Flipped learning and ebooks at Shireland


Shireland Collegiate Academy is well-known for having embraced flipped learning across the school. Alan Hodgin considers how the use of ebooks has supported this approach.

While the pedagogical model of flipped learning isn’t a new concept, it is being increasingly adopted in classrooms to help schools meet Ofsted targets and raise pupils’ attainment.

For one West Midlands secondary school, this interactive and personalised approach has had a significant impact on their students’ literacy levels. Last year Shireland Collegiate Academy introduced an ebook solution to deliver flipped learning, sharply focused interventions, independent learning and a transition programme. Following the pilot, here’s what they discovered:

  • That 95 per cent of students said that ebooks are a useful learning tool.

  • That 81 per cent of students read more often and for longer with ebooks.

  • That 100 per cent of the teachers who used ebooks said it had improved their lessons.

For Shireland Collegiate Academy it was important they found a solution that worked throughout the school and could adapt to a range of strategies. 

The inner city academy is faced with many challenges: it has 1,100 students aged 11 to 18 and was built more than 100 years ago. Now serving an area of substantial deprivation, 38.2 per cent of its students have eligibility for free school meals (63 per cent Pupil Premium), 22 per cent have SEN, 15 per cent have safeguarding issues, and 64.7 per cent have English as a second language.

Shireland is using ebooks to revolutionise how and where learning takes place. Flipped learning is central to the delivery of a creative curriculum in the school’s Raising Attainment Plan and giving students access to ebooks is enabling flipped learning by providing greater breadth and depth of choice as well as anytime, anywhere access for every student.

Flexible loan periods are reducing the school’s expenditure on textbooks and replacements for those lost or damaged, as well as reducing the requirement for photocopying. 

Shireland Collegiate Academy has been rated outstanding since 2007 and is described by Ofsted as “an exceptional academy”. Praised for its ability to precisely tailor learning to its students’ exact needs, the academy has been using ebooks to deliver targeted interventions for specific cohorts and to support its Literacy for Life theme-based curriculum in year 7.

An effective use of resources

“Ebooks have given us a completely different way of using the resources that we put into our subject areas,” explained executive principal at Shireland, Sir Mark Grundy.

“This ?exibility means we are using resources far more effectively than we’ve ever done before. It has given us the ability to deploy resources for interventions, for ?ipped learning, for transition and for really individualising some of the attention and support we wanted to provide.” 

A typical year 7 reader is below national average, generally disengaged from reading (more obviously in boys) and does not choose to read. 

However, teachers using ebooks at Shireland have seen significant changes in their students’ attitudes to reading. 

Mo Yafai is a year 7 teacher delivering Literacy for Life, a theme-based curriculum with literacy at its heart that encourages child-led learning. His students read every day and the breadth and depth of content available means students can pick what they want to read from a variety of books or be assigned specific content to read at school or at home. 

“The students do their reading wherever and whenever they like, then bring that into the classroom and swap information – so effectively you’re halving the teaching time,” Mr Yafai explained.

“I’ve noticed that reading is becoming a shared activity, a community activity rather than something you just do by yourself. Students say they feel more confident, understand more and are able to complete homework tasks.” 

Online reporting

Mr Yafai has been using the online reporting functionality provided by the ebook platform to get feedback from what he has been teaching in class. He is able to see how long students have been reading for and how many pages they’ve read. By sharing the statistics with the class, he is able to motivate even his most reluctant of readers.

Before the introduction of the ebooks, only five per cent of students read at home more than five times per week, with the majority only reading once or twice. Now, 75 per cent of students are reading more than three times a week, with 23 per cent reading more than five times. Students report that they didn’t previously read much before ebooks, but that the new system is showing them reading can be fun, not boring.

Literacy Boost

One of Shireland’s sharply focused interventions is a Literacy Boost delivered by the learning support team. Students are assigned a chapter to read, about which they create a presentation or drama piece to share with the whole class. 

Learning support team member, Deanne Howe, explains why ebooks appeals to reluctant readers: “They read on the iPads and they absolutely love it. Because it’s through a device, for the boys it’s a bit more ‘cool’ and they find it more engaging.

“When you get a book, you see how thick it is – that’s one of the first things young boys look at. On a device, they don’t know, so they just go through and before they know it, they’ve read the whole thing!”

In the 6th form, ebooks are proving their value as a tool to encourage independent learning. Science teacher Gulfam Shahzad has been using ebooks as a mechanism for flipped learning: “The majority of students prefer having to research things for themselves rather than having someone standing there telling them about it. It’s changing the way we approach teaching,” he said. 

General studies teacher Daniel Hanbury agrees: “The platform provides each student with a way of independent learning, which is very beneficial for the individual and for whole-class learning.

“I’ve seen a big change in the students’ behaviour. They are much more motivated, much more interested in their topic.” 

The driving force behind Shireland’s successful implementation of ebooks is Kirsty Tonks, director of e-learning. Ms Tonks explained: “If I’m honest, what’s really driven this is the students. They were asking why they couldn’t have an electronic copy of their textbooks. They’ve said that finally the academy has caught up with them in terms of accessing things through electronic means.

“I think you’re only limited by your imagination in terms of what you can do – and teachers are very creative and resourceful individuals, so it will be interesting to see what we come up with next.”

  • Alan Hodgin is head of RM Books.


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