Teachers from schools across the UK gathered at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire last week to mark the start of National Share-a-Story Month.

Hosted by Discovery Education on 18th April, the Digital Storytelling Day showcased the very latest tools and ideas for using ed-tech in literacy, helping teachers to nurture a love of stories in every child.

Taking advantage of Knebworth’s famous dinosaur trail, teachers took part in a prehistoric QR coded treasure hunt, and learned how the bar-code technology can be used in literacy lessons.

3D modelling using augmented reality, portable green-screening using tablets and virtual reality were also on display at the event. Teachers saw how these tools can take immersive learning to a new level, by inspiring pupils to create their own stories and interact with them on screen.

The day also showed how digital storytelling can boost attainment and be used right across the curriculum, in subjects such as science and even maths.

One of the teachers taking part was Julia Elfred, from Christ Church C of E School in Croydon. Julia said:

“The Knebworth Day of Discovery was a fantastic opportunity to discover some inspirational ideas for digital storytelling.  We explored ways to motivate and enthuse children within literacy lessons by incorporating a variety of digital media.  As always, I came away from the event buzzing with ideas to take back to the classroom.”

Gemma Clarke, Assistant Headteacher from Grangehurst Primary School in Coventry said:

“In an ever-changing world of technology there is always something new to learn. Digital storytelling was a brilliant focus for the day, and showed how the curriculum can be met in exciting ways.”


55 teachers from schools across the UK attended the event as part of a ‘Day of Discovery’ tour which will visit cities in the UK, US and Canada this year. The popular professional learning experiences connect teachers who are interested in technology with their best resource – each other.

The day was organised by the Discovery Education Community, which reaches over 2 million educators worldwide, and is one of the fastest growing professional networks for teachers in the UK. The Community connects members in their own school, across the country and around the world through in-person and online events, networking, idea sharing and inspiration.

For more information on Discovery Education services or the Discovery Education Community, visit:


LITTLE KNOWN facts about a Teesside town are being brought into the spotlight, thanks to The Peculiar Past of Stockton tours.

From 24 April until mid-July, youngsters from schools across the town will take part in a walk which will showcase a number of fascinating facts about its history.

While the town is universally known for being part of the Stockton to Darlington railway; the world’s first line to use steam locomotives, there are many other historical points which are less familiar.

These include the fact that The Beatles played the town’s Globe Theatre on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated and that the real inventor of the match was chemist John Walker who had a shop on Stockton High Street.

Walker created a ‘friction match’ back in 1827 but never patented his invention so has never been recognised.

Further back in time, the Bishop of Durham had a great hall built at Stockton in 1183 which eventually became Stockton Castle. This was demolished after the Civil War but is still remembered through street names including Castlegate and Tower Street.

The Peculiar Past of Stockton tour has been put together by Stockton Business Improvement District (BID) working with musician Mike McGrother, frontman of the Wildcats of Kilkenny, who is a huge supporter of his home town and has run a number of initiatives.

“The tour offers a great opportunity for young people to find out more about the area,” said Karen Hindhaugh, manager of Stockton BID.

“There are some really interesting facts about the history of Stockton and its heritage which will be highlighted in these tours,” she said.

“At a time when we are working to help the town have a really prosperous future, it’s great to be able to see where Stockton has come from and to be proud of its legacy.”

Fourteen schools are taking part in the initiative, with the first four – Stockton’s St Cuthbert’s, Glebe School at Norton, Whitehouse Elmtree and The Village, Thornaby – carrying out the tour next week (24 April).

The schools will then return to the town centre for a special event on Saturday 29 April.

Redcar & Cleveland College Students Secure Royal Navy Roles

Twenty-two students from Redcar & Cleveland College are celebrating taking a step closer towards securing future employment with the Royal Navy.

Following a successful event held at the college, 22 uniformed public service students have now completed and passed an initial assessment, the highest of any north-east training provider during this year’s recruitment process.

Two students, Matthew Waters and Chloe Bage performed so well that they have been offered university scholarships to study engineering should they wish to pursue careers in the navy.

Students will now move on to the second phase of recruitment when representatives of the Royal Navy’s recruitment team return to the college for interviews after Easter.

