A digital strategy which began in a snow-bound Edinburgh over a decade ago has culminated in the recognition that Wallace is an “exemplary leader” in the use of ICT/digital technology in schools. Gaining the Digital Schools’ Award is a Herculean task as the school must initially provide substantive written evidence of excellence in the wide range of areas noted below:
- Leadership and Vision
- Digital Learning and Teaching
- School Culture
- Professional Development
- Resources and Infrastructure
and subsequently engage in face to face appraisal. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the school community participated in a forensic investigation via video meetings designed both to validate the integrity of the evidence base and to enhance the Digital Schools’ Assessor’s awareness of the richness of our engagement with ICT. Six students of varying ages (Lara Wilson Year 8, Nicolas Falconer Year 10, Reuben Duncan Year 10, Isaac McIlwrath Year 12, Rachel Armstrong Year 12 and Hannah McMath Year 14) met with the Assessor to illustrate such varied areas as creativity, digital technology in Music, links with PWC and Deloitte Career Shapers and the concept of the “flipped classroom.” Heads of Department Mrs Ruth Foster (IT) and Mr Neil Armstrong (History/Politics) analysed the impact of the ICT curriculum within school and the integration of digital technology at departmental level to enhance teaching and learning and motivational capacity whilst Senior Teacher Miss Pam Brown outlined how digital technology had been integrated into CPD (Continuing Professional Development).
In recent years the school also participated in a highly-regarded Erasmus project with partner schools from Spain and Belgium focused on the use of iPads. The Digital Schools’ Assessor quizzed Dr Jane McMath, ICT Co-ordinator, on a range of issues including Wallace’s eLearning Development Plan, the Digital Literacy Strategy and eSafety, a concept regarded with the utmost seriousness in Wallace.
Vice-Principal Mr David Cleland (who has held the prestigious title of Apple Distinguished Educator since 2011) represented the SMT and explored the concepts of Leadership and Vision. Wallace’s central role as a leader and influencer in Digital Technology has long been acknowledged throughout Northern Ireland and beyond; Mr Cleland has addressed academics, senior civil servants and members of the Inspectorate and the school has hosted visitors from Finland, Norway, the UK and the USA.
The report commended warmly Doctor McMath for her “insightful leadership and her ability to fuse the combined expertise and enthusiasm of her colleagues into a vibrant, innovative and progressive team”; it also recorded the “direct lines of contact back to Doctor McMath” showing the school’s dedication to ensuring staff are upskilled in the latest and most appropriate methods of curriculum delivery. Pupil participants were praised for their detailed and informed views, their creativity and their enthusiasm.
The true benefit of the school’s visionary strategy has been seen most clearly during the two school years impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. As noted by Doctor McMath the use of WHS-Campus and the daily schedule proved invaluable in ensuring a smooth transition between school and home which students “clearly value.”
The preliminary work for the presentation was supported by Assistant ICT co-ordinator (Mr David Simpson) and the “saints of ICT”, our technicians Mr David Finney and Mr Colin Napier. Had the assessment taken place later in the year the Digital Schools’ Assessor would certainly have witnessed the outstanding support our technicians offer to parents as we rolled out a new app for parents mid-term to increase parental awareness of student progress. Colin also participated in a video meeting detailing many of the practicalities underpinning the school’s network.
At a reception in Wallace for the student participants Principal Mrs Deborah O’Hare said:
“The report concluded that the school is an example of digital excellence and whilst it is flattering to read an independent assessor’s judgement it is no surprise. I am delighted that the report acknowledges the “complete buy-in from staff and students” and certainly agree with its author’s description of the school as dynamic and progressive. I would like to express my warmest appreciation to the staff who have shown tremendous professionalism over a decade and in particular to Mr Cleland and Doctor McMath who have been inspirational in their commitment, enthusiasm and unerring professionalism.”
Last modified: April 26, 2021