Writhlington School

Tablets for Schools: September 2013 Writhlington School, Radstock, Bath


Contact name: Mark Everett, Head Teacher

School Profile

This profile is taken from a questionnaire which was sent to 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.

Writhlington School is an Academy with 1,570 pupils. 8% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, and 247 pupils have SEN. 60% of pupils achieved five A*–C at GCSE (2013), including English and Maths. The school is Grade 2 Ofsted rated. The school has a Sixth Form.

Tablet introduction

The school had previously run a one-to-one netbook scheme. The school bought the iPad 2, to partially replace its pre-existing netbook scheme. Tablets were introduced to Years 7–10 in the autumn term to spring term 2012–13, and to Years 12 and 13 in the spring term 2013. Tablets were not introduced to the Year 11 group, as they continued with the existing three-year netbook scheme.

Years 12 and 13 are not provided with Tablets, but students may bring in their own device, and Year 13 students have the opportunity to buy a Tablet directly from the school. This has led to 982 students in Years 7–10 using one-to-one Tablets, excluding Year 11, and 200 students in the Sixth Form. All Tablets must have the Griffin Survivor case, and rather than insure the Tablets, additional Tablets have been bought; self-insurance means that this has been at an estimated cost of £10,000. The average breakage rate is estimated to be 6% as of October 2013. All support staff have Tablets, which the Head Teacher believes is essential when working with students. The school allows pupils to take the Tablets home, and since the school’s firewall does not function outside of the school, it runs information groups to help parents support pupils and their use of the internet and Tablets.

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

  • to prepare pupils for working/living in a digital age
  • to support self-led research and problem solving
  • to provide a better solution than the previously adopted one-to-one netbooks
  • to develop creative approaches to teaching and learning

External guidance

The school did not require any extensive external guidance, thanks to an effective and knowledgeable IT support team, and a Business Manager who could negotiate cost with suppliers. They required guidance when altering their existing wifi setup (rather than having a new system installed) to cope with the increase in Tablet devices.

The school has had some concern about Tablets being a distraction or used inappropriately:

Yes, this can happen. We encourage teachers to deal with this in the same way they deal with any other classroom behaviour issues.

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

Continuing work at home; no sharing with siblings; speedy research; creativity and new ways to do things.

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

Lack of interest in break-time outdoor pursuits in favour of games on iPad. Teachers concerned about recording/evidence, which has led to lots of printing.

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

That they are quite robust, and not as easily broken as we had imagined.

The school advises:

It is vital that every member of staff involved in curriculum delivery has an iPad.

Case Study

This case study is taken from a visit to the school on Thursday 30 April 2013, during which discussion with the leadership team and observation of classroom use of the Tablet devices took place.


Writhlington is in a rural area, which despite being only 10 miles from Bath is not particularly prosperous. It was formerly an area known for mining and quarrying. Fifteen years ago Writhlington Academy was a failing school, but it came under new management and has improved steadily since. Three years ago it moved into a new school building and it became an Academy in October 2011. The current Head Teacher, Mark Everett, has been at the school since September 2011. Under his leadership the school has put a particular emphasis on the wellbeing of its pupils, and the development of staff and pupils to achieve the best. Pupil numbers are 1,200 in Years 7–11, and 370 in the Sixth Form. The school is now heavily oversubscribed.

The reasons for introducing one-to-one devices

The school had decided on one-to-one devices three years ago and worked with parents, school governors, teachers and pupils to introduce the notion of one-to-one. The initial implementation was with netbooks, but this was not a great success because of the high failure rate of the devices used. However, the school believes that the introduction of the devices at that time helped to prepare for a culture of one-to-one devices. Parents supported the netbooks at a rate of £8 a month in the form of a voluntary contribution through the eLearning Foundation for those that could afford it. Like several other schools in the Tablets for Schools research, Writhlington had previously received some negative publicity from the Daily Mail about children being given one-to-one devices, and is understandably wary about courting more publicity.

Infrastructure: support for one-to-one devices

At the time of moving into the new building (2010) the school already had a wifi system, installed and supplied by Cisco. The school was given a quote of around £200,000 for a new wifi system to be installed to support the introduction of one-to-one Tablet devices. This was considered expensive and the IT department decided to ‘tweak’ its current system at a cost of £15,000. The school benefits from an especially effective and highly knowledgeable IT department of seven people. The school also benefits from an experienced Business Manager, who was able to negotiate cost-effectively with various suppliers.