Uniformed public services lecturer at Redcar & Cleveland College, Jane Rishworth, said: “This is a great achievement, both for the students and for the team at the college which is focused on making sure that our learners are receiving the best opportunities for future employment.

“The students really enjoyed taking part in the first stage, it has been a huge confidence boost for them to see that they already have options for their future once they complete their studies.

“We look forward to helping the successful students through the remainder of the process when the Royal Navy team returns to the college to carry out the second stage.”

For more information on uniformed public services courses at Redcar & Cleveland College, please visit or contact our student services team on 01642 473132.

School subject squeeze: education recruiter responds


New research from teaching unions, the ATL and NUT, has found that schools are not only cutting hours of teaching for core subjects, but also stripping entire subjects from the curriculum.

A survey of 1,200 union members found that almost three quarters (71%) of the secondary staff said there had been cuts to teaching posts in their schools in the past year. Consequently, 64% of this group said there had been a reduction in vocational subjects in their schools.

Commenting on the research, Baljinder Kuller, who has over 15 years’ experience in education recruitment, and is now Managing Director of online supply teacher portal, The Supply Register, said:

“It’s shocking that subjects such as design technology, RE, music, modern languages, drama, PE, and art, as well as vocational subjects including engineering, construction, childcare and business studies are being cut from some school curriculums. While it is, of course, natural for leaders to focus attentions on core subjects when resources are squeezed, the teachers of subjects not included in league table measures have vital skills and expertise to share with our young people.”

“According to the Education Policy Institute (EPI), an average secondary school will lose almost £300,000 per year by 2019/20, while primary schools will be about £75,000 short in the same period. Schools are being squeezed hard – and against this backdrop, it may seem a logical choice to cut man-hours to help reduce spend. However, decision makers should consider other available options. For example, negotiating prices with existing talent providers or looking for alternative suppliers who provide better value to ensure that pupils’ options are not narrowed any more than is vitally necessary”. 

Orovia Group to Launch EduPay Software at The Academies Show London

Education software pioneers, the Orovia Group, are set to unveil their latest payroll management solution – ‘EduPay’ – at the Academies Show in ExCeL London, on 26th April, (stand number 412).

Established in 2004, the now 40-strong team of designers, developers, marketing, sales and helpdesk staff, attribute their extraordinary success to their hands-on approach to customer care, great communication and highly-skilled software specialists.

Following the formidable success of the Yorkshire-based company’s Budget Planning Software (BPS) which has been adopted by over 3,500 UK schools and academies to date, EduPay is preparing to empower the same target market with its sophisticated, yet straightforward, payroll management system.

Seamless and fully-integrated with BPS, EduPay offers fuss-free employee, maternity and pension management from a cloud-based portal, which can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection!

Initial demonstrations of EduPay have resulted in unanimous positive feedback. Now the Orovia team plans to utilise UK event specialists’ Quadrant2Design’s exclusive Prestige exhibition system to showcase their latest offering to academies and multi-academy trusts and to expand their existing customer base.

A smart investment for every ambitious academy, EduPay saves employees’ time, virtually eliminates paperwork, reduces data duplication and cuts errors significantly. In addition, BPS coordinates beautifully with leading finance systems, including PS Financials, Civica (Corero), Sage and Capita Sims.

For more information about Orovia and EduPay, please visit


UK employers value more than just work-related skills in young people coming out of the education system and into the workplace, according to a study by education charity Central YMCA.

The survey of senior managers at more than 200 businesses revealed that learning new skills (57%), being well-read (47%) and having a strong interest in a hobby (43%) are the top three non-work-related qualities employers look for most when hiring young people.

A third also revealed they would value someone who was well-travelled and who had experiences of other cultures, while 34% said that having a keen interest in charity or community work was important.

Only one in 10 respondents in the research believed that young people enter the workforce fully prepared with the skills required to be an efficient employee, however, more than half said young people do tend to be eager to learn and develop their skills.

The charity is now warning that the education system needs to put more focus on soft-skills and personal development, rather than solely prioritising technical skills.

