The Laidlaw Foundation sponsors eight academies in the North East of England, in Durham, Sunderland and in Newcastle, from the early years all the way up to Sixth Form. Sedgefield Community College is a coeducational secondary school in County Durham. Headteacher Paul Fleming, who has been at the school for 23 years, spoke to us about how they use CENTURY to serve the diverse needs of their students.
The student cohort we have at Sedgefield Community College in Sedgefield Hardwick is really diverse, and CENTURY is something that works well for that group of students. We're pretty much bang on the national average for students eligible for free school meals. Our schools in the trust vary in terms of disadvantage, with one at 60 percent in Sunderland and another at 60 percent EAL in Newcastle. We've also seen an increase in students with ECHPs and looked after children. We use CENTURY to meet the specific needs of each school and cohort.
Our schools have been judged as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and our Progress 8 score has risen to 0.58. In 2005, we were judged as ‘good’ but became complacent and our outcomes, behaviour, and teaching suffered. But we turned it around.
In 2011, we committed to a digital strategy and over the years developed a skills learning platform called ‘the digital school’, where external platforms like CENTURY sit. We also have a one-to-one device scheme for students in Years 9, 10, and 11. We plan to expand this to Years 7 and 8. These devices are used in lessons and at home to bridge the boundaries between classroom and home learning.
Our approach to digital platforms is to prioritise progress and not let the tail wag the dog. We looked at CENTURY for years before committing to it. We liked the platform and the interface, but the clincher was due to its unique selling point of artificial intelligence, which allows students and parents to take ownership of their own learning.
The scenario we thought about was the student who really wanted to get better: normally they would speak to the teacher, who would tell them to do X, which would take the student an hour or two, but then they need the teacher to tell them what to do next. CENTURY’s AI can do this, and genuinely help the students become more independent learners.
CENTURY is helping us in four ways: reducing teacher workload, generating data, promoting student independence, and blurring the boundary between classroom and home learning. Reducing teacher workload is absolutely vital right now when recruitment and retention is so difficult. CENTURY is one of our selling points for staff because it is going to help enormously to deliver excellent lessons and excellent progress, but reduce their time.
CENTURY is one platform for three different subjects, so it is easier for students or parents who find navigating multiple platforms difficult. It is like having your own virtual tutor, responsive to your needs. We want the students to work with independence, and the way the AI is adaptive to meet their needs is why we feel CENTURY is going to be a really important part of our digital approach in the years to come.
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