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Equipping the UK’s first 1:1 multi-academy trust

After visiting Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino with the Schools, Students and Teachers Network (SSAT), New Bridge Multi Academy Trust’s CEO was inspired to redesign the trust’s approach to technology. To maintain parity between the academies in the trust, they needed to roll out to multiple sites, all with different needs, within a year. Our mixture of experience, logistical know-how and practical training programmes made us the ideal partner to help the trust tackle this challenge.


Liz Sunter

In the wake of the trip, we re-examined our vision, mission statements and values as a trust, and realised that we weren’t preparing the children fully enough for the role that technology plays in their lives,” explained New Bridge’s CEO, Graham Quinn.

New Bridge’s five schools specialise in teaching students aged four to nineteen with a statement of SEN, and the staff felt it was important that the children become confident using various assistive technologies that would help them live independently and thrive in the workplace. Staff had previously relied on a number of expensive, single-function assistive technologies, but with iPad “a lot of adaptations are built in to the device, so they’re essentially free to the user, and it gives us a chance to embed the use of technology in the curriculum so that the children think of it as an everyday tool.”

Developing a strategy and preparing staff

“We did try to roll out iPad to one of our schools four or five years ago and we got it completely and utterly wrong,” Graham admitted. “We just handed out the devices without any system or structure behind it. This time, we understood that there needed to be a very clear strategy, and it was essential that the staff felt empowered, so we were looking for a partner who could support us not just logistically, but also with our training and development goals.”

We worked with the trust’s senior leadership team to put together a clear vision and plan for their rollout, which they could then use to inform and excite the wider teaching staff. It was important that the plan was logistically and financially sustainable, but it also needed to outline clear goals and benefits to each group in the Trust. We then developed individual training plans for each school, ensuring that teachers’ knowledge of iPad and the apps it offered was relevant to the age groups and subject areas they taught. The trust has now invested in over 30 days of training.

“I think our skills and the Jigsaw24 team’s skills complemented each other,” said Graham. “The training and development packages that we put together worked first to enthuse staff, and then to empower them. We’re on our fourth school now, and each time Jigsaw24 have tweaked the training package to meet the individual requirements of each organisation and the staff demographics within each school.”


"The climate and the working approach Jigsaw24 enable, and the challenge that our teams give each other, have benefited the children and the staff teams within the trust massively."


As a result, adoption of iPad has been far higher this time around, with staff making apps like Showbie, Pocket Phonics, Brushes and the Touch Tronic range a core part of their lessons. “I think the sceptics have been bowled over by the amount the young children can achieve by using the iPads themselves,” said Graham. “For example, one child who really struggles with pronunciation and speech was asked to do a piece of descriptive writing persuading people to visit Mexico, and she made an amazing video in iMovie and narrated it all herself. I think it’s only once the devices are in the classroom that staff fully realise the value they give students.”

The trust is also interested in how devices are affecting teacher workload, particularly around assessment. “There has to be a positive for staff, so that they can see how the iPads are enhancing children’s learning, but also making their own life easier, and how the whole system is an improvement on what we had in the past,” said Graham. “We’re looking at how staff can use film clips for assessment, how they can use photographic evidence, how they can capture different types of evidence and give feedback more effectively. We’re just at the early stages of evaluating the impact on workload, but the early signs are all really, really positive.”


Laying the financial and technical groundwork for the rollout

While our Apple Profesional Learning Specialist worked with the teaching staff to build their confidence with iPad, our engineers were meeting with each school in the trust to ascertain that their infrastructure would be able to handle an influx of new devices, and making adaptations to ensure every network had the coverage and capacity a 1:1 iPad scheme would require.

At the same time, our finance department helped the school broker a sustainable financial model for the rollout with our leasing partners. “We had considerable debate as to whether we should purchase or lease,” said Graham. “Eventually we decided to lease to ensure that our young people and staff teams always had the most up to date iPad available. We’re using Multi Academy Trust reserves to pay for the initial rollout, with schools transitioning to paying out of their own budgets within the next two years.”


Delivering the maximum benefits to young learners

This time, with a robust infrastructure in place, a sound financial plan, and a clear vision shared by all staff, the trust has been far more successful in driving adoption of iPad.

“The children have embraced the programme unbelievably enthusiastically,” Graham told us. “In every single classroom I see the 1:1 devices being used the right way, from four-year-olds up to our secondary school age pupils. At the very early stages they’re using the iPad for numbers and phonics, and then things get more complex until we have older children looking at the causes of the Second World War and analysing the morality of some of the decisions made. The children find it a really natural way to work, and we’ve worked to make sure they feel empowered, and like they can be iPad champions and lead the initiative as well as their teachers.”

The Trust believe that part of the reason that pupils have seen immediate benefits from the new technology is that the rollout happened quickly, while there was still momentum behind the project and staff were clear on their goals.

“One of the challenges of running a number of schools is that you can’t disadvantage school number one relative to school five or vice versa, so we went for a really ambitious rollout to ensure that all of the children and staff could benefit as quickly as they possibly could.

Jigsaw24 shared that ambition, and we felt that you could meet our demands, that you responded well to challenges, and that we could trust you to embed the values of the school in the project from the start.”


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