Commenting on the findings of the study Rosi Prescott, chief executive of Central YMCA, said: “It could be argued that the findings of the survey have proven that it’s your CV that gets you the interview but it’s your personality, and life experience, that gets you the job. It’s interesting to see more and more employers recognising and seeking out transferrable skills developed outside the workplace, such as a desire to learn new skills, to read broadly, and to socialise, or keep active with a hobby. These young people will make attractive employees as they will likely be fast learners, knowledgeable of the world around them, and easier to work with on a personal level.

“However, it has also become evident that there is a soft skills gap which needs plugging – most employers are reporting that young people lack basic soft skills, such as punctuality and appropriate mobile phone usage. But, with employers recognising the enthusiastic can-do attitudes of the vast majority of young people in the UK, we’re hopeful that this can be harnessed to bring their soft-skills up to scratch.”

Cambridge Mathematics collaborates with China on international mathematics education

Lynne McClure, Director of Cambridge Mathematics, has spent a week in Beijing visiting leading policy makers to discuss how the UK and China can collaborate to create a mathematics education that benefits students from all countries and backgrounds – ensuring they are prepared with the skills necessary for adult life. The visit comes at a time when mathematics education around the world is being scrutinised following the latest set of PISA results.

At the Chinese Society of Education, Lynne met with Professor Shangzhi Wang of The Capital Normal University of Beijing and a number of his colleagues to discuss and compare the Chinese and UK mathematics curricula, text book design, teaching practice and research, professional development and student assessment.


Lynne commented on the meeting: “It was great to learn directly from experts in-country, reviewing the differences and similarities between the mathematics curricula in the UK and China. There is a huge benefit to both education systems from sharing good practice, taking the very best from both countries, and understanding what works and what might be missing. This will be important to the Cambridge Mathematics team in continuing to develop the framework[1] based on best practice evidence from around the world.”

The trip incorporated a visit to Dulwich School, a school that has been awarded for its work in the flipped learning of mathematics. This provided an opportunity for classroom observation and Lynne was able to see first-hand how subject teaching differs in China.


Lynne was then joined by Professor Geoff Hayward, Head of the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Together they have been invited by the Beijing Institute of Education to establish a joint research project that will examine two key areas of mathematics education. The cross-country team analysed how pupils explore imaginative mathematics, related in particular to single step and multi-step problem solving. They also compared the pedagogical choices made by mathematics teachers at primary schools in Beijing and the UK and the implications of those choices for pupil learning.


The teams met for two days; the first day was focused on discussing the research project and the second day was dedicated to school visits and lesson observation.


Lynne commented: “I am honoured that the Beijing Institute of Education has invited Geoff and I to collaborate on this project. There has been considerable focus in the UK on what might be learned from Chinese education and this collaborative project confirms that Chinese educators are equally interested in UK practices and that there is mutual benefit in working together. The lessons in the Chinese classrooms emphasised even more strongly the difference between a curriculum which indicates general progression, and the detailed taking apart of conceptual progress into tiny steps which translate into classroom practice.


The information gathered on the trip will contribute to the development of a mathematics framework by the team at Cambridge Mathematics, which aims to provide an internationally recognised, high quality maths education for students aged five to 19.”

[1] Cambridge Mathematics is committed to securing a world class mathematics education for all students. The team is developing a framework which aims to provide an internationally recognised, high quality maths education for students aged five to 19.

eSports: More than just a game

PlayStation and Digital Schoolhouse reveal the career potential in games

Ukie’s creative computing initiative, Digital Schoolhouse, powered by PlayStation, hosted its eSports Tournament Grand Final with Gfinity on Tuesday 4 April, as part of the London Games Festival.

On a mission to inspire students by exposing them to careers within the games, eSports and creative digital industries, the event saw 12 of the 400 schoolchildren from across the country who took part in the tournament battling it out in a PlayStation 4 Rocket League competition. Team Veracity from St John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy in Dewsbury were announced as the champions; Joshua Love, Harrison Barber-Scargill and Bailey Barber-Scargill were awarded medals and goodie bags with a range of gaming merchandise, and St John Fisher was given a PlayStation 4 for the students to use and the Digital Schoolhouse eSports Tournament Grand Final trophy.


