google Apps in the classroom.  After seeing the hugely positive impact of using this tool at my last school, I just loved the way that children found it so intuitive and easy to use.  As a self-confessed tech junky, I’d always kept up to date with the latest in edtech, and always tried to use the latest gadgets and apps in my classroom if I could.  My plan was to roll things out slowly over the year and have the tools fully embedded by September 2020. What do they say about the best laid plans?!

At that point none of us could have predicted that a global pandemic would place remote learning front and centre of the educational agenda.  But as COVID-19 began to sweep across the world it was clear we were facing a very difficult challenge.  With a lockdown looking increasingly likely, long-term plans turned into short-term ones overnight and ever-increasing demands meant that IT became everyone’s top priority.  Gone was the notion to “take your time” as our staff and children needed working solutions quickly and with the minimum of fuss! 

Staff meetings in February and early March became dominated by plans for how we would continue to provide high quality education to our children without actually being able to be in the same room as them.  It was clear that all eyes were on IT (and me!) to provide some kind of answer. 

Thanks to the brilliant team at Rustington, we managed to get Google Classroom up and running and ready to go with weeks to spare before lockdown struck in March.  Through an amazing effort teachers, teaching assistants, children and parents came on board quickly.  And when we had to close our doors to over 2/3 of our pupils, we were able to serve them a rich and varied curriculum online from the first day of their home learning journey. 

Google Classroom allowed us to deliver work remotely, provided precise and meaningful feedback and kept us in touch with the children who were unable to come into school.  We continued to adapt and improve the way that we used Google Classroom and listened to what our parents and children told us about how they preferred to learn.  The feedback that we had was overwhelmingly positive.

The new school year has brought with it some incredible challenges for schools across the world.  At Rustington we know that with Google Classroom in place we can continue to provide the children with the learning that they need, whether they are at home or in school.

This September also gave me the exciting opportunity to help all schools in the Trust embed Google Classroom into the heart of their curriculum.  Training other teachers and passing on my enthusiasm for education technology is a real privilege, and I am very proud that all our pupils now have access to Google.  Depending on the needs of the child, Google is being used to task homework or coordinate home learning if the pupil is away from school or isolating.  It’s clear that IT offers us some relevant and useful solutions for delivering education during this very uncertain period – and beyond.