Blended Learning FAQs
Here, we have provided answers to the most common questions asked during consultations with parents.
Q. Is this going to be compulsory if your child attends Kingsmead?
A. No - our proposal is not to make laptops a compulsory piece of equipment for all students.
Instead, Kingsmead has proposed and consulted on using laptops as a tool in lessons starting in September 2020. These can be the student’s own device, or one from school.
A digital device allows students to accelerate their learning alongside classroom-based teacher led learning. Our review of educational research highlights that, if done well, it enhances the learning experience.
It allows teachers to select support materials and extension activities instantly to meet the needs of an individual child. This does not replace the teacher. This ensures student-teacher interactions when they happen are more personalised. Many of you during lock down will have seen the need to reach for another way of helping a child to understand when asked for support. We believe that by giving all students this tool we will close any gap in learning that may have developed during the pandemic. We hope to allow students to develop independence and problem solving as well as research skills.
This means that students will be asked by their teachers to bring their own laptop/device into school for their next lesson, where the use of laptops has been planned for by the teacher.
Kingsmead teachers will give students at least one lesson’s notice that they will need to bring their laptop/device to school.
Q. Are we still going to have the same strong teaching currently at Kingsmead irrespective of whether a device is bought?
A. The device is a tool in a similar way that a textbook, calculator or revision book is a tool. We will ensure provision is made for our students whose parents choose not to equip their child with a device, to ensure no-one is disadvantaged in school. Kingsmead has a limited number of devices which could be issued to students during lessons where devices are being used.
|The blended learning project is a way of increasing the independence of children in terms of learning. It aims to make home-learning more effective and reduce the impact of disruption through temporary or long term changes to the school day brought about by illness or imposed closures.|
Research is clear that blended learning raises the outcomes of students if used in the right way. It has always been an aspiration of Kingsmead’s leaders to introduce and embed blended learning – our development of the student knowledge planners and the provision of textbooks to years 10 and 11 are evidence of this. The Laptop or electronic device is just another tool, one that many children already have the benefit of.
In our view, the best way to embed blended learning, and improve the exam results of our students still further, is for each student to have a broad range of learning tools and experiences. From textbooks to practical activities. From innovation rooms and creative writing through to learning outside in the animal quad, classroom and forest school area. We believe that children learn best when a teacher is a facilitator, guiding and coaching, drawing attention to materials that will help the child to understand. We believe that the children need to draw on many tools to develop their whole learning experience. Writing by hand, researching and growing in confidence as well as using technology.
Q. What is blended learning and what are the benefits?
A. Blended Learning is a term used around the world. As it’s very name suggests, ‘technology’ is blended in to lessons alongside more traditional teaching and writing.
The benefit of blended learning is that it opens up lessons. Students can become even more independent. Strategic planning allows the teacher to give more time for discussions and higher-order thinking activities which are personalised during face-to-face interaction and feedback.
The online tools enable students to have personalised instruction which supports different pace and styles of learning. Learning becomes more mobile and students are able to access reliable, up to date, stage appropriate resources at home.
Q. Having read through all of your correspondence, I can see why blended learning will be useful, but can you please expand on how a laptop will be used in lessons?
A. Although there are software packages out there, we have found that they do not exclusively cover what our students do. We want to ensure the material they have is varied, 100% relevant and challenging. We have therefore designed our own virtual classroom matching the subject schemes of learning created by Kingsmead teachers.
Navigating by subject and topic, students will be able to use the range of resources (help desk and challenge station) provided through the virtual classroom to help themselves, answering the questions ‘what do I do if I am stuck’ and ‘what do I do if I have finished my task and the teacher is helping someone else’? Of course, the teacher will still be there, but this makes the student more independent.
Our students will receive the same input, instruction and verbal feedback from their teachers, as they do now. The bespoke nature of the design will allow teachers to respond instantly to need. They can ‘upload,’ in real time, additional material for individuals. This will ensure that all our students who need support receive it, whilst other students who need greater challenge, get the chance to progress as far as they can.
Q. Am I right that students use the laptop when it is relevant and not for every piece of work? There will still be teacher interaction, not less?
A. Teachers will still teach! Blended Learning and laptops will not replace the teacher. Instead, they will enhance learning and ensure that student-teacher interactions are more personalised.