Far from just having fun, the participants fully immersed themselves in computing and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects, and put their core skills – such as communication, creative thinking, team work, problem-solving and the ability to work under pressure – to the test. All of these skills are invaluable to the games and creative digital industries, and the event provided a whole host of inspiration and encouragement for those who are considering a career in this exciting and rapidly-growing sector.


Competing for a place at the eSports Tournament Grand Final, St John Fisher in Dewsbury, Shire Oak Academy in Walsall, New College in Swindon and Gilredge House in Eastbourne took part in regional heats by playing Rocket League with their peers, often in their lunch breaks or in after-school clubs. The winning teams from each school headed down to Digital Schoolhouse’ eSports Tournament Grand Final where the victors were crowned.


This tournament was designed not only to engage children with computing and STEAM subjects in a fun and interactive way, but also to tackle misconceptions surrounding these industries. By encouraging more girls to take up computing and STEAM subjects, and by raising children’s (and parents’) awareness of the growing variety of careers that are available in the creative digital sector, the grand final taught participants that video games as more than ‘just a bit of fun’ – they are, in fact, big business. The team from SEGA were on hand to inspire the next generation with real insight into the professional games industry, and to reveal the vast array of opportunities within it – everything from animation, production and music creation to commentating, competing, finance and marketing. The crowds also heard from three professional gamers, each with their own inspiring story about how they got into the sector and where it has taken them professionally.


Shahneila Saeed, programme director for Digital Schoolhouse, said: “The eSports Tournament Grand Final really was a careers event with a difference; it allowed us to demonstrate to students and teachers that the creative digital industries are a vibrant and lucrative source of career opportunities for the next generation. It was great to see the competing teams use pivotal soft skills, such as collaboration, creativity and flexibility, to work together to achieve their goal, and have fun in the process. We hope teachers and parents will work with us to encourage children to consider jobs in this sector, and to equip them with the skills and confidence they need to do so.”


“PlayStation is delighted to be partnering with Ukie to bring Digital Schoolhouse to more schools, and even more children, across the UK than ever before,” comments Warwick Light, UK Managing Director and Vice President of Sony Interactive Entertainment UK.  “The Digital Schoolhouse eSports tournament is just one example of how we can use engaging and fun platforms to raise awareness of the career possibilities available within the games and eSports industries, helping to prepare students for life beyond the classroom. We’re also hoping that this event will prompt more companies to get involved in Digital Schoolhouse so that we can extend the network of schools that we’re partnering with and the number of kids that we’re able to inspire. Huge congratulations to Team Veracity for winning, and to all of the teams that took part.”

Sam Van Tilburgh, Head of Marketing Gfinity, said: “It’s been an honour to host the Digital Schoolhouse project at the Gfinity Arena as part of the London Games Festival 2017. The opportunity to show the younger generation of gamers that video games and eSports are potentially a career choice, while at the same time offering them entertainment, was too good an opportunity to turn down. Hopefully we can do it again next year!”

Mark Ward, Head of Computer Science, Business and Vocational Studies at St John Fisher, said: “Our pupils left on such a high at the end of the day, not just because of us winning, but because the day taught them so much.  Our Year 7s have already spoken to their head of year about leading an assembly to explain the possibilities that eSports brings, and our Year 10s have already starting planning careers with SEGA! As for our winners, they are keen to become ambassadors for school-based eSports going forward and they want to use our prize to start and run an official eSports club at the school.”

For more information about the next eSports Tournament, visit



Calls for Welsh primary schools to sign up to project aimed at inspiring next generation of digital entrepreneurs


A new national project to help boost the computing skills of Welsh primary school children has been launched today (Weds 5 Apr) by Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams.


The Barefoot Computing project in Wales aims to help primary school teachers get to grips with computing so that they can inspire and excite pupils aged from five about the world of IT.

The initiative is funded and led by BT, which has worked closely with the Welsh Government to ensure resources for the project in Wales are closely aligned to the Digital Competence Framework and are available bilingually via the Hwb digital learning platform.


Kirsty Williams visited Cadoxton Primary School in Barry to see a Barefoot workshop in action and unveiled the new online resources for teachers, which have been tailored to the Welsh curriculum in both English and Welsh.


