The ethos from XP Trust emphasises the belief that schools should be tightly integrated into the community and be focused on creating academically rigorous, authentic experiences that bring children closer to this goal.
We had the opportunity to speak with CEO Gwyn Ap Harri about the use of Apple across the Trust and the wider impact it has on teaching and learning. Gwyn has designed systems for the DfE and SSAT amongst others, using technology to underpin whole school improvement at a national scale.
The MAT (Multi-Academy Trust) consists of 4 primary and 4 secondary schools after rapid expansion since the launch of the first XP School in 2014.
Teaching and Learning
“Our kids learn through what we call expeditions, learning expeditions. So these are like cross subjects, where at the end of each project students will make something tangible that can be shared. People might call that project-based learning, we call it expeditionary learning. Our students create things like books, films, documentaries, videos, performance performances, scientific reports, poetry, artwork, all sorts of different things, which we then make public. So if it’s a performance, it’ll be in the town, or if it’s a documentary it will play out at the local cinema. If it’s art, it’ll be displayed in Doncaster Art Gallery.”
Technology plays a pivotal role in the Trust being able to realise its vision, and carried out a 1:1 iPad deployment in year 7 at the flagship XP School and plan to do the same with this year’s intake.
“So if we have two sides to an educational battle, it’s one of conformity versus creativity. And, we’re certainly on the creative side of things.”
The power of iPad
Gwyn and co-founder Andy Sprakes first purchased iPad in 2014, in order to test which children felt the most comfortable using, and since then, the advancements in each passing version have only impressed Gywn more and more.
“With an outward-facing camera and compatibility with Apple Pencil it was just a no-brainer to go with an iPad. It was March 2020 when they added a trackpad and desktop-class browser. They were the two really key things for us to turn the iPad into a computer replacement.”
“A lot of schools have a sort of conformity model, where there are our rules: you do what you’re told and either sink or swim. Whereas we’re going to empower you, and we’re going to allow you to express who you are through your work and with an iPad there’s no better device to be able to express yourself.”
Integrating iPad into your existing systems
At XP Trust, being able to integrate iPad with their current systems has been important for maintaining consistency. iPad works seamlessly with Adobe Creative Cloud and Google Workspace, and ignites creativity in the classroom and at home.
“They’ve got the most creative device known to man in their hands, within the classroom 1:1. And it’s theirs – that’s the most important thing for us. They own it, and it’s theirs. The cost to our school for the best kit in the world is absolutely minimal every year and after three years, it refreshes as well. So it just works brilliantly.”
The Schools uses Apple Financial Services that align with their specific requirements and offers great benefits such as
- Minimising the risk of technology obsolescence with a built-in upgrade plan
- Flexible terms base on budget
- Offsetting the immediate purchase costs by paying overtime
- Improving the management of the technology life cycle
“We don’t employ an IT technician in any of our schools, and in our whole trust, we do not employ a single IT technician. We do not need someone to manage our server because everything is cloud-based.”
The Trust is working with Sync in order to launch their Digital Leaders Programme that is currently being piloted. This is where the children are trained to use devices in order to train the teachers how to use them. The programme is due to be rolled out across all of the schools from September.
Interestingly, you won’t find a single computer lab in any school within XP Trust. Gwyn explains that this is informed by his vision for the future of learning. In most classrooms, there is only a TV Display panel using Apple TV and that’s it.
“I’m originally a computer science teacher didn’t, but the one thing I did not want in my school was a computer room. I wanted technology to be sort of ubiquitous, to be intrinsic in our education and just to be there all the time. If you have a computer room, you fix the place where you use the devices. We invest in what’s inevitable, and that’s cloud, computing, Wi-Fi, and mobile devices such as iPad. That’s inevitably where everything’s going.”
Levelling the playing field
The investment in technology is linked to the Government’s agenda to help close the “digital divide” in the UK. Bringing iPad to the classroom helps to ensure that students have access to the latest equipment which enables them to have academically rigorous experiences that give them the best possible opportunities once they finish school.
Gwyn explains “The child that’s going to university has got the same equipment as the one that is going for an apprenticeship, or a special educational needs student. They’ve got the same device, so it’s got the same equity. The students have the same opportunity as each other and it’s up to them to see how high they can reach”