In lessons, there will be the option for our students to complete their work using exercise books or laptops. Where the use of laptops is planned as a requirement for a lesson, school devices will be provided to students for the duration of the lesson.
Q. How will this work in practice? You have mentioned that this is blended learning. Does this mean they aren’t always sat in front of the screen working on a laptop? I mention because of screen time use.
A. The laptop will be used as a resource in the lessons it will absolutely not replace the teacher. Mr Cope has created model lessons along with the learning and teaching team so that you can see how they will be used to support the teacher. It will allow for differentiation, providing appropriate resources to meet the needs of all children and ensure that home learning can become seamless with the learning experience at school.
Lease Purchase scheme
Q. Am I right in thinking that buying the laptop outright from the school includes all the extras and benefits from paying monthly, but we own it straight away; if we buy from shop it's cheaper, but doesn't come with all the extra cover and protection?
A. Yes. That interpretation is exactly right.
Q. Will the laptop be owned by my child once its paid for?
A. Yes. If you choose to buy the device through one of the purchase options, it will become yours on final payment.
Q. If I have two children at Kingsmead, am I allowed to purchase 2x 'lease to purchase' laptops?
A. Yes. You are able to purchase 1 device per student.
Q. Is it more expensive to spread the payments than to buy up front?
Q. Can I check that with 2 students nearing the end of their time at Kingsmead (in year 11 and 13) can I still purchase/lease laptops for the few months that my daughters will be at school?
A. Yes - the only difference is that the payment plan can only be one lump sum or spread over one year, not longer than this. Also, once your child leaves Kingsmead they will no longer be entitled to the loan laptop if their device needs to be repaired. All else remains the same.
Equipping your children with laptops is not compulsory for any year group. The decision remains yours.
Q. Will I still get the 3 year cover if my child doesn’t stay for 6th form?
A. Yes, but as mentioned above, they will not be entitled to the loan device if their original laptop is repaired.
What help is available
Q. What help is available for children who qualify for the pupil premium?
A. Our preference has always been to use our own funds to equip every student with a laptop, but we simply do not have the budget to achieve this.
We have consistently said that we will help those families who are most in need, where we can. If you still have concerns about being able to afford a laptop, we will ask you to get in touch with us when the ordering portal opens, and we will do what we can to help you.
The Department for Education and local authorities have also provided laptops for some disadvantaged students.
|The school receives additional funding for pupil premium students, which can only be spent for their benefit.|
Q. Is there any flexibility around buying laptop cover from the school provider for our own personal devices, or would we have to cover them privately?
A. Unfortunately, not. Having explored this, the comprehensive cover only applies to those laptops purchased through the scheme.
Q. Is it right that the device cover of personal devices are covered by school?
A. Regretfully, no. We cannot advise families on their own insurance arrangements.
One of the reasons why we are offering the device purchase scheme is because we cannot offer the comprehensive securities and cover for personal devices that are included within the scheme.
Q. If, in the unlikely event, the laptop does get broken in school what happens? It may be the individual who caused the accidental damage is not even the owner?
A. We agree that this is an expensive piece of learning equipment. Of course, we do not expect an incident like this will happen at Kingsmead. We have a proven track record of effectively managing the behaviour of our students. Although students do not use their mobile phones in school (as they would be using laptops), we have not had an incident where such an expensive device was deliberately damaged by another student.
That said, it is fair to say accidents can happen. We also recognise that this kind of equipment is not something that can be quickly or easily replaced.
However, the school can offer the assurance that it will always do all that it could to ensure that any matter like this would be dealt with properly. For example, we would support efforts to ensure that the damaged was paid for by the parents of the perpetrator, or by supporting a police investigation for criminal damage if this were necessary.
Q. I’m worried about back ups of data – I don’t want my child to lose all of their school work and home learning. What happens if the laptop does break?
A. Kingsmead School's network is part of Microsoft 365, a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office. Our students’ work will be saved to their own OneDrive (1 terabyte of cloud-based storage). Not only does this mean that students will be able to access their work anytime and anywhere, but this should also help ensure that no work is lost if their laptop ever breaks.
If your child’s laptop does break, and you obtained it through the scheme, then the school will provide a loan laptop whilst yours is repaired.
Q. Are you able to confirm what the minimum specification required is please? Are there any other programs required for my children going forward?
