Honywood Community Science School

Honywood gave iPads to Year 7 mainly to enable independent learning, self-led research, and problem-solving. Their remarkable success points to the value of having a strong learning ethos in place beforehand, and taking time to provide training and set up a good infrastructure. Check out the results of their project to find out what they achieved!

Techknowledge for schools: September 2013 Honywood Community Science School, Essex


Contact names: Simon Mason, Head Teacher

Louisa Sanderson, Acting Assistant Head Teacher

School Profile

This profile is taken from a questionnaire which was sent to all 21 schools taking part in the Techknowledge for Schools research in July 2013. Unless otherwise stated, all figures in this case study represent the school cohort at that time.

Honywood Community Science School is an Academy located in Coggeshall, Essex and has a total of 1,044 pupils. 5.5% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, and 236 pupils have SEN. 69% of pupils achieved five A*–C at GCSE (2013), including English and Maths. The school is Grade 2 Ofsted rated. The school does not have a Sixth Form.

Honywood Community Science School became an Academy in May 2011. The Head Teacher Simon Mason has been at the school since 2002, and has a long history of interest in encouraging independent and interactive learning.

Tablet introduction

Honywood Community Science School introduced one-to-one iPad 2 Tablets to all pupils in autumn term 2011, as one of the first schools in the country. The introduction of Tablets was fully school-funded. Teachers were not provided with a Tablet free of charge, but were offered the option to purchase a device at a discounted price. Approximately 70% of teachers have purchased a device.

The school’s leasing agreement cost £133,000 per annum over three years, which included an insurance policy costing £47,000 over three years. The Head described this as similar to a ‘balloon payment’ for cars. The iPads will go back to be resold after three years. The school is currently planning the distribution and administration of Tablets from autumn term 2014 onwards.

The school estimated that the preparations for introducing Tablets took approximately one year, which included professional development and ensuring the technical infrastructure would be able to support the devices.

Honywood Community Science School did not have to upgrade their broadband capacity but found it necessary to introduce a new wifi network. The total cost of this was £85,000. The school has not had any issues with connectivity since then, and they feel that this upgrade was necessary for the successful introduction of the devices. The leadership team is concerned however that the school’s broadband connection will need to be upgraded, as increase data usage has meant that the maximum capacity of 100 megabytes is being reached.

The school experienced initial problems with breakages during the first year of the Tablet scheme, at approximately 40%. The school decided to switch from the Port protective cases to Griffin Survivor cases, which were considered to be more resilient. Since then the rate of breakages has reduced sharply to only 1.2%. Leadership explained:

Since the Survivor cases the breakages have reduced. We are active in checking our devices – we have been vigilant.

Honywood Community Science School initially organised an insurance policy to cover the Tablets. Because of issues around protective cases and breakages, the school has had a challenging relationship with the insurance company and now self-insures the devices.

The computer-to-pupil ratio before the introduction of Tablets was 1:6. The school still has a computer suite.

The Tablets were acknowledged as offering distractions to unmotivated pupils, but this was not thought to be any different from other types of distractions. Leadership said:

Learners who have taken ownership of their learning will work confidently and purposefully with the device. Those who find it harder to be self-motivated, or who take less responsibility for their learning will use the device as they would a window or any other distraction.

The reasons for adopting one-to-one Tablets were:

  • to ensure equality of access to the internet
  • to prepare pupils for working/living in a digital age
  • to support self-led research and problem solving

Professional development

The school offered professional development to all staff before Tablets were introduced, during the period of transition, and during the time since deployment. The training was organised internally and externally and focused on support for staff in using the Tablets in lessons. The school had a strong internal focus on training and professional development, and this was felt to be of very high priority in the school. It was said that:

The pedagogy needs to be the focus for the staff and they should be discouraged from being obsessed by content. Learners will use the devices to express their learning outcomes without staff intervention. The most successful deployment is one where the embedding of the device as a learning tool is the focus, so the device is not used as a bolt-on. The learning should remain the focus, not the technology.

External guidance

The school required external guidance on financial issues, insurance, wifi and protective cases. For queries around financial issues the school received guidance from Apple. Both Apple and insurance services company CPU were approached for questions related to insurance. CPU also offered advice on protective covers.

