The leader who took control over school innovation

Innovate My School

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On Friday 7th July, Shireland Collegiate Academy in the West Midlands hosted their very own Innovate My School LIVE event. This was the first stop on a school budget-centric roadshow showing school leaders how to do more with less.

The Innovate My School LIVE roadshow is a series of events showing school leaders how they can do more with less. Each gathering brings together SLT from across the region to discuss how their school is innovative, be it via resources or practices. The roadshow will continue on to wow schools in north-east England (29th September), Cheshire (18th October), Southend (20th October) and Oxfordshire (15th November), with more dates to be announced soon. These events are being held to help schools accommodate stretched budgets, showing educators that there are numerous, first-rate resources available at a reasonable price.

“We were all so pleased with just how well our Innovate My School Live event went,” says Shireland Technology Primary principal Kirsty Tonks. “What a success! It flowed really well, and those who came seemed to really enjoy the day and found it valuable. Every single person found me at the end before they left to say what a great day it had been, and how useful it had been to attend. I think they each went away with at least one action to follow up.”

Kirsty Tonks presents her favourite innovations to attendees

Kirsty and her colleagues amazed local school leaders with the likes of successful flipped-learning projects, most rewarding resources and their tips for “scaling up” innovation. What’s more, Shireland staff brought guests into their incredible immersive learning environment.


Kirsty continues: “Hosting an Innovate My School event was so easy to do. Given that it was so close to the end of the school year, we weren’t sure how much work was involved. However, the IMS team were fantastic, and everything was more or less done with nothing to worry about.”

A large inner-city Secondary school based in Sandwell, Shireland Collegiate Academy has a strong reputation for effective use of edtech, creative curriculum-design and embracing new strategies to improve teaching and learning. The Academy has been judged as Outstanding by Ofsted in 2006, 2010 and 2013. Every Shireland pupil has their own device to access the school’s online platform, the Learning Gateway, through which they can record work and access online resources. The platform also contains a wealth of tools for Shireland teachers to utilise in their lessons.

It is this embracing of technology that led to a particularly bustling speed-dating session, where the school leaders sat down with some of the most exciting innovators in education. As Kirsty puts it: “The actual speed dating session was down to a fine art in the expert hands of Jan. It was a chance to get real, focused time with companies that already had been vetted by IMS.”

The event came hot-on-the-heels of two Microsoft in the Classroom sessions held at Shireland, itself a Microsoft Showcase School. In 2015 they were the West Midlands winner of the National Pupil Premium awards, and are currently running an edtech-oriented research project in collaboration with both the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) and 24 local Primary schools.

This desire to embrace the best edtech on the scene was demonstrated by Shireland on the day:

“We placed an order there and then for a fabulous new Design & Technology product that fits in with our Key Stage 3 curriculum,” enthuses Kirsty. “Another product we were introduced to was like nothing we’ve seen before; it was hugely impressive piece of software that helps with the whole Appraisal and CPD process.”

The enthusiasm and expertise illustrated by the host school has all-but-ensured future Shireland Collegiate Academy / Innovate My School collaborations. Bett, the lunchtime sponsor, presented ‘What children teach us about careers’, while headline sponsors Tute Education made one attendee very happy by facilitating the prize draw. Kirsty continues:

“All in all, this was a great day for everyone involved. Each of the different parties - whether a school or a company - got something out of it, and I love it when you can tick more than one box at the same time!

“For me, the Innovate My School speed dates take the hard work out of the search for new and effective solutions. As a school leader that helps me enormously, leaving me with the final decision with no pressure to say yes.”

Are you a school leader looking to innovate on a budget? To take part in your nearest Innovate My School LIVE event, or to even host your own, visit See you there!

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