The Streetly Academy is a Sports College for 11-18 year olds in the heart of the West Midlands. As an establishment with specialist Sports College status, their site boasts a distinctive ethos with first-rate facilities. The current total of students on roll at the Academy is 1398, with 189 students in the sixth form.
Streetly’s specialism in sport is not just confined to the P.E. department – they are driven by the Olympic Values of PRIDE: Personal Excellence, Respect and Friendship, Inspiration, Determination and Courage, and Equality. They believe these values are transferable to all aspects of life, and work hard to ensure that every student can grow into a positive, well-rounded citizen in a safe and stimulating environment.
Streetly Academy has a growing national and international reputation for innovative use of technologies and anytime, anywhere learning – one of their most distinguishing features is their learning platform, Frog, for which they are an International Demonstration school. Frog is a state-of-the-art Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) software, used by the Academy to promote 24/7 learning.
As part of the Academy’s commitment to technology, all teaching staff are equipped with laptops, and students from Year 10 to sixth form are each provided with a Google Chromebook while studying there. The one-to-one programme allows Years 10, 11, 12 and 13 students to keep their Chromebooks for personal use as well as at school. They are given to the students, with a £40 deposit for home use, to ensure 100% uptake of the one-to-one vision and equal opportunity in class activities.
Stone have now been working with the Academy for over 8 years – providing them with student Chromebooks, staff laptops and their desktop machines, over 800 devices in total.
They recently made the transition to Acer Chromebooks after the brand they previously purchased left the market. The value of the order of the new devices meant that they had to go out to tender, giving them the opportunity to see who offered the best priced equipment.
Andrew Caffrey, Assistant Headteacher (Data and Technologies), explains “My role involves looking after the introduction of new technology, managing and tracking student data, and implementing the 1:1 Chromebook programme. When the previous brand went out of the market, I conducted extensive research into what else was available to suit the school’s innovative approach of ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning.
“The tender process involved writing up a document for our specific requirements, and the knowledge of the market meant that we already knew exactly what we wanted. Contracts are regularly reviewed at the school anyway, to ensure that they continue to be the best value and fit for purpose. We put the tender out to various companies to see who could offer us the best price for what we wanted.”
In order to continue to provide students with the best learning experience possible, the Academy needed a new brand of Chromebooks for their 1:1 programme, and were looking for a vendor who could offer them best value for their specific requirements. Andrew Caffrey comments on their discovery of the Acer brand, “When the previous brand went out of the market I was disappointed at first, because we hadn’t experienced any problems with the equipment. However, it gave us the opportunity to really explore the market and discover the Acer Chromebooks – they are superb models. They exceed the specification requirement we’d had previously, which was the main thing, but they’re also stronger and more durable than the original brand, and much faster. I’m certain that they’re the best value for money device for our students – they’re built for creation, rather than consumption. Initially, we went out to tender for only 250 machines to ensure that they were the right fit for the school.”
On their decision to award Stone the tender, he explains, “Value for money was a big driver in our choice of supplier, and Stone were able to offer us the most cost-sensitive devices by far. Delivery timescale was another important factor, but we knew that Stone would be reliable from our previous experience of them. The Academy already had lots of Stone equipment – they’d provided all of our desktops and staff laptops. We’ve built a strong relationship with them over the years so felt confident that they could deliver everything we needed.”
Stone supplied the Academy with 250 of Acer’s 11.6-inch Chromebook models. Small but powerful, the devices are easy for students to pop in their bags, yet pack the latest Intel® processor, making them ideal for the school’s ‘anytime, anywhere’ system of learning. The boot up was a key factor for the Academy so that students can log on quickly and maximise time available for work in GCSE and A Level lessons. The devices switch on instantly as soon as students open the lid, and they can zip through tasks without recharging due to the extensive battery life that the Chromebook boasts.
Students were already using the Google Apps for Education Suite across the site before the first Chromebooks came in, which meant that it was practical to transfer over to the new devices straight away because students were confident with what they were doing. Andrew comments, “We tested a sample of 15 devices with our Digital Leaders at first, then broadened it to include Year 12 after seeing results in lessons. The ease of access made me confident that this was the right route, and they were soon rolled out to Years 10, 11, 12 and 13.
“A future aim of the IT vision is to have a mixture of devices to suit the task needed, all with access to Google Apps for Education. All of our students are currently operating on the Google Apps for Education Suite despite the device, so training won’t be an issue.
“We favoured Chromebooks over notebooks because of their compatibility with the Google Apps for Education Suite. We also use an interactive lesson system called Pear Deck – which is built in Google Drive. It’s in Beta Test across the school to go alongside the 1:1 Chromebook rollout. With Chromebooks in the classroom running Pear Deck, I can upload a presentation and then add questions or activities at appropriate points for students to complete, it then tracks the results and enables me to save them in Google Drive. Also, because the apps we use for specialised lessons come from the Google Play for Education store, it means that there are no additional software costs, which is great from our perspective.”
He remarks, “I’ve already seen the Chromebooks make such a huge difference – the efficiency of the device saves time in the classroom, and maximises the educational achievement of the students. A built-in web-based management console makes it easy for us to deploy and centrally manage a number of student devices, rather than individually, alleviating a lot of the admin burden and leaving staff free to prioritise other work.”