Perceived benefits of using one-to-one Tablets in education

Independence and seamless sharing of files and learning outcomes. Mobile learning opportunities are open to all (including those with SEN issues).

Perceived disadvantages/pitfalls of using one-to-one Tablets in education

Curriculum and pedagogy have to be in place – along with a strong learning ethos in order for the devices to be used as learning tools.

The biggest surprise about the use of one-to-one Tablets after they were introduced

The level of collaboration and oracy was a fantastic unexpected result of the deployment. With over 900 guests visiting our school as a result of our change in curriculum, learners are far more confident sharing their understanding of their learning.

What did you wish you had known before introducing the Tablets?

The need for a durable case such as the Griffin Survivor case for iPads – it would have prevented the earlier breakages we suffered through genuine accidents.

Case Study

This case study is taken from previous visits to the school from 2011 to 2013, during which discussion with the leadership team and observation of classroom use of the Tablet devices took place.

Introducing Tablets

The leadership team at Honywood Community Science School started looking for a digital device that could support their visions for pupil-led, independent learning in 2005. Around 2009, as smartphones were becoming increasingly popular, the school realised that these devices were close to what they had in mind. The leadership considered a BYOD scheme with mobile phones, but abandoned the idea due to issues of equality of access. It was said that:

There is always going to be somebody with the latest iPhone 4 and somebody else is using a flip phone from 1999 or something and that’s not what we want. We do not want that unfairness.

When the iPad was launched, the school believed that this could be the device it had been looking for. The school purchased 12 devices and started trialling them. Head Teacher Simon Mason, along with then Deputy Head Teacher Rachel McGowan, started initial discussion with Apple about introducing Tablets to the entire school and how this would be organised. Although the school remains clear that it is not tied indefinitely to the company, Apple were described as helpful and knowledgeable throughout this process. The school waited for the launch of the iPad 2, which had the additional camera functionality, before making the investment.

Honywood Community Science School introduced a new skills-based curriculum alongside the one-to-one Tablets. The skills are called HonySkills, and centre on skills such as communication, collaboration, problem solving, analysing and processing information, empathy, persistence, creativity, independence and responsibility. The Tablets were introduced to support the development of these skills. The school also extended their learning sessions to 100 minutes, and re-branded the vocabulary used in school: from pupils to learners, lessons to learning sessions, and so on.

The school was described as having a close relationship with parents and frequently engaged with parents over the use of Tablets for learning. Parents’ concerns mostly revolved around the new curriculum, which the Tablet was a tool for implementing, rather than the device itself (although some parents disagreed with the introduction of the devices as well). The school hosted parents’ evenings where these concerns were discussed and dealt with, as well as engaging personally with each parent. The second introduction of Tablets was described as being much smoother in terms of relationship with parents, as leadership and teachers were much better prepared for which concerns would arise.


It was felt by the school that the national provision of curriculum-based content was outdated, and did not excite or interest pupils. Many teachers have therefore moved towards creating their own content, using apps such as iTunes U, iBook, Keynote and iMovie. Several teachers also use QR codes to access content. As every pupil has a personal connected device, teachers can guide them to online sources of information, instead of relying on one source only (such as a textbook).


Increased levels of communication were described as an important benefit of one-to-one mobile technology. Pupils and parents described how communication between peers and between teacher and pupil would carry on at home, leading to collaborative learning outside of school. Teachers described being able to provide continual feedback to pupils via email.

Safety and breakages

The school originally let pupils choose their own cover, which led to a high level of personalisation, but unfortunately these covers were felt to be too fragile. The administrative tasks associated with breakages were felt to be time-consuming, and as a result of delays caused by the administration of the initial insurance policy, pupils found themselves without a Tablet for several weeks if theirs was broken. The school finally decided to switch all learners to school-purchased Griffin Survivor cases, which were considered to be more resilient and led to a significant decrease in breakages.


The relationship between leadership and staff was described as trusting, and members of staff were observed to work hard to implement the ethos of the leadership team across the school. Teachers described being able to facilitate learning for different types of learners (such as auditory, visual and kinaesthetic) and for different levels of understanding.


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