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News Ask Charlotte! T


his month, our regular education technology columnist Charlotte Beckhurst takes a look at using tech to enhance your teaching in the classroom, and a handy app for use in science lessons


I spent my afternoon with 27 five and six year olds working on information pages in PowerPoint for a class non-fiction book about attractions around London. The end result was a great deck of slides containing facts about Big Ben, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace. Each page includes features of a non- fiction text and not only that the children have learnt to insert shapes, text boxes and pictures from the internet. Success. Using technology to enhance what we already do not only saves time but increases the level of student involvement and participation. This afternoon my class were talking about informative text features as well as using computing terminology. So this month I thought I would share a number of ideas of using technology to enhance the amazing job you are already doing. Try QR Codes to teach children about placing events in chronological order. All children love a puzzle and QR codes containing historical events. Having the children work in a group to order the historical events is an excellent way to increase communication and collaboration. Alternatively you could make a class time line. Breakdown a timeline into chunks and give each group a section of the timeline with a range of different events. Children piece their section of the time line together and then the class has to work together to make the giant timeline! As a next step, you could get the children to make their own QR codes for a timeline!


Use Skitch to teach children to extend number patterns. Skitch is a brilliant note sharing app which is an extension of Evernote. It is easy to annotate and share images such as maps, web pages, photos or original drawings. Children are able to type or create hand written notes. Tell the children that the Queen has had the Crown Jewels stolen and they are being kept in the burglars safe. To get the jewels back they need to work out the combination on the safe. By setting up some starter number patterns and sharing them with the children, they are able to extend the number patterns and even write their own to share with their classmates once they get more confident.


Try Lync to write collaborative stories. Remember how fun those stories were when your friend started and you all took turns to write a bit? Well Lync provides an excellent environment to do just that. Using the Lync message system, children can work in small groups to write a story taking turns to write a sentence each. You could even set this up for a homework project to undertake at home. And what about getting the parents involved somehow?!


Some of you asked me last week about apps for science. Well Physamajig is a great physics app which can be used to teach children how to represent the directions of forces by arrows. Not only that but it is teaching your children programming at the same time! Set up a ping pong ball and elastic band experiment in a safe environment and get the children talking about forces. Then get them to explore and edit the games in Physamajig to then be able to compare with their own findings. Children could then plan their games on paper including the arrows before finally making their own forces games. A truly purposeful and creative classroom.


Well that’s it for this month. If you do have any questions, you would like answering then get in touch and I’ll be happy to share in my up-coming columns. You can reach me @CharBeckhurst or beckhursteducation@gmail.com


Charlotte Beckhurst is a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator. She works at a primary school in Tottenham and runs training courses on using technology in the classroom.


uwww.chicmeek.blogspot.com 4


Academy schools need to act now to


avoid a cash crisis Comment by Mike Giddings, Director of Education Services at Clement Keys


Academy schools in England & Wales could soon be facing a cash crisis if they fail to plan ahead for incoming changes to the profiling of payments that they receive from the Education Funding Agency (EFA). From 1 September 2014, academies will receive funding in equal monthly instalments,


instead of the front-loaded funding they have enjoyed in the past. All academies affected by the changes will have received a letter from the EFA explaining


the new system of payments, however, they may not yet have considered how this could impact their organisations. The worst case scenario is that some schools go ahead with orders for resources and works over the summer holiday based on the expectation that they will receive 12% of their funding in September. This could result in a cash flow crisis when schools find out they are going to receive just 8.33% at the start of September. In order to prepare for the changes, schools will need to act sooner rather than later.


Unlike other organisations, academies are not able to borrow, so having complete control over their cashflow is essential. However, most schools have not had to manage cash flow through the year in this way before, which is why careful planning and advice should be sought as soon as possible. For those schools who are particularly worried about the impact of the new system,


joining together with another school or schools, to form a group known as a Multi Academy Trust, could make life a little easier. As schools continue to convert to academy status, a growing number of them are now forming Multi Academy Trusts due to the economies of scale that they can then enjoy. By joining forces with other academies, they will be less susceptible to changes to their funding, providing them with greater stability and room for manoeuvre when managing their cash. Generally schools that form groups of this kind obtain better value for money and are able to share best practice across all schools. Although it is not too late to act, schools need to come up with an action plan addressing


how they are going to manage their cash flow before orders and works to prepare for the new academic year are finalised. To help schools manage their cash flow, they should adopt strategies that allow costs to be spread evenly over the year to match their income profiles. At the heart of this issue is procurement. Schools need to look at how and where they


buy everything from the utilities to teaching resources to ensure that the supplier they choose offers the best value for money and payment terms that provide them with an affordable solution. This doesn’t mean that quality should be sacrificed for value, but what it does mean is that schools will need to negotiate the best deals and procure from a number of key suppliers. At Clement Keys, we have worked with a number of schools on this issue and have


found in some cases that there is a tendency to procure all their teaching supplies from one source. Schools are concerned that they don’t have the time or resource to shop around for the best deals so buying from one trusted supplier is the only option. Firstly, there is no reason why schools can’t pay invoices on a more commercial basis. The common practice of paying suppliers on a “net monthly” basis is not often adopted by schools. Whilst the procurement process isn’t necessarily familiar to schools, being upfront with suppliers about the amount you’re going to spend with them can actually mean a bigger discount. Of course, in order to do this effectively schools need to know how much stock is required for the entire academic year, not just a particular term. As opposed to a commercial business, schools are able to plan such costs around the certainty that they will receive the pre- determined income payments from the Government on a monthly basis. For schools that feel they don’t have the resources needed to set out an action-plan and


manage costs in this way, there are other options available. In particular, specialist companies can be used to help draw up a plan for them. A short-term option is to seek help from other schools and share best practice. However, in the longer term, an individual school may decide to partner with another or several schools to form a Multi Academy Trust group. This arrangement would allow the group to be funded centrally, giving the schools more flexibility with budgets. The changes being introduced are part of a policy set by the Government to make


schools more accountable and give them more control over budgets and for them to strive for better value for money. In March 2012, the Government created a three-year plan to reform the school funding system to make it fairer, simpler and more transparent. Academy schools receive notification of their funding arrangements from the EFA in the


first quarter of the year. To help schools to prepare for any changes, the EFA offer a number of resources such as webinars providing more information as well as responding to individual concerns. Given the consequences of doing nothing, sticking to former spending plans is not an


option. Instead, academies should address the issue head on and start putting in place plans and discussing options now.


www.education-today.co.uk June 2014


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