The free, bilingual, downloadable resources and lesson plans are targeted to help primary school teachers across Wales, some of whom may not have specialist computing knowledge.

The resources focus on concepts such as algorithms, abstraction, programming and data structures and provide ideas on how they can be used in the classroom.


Kirsty Williams said: “Since becoming Education Secretary, one of my key priorities has been to raise the aspirations for all our children and young people, broadening horizons and developing ambition so that all can achieve. The DCF is an important milestone in achieving this goal as it provides the fundamental skills our children need in the modern world. I am therefore delighted to launch these free-to-use, creative resources which perfectly illustrate how digital skills can be integrated into the Welsh curriculum.”


Every primary school head teacher in Wales will be contacted by the Barefoot team to highlight the new resources, which have already won acclaim from teachers elsewhere in the UK.


More than one million primary school pupils across the UK have already benefited from Barefoot since being launched in 2014.  It forms part of BT’s long-term commitment to help build a culture of tech literacy and reach five million young people in the UK by 2020.


Alwen Williams, regional director for BT Cymru Wales, said: “Computing is a vital skill for the future prosperity of Wales.”


“Young people need these skills in order to thrive in our increasingly competitive and digital world while businesses and organisations of all sizes need recruits that are tech literate in order to succeed.


“Our children grow up surrounded by technology, but too many have little idea how it all works – their knowledge is only screen-deep.


“BT’s tech literacy programme is designed to inspire young people to ‘get’ tech concepts and to find them exciting and relevant, but we’re also aware that teachers need to feel confident to support young people.


“That’s where the Barefoot Computing project comes in, and we’re looking forward to seeing it take shape in Wales and having a real impact in our primary schools.”


Bill Mitchell, director of education at BCS, which was responsible for originally creating Barefoot Computing in collaboration with the Department for Education, Raspberry Pi and BT, said: “It’s essential that all children develop computational thinking skills right from the start of primary school, which is why the Barefoot Computing project is so important as it gives teachers the educational tools they need to develop these skills in their pupils.”


“By backing the Barefoot Computing project the Welsh Government has shown the leadership and vision necessary to ensure all primary schoolchildren in Wales now have the chance to develop those skills and as adults successfully compete in the global digital economy.”



Pupils and practitioners in Wales can access the bilingual materials at  Schools will soon be able request a workshop to demonstrate how the resources and lesson plans can be used.



CXK, the leading provider of vocational advice and support to schools and colleges across the south-east, has been recognised as ‘Good’ following an Ofsted inspection of the National Careers Service.

The Ashford-based charity is a prime contractor of the service, a government initiative to help people make decisions on learning, training and work.

Pauline Smith, CXK Chief Executive, said the rating was a ‘fantastic achievement’ and testament to the support the charity provides its customers across the region. She added: “This positive recognition of the National Careers Service across the south-east is a true acknowledgment of the commitment and professionalism displayed by staff and sub-contractors on a daily basis. A huge thank-you to all careers advisers for their continued hard work and positive outcomes with so many individuals – they truly make a significant difference to so many”

The Ofsted report, which was carried out between February 14th and 17th, commended CXK for implementing good practice in a number of areas, these included:

  • Skilled advisers working very effectively with customers; advisers using their understanding of customers’ strengths and personal challenges to agree appropriate goals and set manageable targets.
  • Customers with significant barriers to success, such as poor mental health or high levels of anxiety, receiving very good practical, supportive and sensitive advice and guidance.
  • Leaders, managers and trustees working together very effectively to raise standards, improve the quality of service and increase the level of positive outcomes for customers.
  • Advisers knowing their local areas well; making very good use of labour market information and the learning opportunities and support available to help customers achieve their goals.

The report also highlighted areas of CXK’s offering that required further development, such as attendance rates and skills action plans. These recommendations will be part of CXK’s improvement plans in order for the service to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating within the following year.

Craig Carton, CXK’s Director of Operations and Quality, said: “Validation from an external body such as Ofsted is a fantastic outcome for our service and the inspection result endorses the quality of the services we deliver to more than 25,000 people each year. Crucially, this inspection also provides us with a clear plan for the continued development of the service as we strive to help even more people this year”.