Helping Scottish Primary Schools meet Raising Attainment for All standards

Millthorpe School, York"I think Spellzone has the potential to significantly help us achieve our literacy-related Raising Attainment for All objectives"

Fiona Johnson, Achahoish and Kilmartin Primary Schools

Achahoish Primary School in the Argyll and Bute region on Scotland’s west coast is one of the most isolated schools on the country’s mainland. Currently, the school has just 11 students, enough for one class and one full time member of staff. Meanwhile, 19 miles to the north of Achahoish, Kilmartin Primary School has 24 students across two classes with two full time members of staff.

Fiona Johnson has been the shared head teacher of both schools for two years, and acknowledges that logistics can sometimes be a challenge, especially with staff who are so isolated. With the drive between the two schools taking around 40minutes, she tries to spend at least two days a week at each site and get the teachers together after hours to discuss ways they can work as one school to develop together.

A particular issue facing all schools in Scotland right now is the Raising Attainment for All programme. Launched in June 2014, the programme aims to support consistent improvement in attainment and achievement through the development of a ‘collaborative learning system’. Schools are given the challenge of pinpointing areas for improvement and finding the best resources to help achieve them.

Fiona tells us: “Spelling is certainly one area in which both Achahoish and Kilmartin students needed help. Up until this year, we hadn’t had much luck finding a suitable resource that was both interesting for the children and gave teachers the data they needed to track performance, see how students’ spelling was improving and by what percentage.

“So, when one of our teachers mentioned that their granddaughter, who is at school in England, had been using Spellzone and was really enjoying it, we thought it was worth a try. The best sign for me was that we’d been told a child liked using it, as we know only too well that just because something is necessary, it doesn’t guarantee it will hold children’s interest when they’re using it regularly!”

Having used a variety of other resources in the past for both literacy and numeracy, what Fiona and the teachers at Achahoish and Kilmartin immediately noticed about Spellzone was how straightforward and simple students found it to use, while also making it easy for teachers to clearly record individual progress. Taking advantage of Spellzone’s free trial month gave both schools the chance to try out the resource before committing to it long term, something Fiona appreciated.

She explains: “What we’ve found with resources in the past is that even those that seem great at first aren’t always sustainable over a long period of time. However, with Spellzone we noticed straight away how quickly the children were able to get into the swing of it and how happy they were to continue using it. We’re very fortunate to have a lot of laptops available at both schools, and the students really enjoy using them, which takes a lot of the pain away!”

The goal for class teachers is to use Spellzone four times a week for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Right now, however, both schools are still in a period of introducing students to the system, with younger children being given one-to-one support from a teaching assistant before they start using it independently. Once the students are up and running with regular weekly sessions, staff will look to organise a workshop for parents on how students can use Spellzone at home, which means they can then start setting it for homework tasks.

“As it’s so early on we haven’t yet set targets for spelling improvements across the schools,” Fiona explains, continuing: “But all of the students have been taken individually through the initial Spellzone assessment and we’ll see how they fare over the next six months. In November, we’ll have a much clearer idea of the individual targets we should be setting and any particular areas we need to pay attention to. I think Spellzone has the potential to significantly help us achieve our literacy-related Raising Attainment for All objectives.”

Fiona says teaching staff are particularly interested in Spellzone’s option for putting together their own word lists for the students, giving them complete flexibility to link spelling into other areas of the curriculum.

Being based in such a rural area comes with its challenges, but one of the benefits of attending such a small school is that all 35 students at Achahoish and Kilmartin receive a lot of one on one attention from teachers and teaching assistants, something that often isn’t possible in larger schools. Fiona and her teaching staff are excited at the opportunities Spellzone offers to support this teaching approach and enthusiastic about the possibilities for its future use across both schools.

We look forward to hearing again from Fiona at the end of the year to find out how students at Achahoish and Kilmartin have progressed.

Achahoish Primary School
Kilmartin Primary School

View other case studies...

"Thank goodness for Spellzone during this remote learning phase. The site is easy for students to navigate independently and they're really enjoying the activities and spelling games. You get an awful lot for your money with Spellzone. Really reassuring is the very prompt response with helpdesk queries. I've very rarely needed the helpdesk, but when I have, the issue has been addressed and sorted within a very short time."

Sarah Taggart, Oasis Academy Lord's Hill