Choosing the Tablet

There was a need to replace the netbooks, and consideration of this took place in the autumn/spring of 2011–12. Because Tablets had been introduced onto the market, these appeared to be an obvious choice. It was decided to introduce the Tablet during the autumn term for Years 7–10. Year 11 would stay with the netbooks scheme. Device champions (teachers and IT department) within the school trialled a number of Tablet devices, and it was decided that the iPad 2 was the best option. The barrier had been cost, but with the introduction of the iPad 3, the iPad 2 became cheaper.

Preparation for the introduction of the Tablet

While many barriers had been overcome already because parents and teachers were used to the notion of one-to-one devices, there was some scepticism because of the previous experience of using netbooks. This was overcome by giving iPads to a selection of teachers and pupils, who acted as device ambassadors, after the Easter holidays in 2012. Working on the ‘brand ambassador’ principle, both pupils and teachers were able to show their peers how the device worked and the perceived benefits. The pupils held a demonstration session with the board of governors, and teachers and pupils held parent information sessions in the summer term of 2012 at which the devices were demonstrated. A number of teacher and IT champions attended a training day at the Apple store in Bath, which was run by Apple Distinguished Educators. All teachers were given iPads before the summer holidays to enable them to become familiar with the device, and this process was successful. Now all support staff also have iPads, which the Head Teacher believes is essential.

Introducing the devices

The devices were introduced initially to Year 8, then Year 7, and then Years 9 and 10 throughout the autumn and spring term of 2012–13. Year 11 are currently completing the three-year netbook programme, but these pupils may purchase an iPad directly from the school if they wish. Years 12 and 13 have a BYOD (bring your own device) scheme in place, but Year 13 may also purchase an iPad directly from the school. Recognising that parents might need support, the school runs support groups to encourage parents to understand the way in which the internet and the device are used by their child. While the school can impose a firewall in school through Smoothwall, once the Tablet is taken home it cannot monitor pupils’ usage because the pupil no longer has to log on through the school’s system. The Head Teacher believes that it is important that parents recognise that it is their responsibility to ensure that their child is using their device safely and within limits at home.

Funding the devices

Funding is either through a charitable donation scheme run by the eLearning Foundation, or parents can buy the device outright. The recommended donation is £16 per month over two years and £12 per month over three years. After the donation period the parent/pupil can keep the device. The donation must be voluntary in order to qualify for Gift Aid. Unfortunately not all parents are prepared to donate. For those eligible for free school meals, the school uses the Pupil Premium to fund the purchase of an iPad, and these parents are not asked to donate. To guarantee equality, the school made the decision to ensure that all pupils in Years 7 to 10 be given the device, regardless of parental contribution. Parents were also given the option to buy the device outright, and about 200 have opted for this, many giving the device to their child as a Christmas present in 2012.


The school purchased Griffin Survivor cases at a negotiated cost of £25 each. Having received an insurance quote of around £80,000, the school decided instead to self-insure through purchasing extra iPads and having a contingency fund of £20,000 set aside for repairs. The IT department is able to fix some of the Tablets themselves, and breakage rates are only 6% (October 2013).

Apps and content

The school has a policy of not paying for apps, although it is up to parents if they wish to pay for an app for their child to download. One of the reasons for adopting iPads was that the school felt that iTunes apps go through a process of rigorous scrutiny by Apple before being allowed to appear in the app store. The school is going to adopt Google apps from half-term onwards, because it likes the collaborative nature of the Google model, which fits in with the school’s ethos. It also offers critical security features to keep data safe and secure. Some subject teachers have been concerned by the lack of appropriate apps, especially for Business Studies, Science and Maths. The school is producing its own content by producing short films of lessons (e.g. how to work through a mathematical equation) which can be scanned using the QR reader app on the iPad. This is time-consuming for teachers, but ensures that pupils have direct instruction that is the same for all and that corresponds with the teaching that has occurred in class.

General comments

Head Teacher Mark Everett is an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of technology in the classroom, and is knowledgeable about one-to-one devices. He points out, however, that he has a strong and committed teaching and support team who have an ethos of integrating the Tablet into an active learning model that will prepare pupils for the future. Like many of our Tablet schools, Mark points out that it is not the device itself, but the teaching and learning that takes place supported by the Tablet, that is important. It was clear from observing lessons that the Tablet was not necessarily used in all lessons, and frequently teachers would ask the pupils to put the Tablet away for certain exercises. Paper and pens were always in use.

In particular, Mark Everett believes that the success of the deployment of Tablets has been thanks to his team, and he cites Mark Bridges, an Assistant Head, who has been a main driver in the adoption of the device within the school. Mark Everett is also supported by Chris Hobbs, an experienced Business Manager who had previously worked outside education in the commercial sector and has therefore been used to negotiation with commercial organisations. The school is also supported by Simon Noble, their Network Manager, who has been at the school for a long time, is extremely committed, and who is knowledgeable about both hardware and software.