A. We would propose the below as a minimum spec that would last at least three years, and it can be used as a guideline when purchasing a laptop. All of the below can be regarded as a minimum – if you find affordable laptops with higher specifications, then by all means go for that instead!
· An Intel i3-11XXX series CPU
· 8GB RAM
· 256GB SSD (ensure it’s an SSD and not an HDD, which are far slower!)
· 15.6” screen size
· Battery life of at least 6 hours (preferably higher)
· Windows 10 or above
The remaining specifications are up to you/the student. Bear in mind for example the weight of the laptop for it being carried to and from school.
As regards to software, the only required package is Microsoft Office which all students can download and run for free for as long as they’re a member of the school – see the later question in this FAQ for details.
Q. What is the school preferred operating system (OS)?
A. We prefer Windows 10 or 11 where possible (and the device we are offering as a part of this scheme will be running that operating system), but we have no intention of forcing parents to have to pay for a Windows 10/11 device when they already have a device with a different OS (eg a Chromebook) that could still fulfil the needs. Bear in mind that a Chromebook runs almost everything in a web browser, which is precisely what you can also do with a Windows laptop.
Q. Our laptop has Windows 8 - would I need to purchase Windows 10?
A. Windows 8.0 is below the system requirements that Microsoft supply, but Windows 8.1 is not – check your version of Windows 8. Windows 8.1 and Microsoft 365 are currently compatible, so there is no requirement to update your OS. However, given the age of the operating system it's likely the laptop may struggle in general, so we would recommend considering investing in a new device.
|Any laptop that is running Windows 8 is likely at least eight years old at this point (as Windows 10 became available in 2015, and laptop manufacturers began to include it on new devices at that point). We are aiming for the devices used in school to last for at least three years from this September. At the end of this period, a Windows 8 laptop would be at least eleven years old, and very possibly years older than that. As such, we would hesitate to recommend using this laptop indefinitely, as it will likely prove to be less and less capable as time goes on.|
Q: Are you able to provide a specific breakdown of what the extra cost, above the high street cost, covers please?
The extra cost above the cost of the laptop itself covers:
· 3yr advanced replacement Extended Warranty cover;
· 3yr advanced accidental damage & theft cover;
· 24-hour replacement in case of a claim;
· Delivery to the school
· Administrative fee for the provider
We can also confirm that there are no excesses payable for claims made on the accidental damage/theft cover.
Using other devices
Q. Our children have iPads. Is it possible to use any tablets instead of laptops?
It goes without saying that if parents or students already have their own device, or have recently invested in a new device, whether this is an iPad, a tablet or a Chromebook, we would never ask them to go out and buy another new device. For this reason, we have proposed a ‘bring your own device’ approach.
However, we do ask that your child is properly equipped to participate fully and effectively in lessons (i.e. having a separate keyboard if they bring a tablet). Also ensure that the iPad is modern enough that it can access all the school resources they require eg Satchel One (formerly Show My Homework), ActiveLearn, Hegarty Maths etc. We would also ask that when you do come to replace the existing device (at the end of its life), you consider replacing it with a recommended school laptop.
Q. Will a surface go with keyboard will be sufficient, as it will be smaller and lighter than carrying a laptop to and from school?
A. A Surface Go would be more than sufficient for the needs we anticipate. Bear in mind that we only expect the laptops to be used for the Office suite and web browsing, and we believe the intended target of the device lasting three years is easily attainable with these devices.
Software & technical queries
Q. Does my child need Microsoft Office and anti-virus software?
A. Yes. As mentioned earlier, students will be using the Microsoft Office applications in lessons, which can be downloaded for free by the student on up to five concurrent devices (see above). We don’t anticipate any software being required for your child’s studies beyond this.
The only security software we regard as essential is an anti-virus, and Windows comes with one built in by default (Windows Defender). Whilst no product can cover all bases, this should be good enough as long as the laptop is sensibly used eg no illegal software is downloaded. We also endeavour to educate our students in classes with the knowledge of how to spot suspicious links and websites, so they can know to avoid becoming infected by any kind of malware.
Q. If we decided to purchase a laptop through the scheme being hosted by the school, what software will be included (for example Microsoft Office etc.)?
A. The laptop will include a copy of Windows 10. Your child is already entitled to download and use up to five concurrent versions of Microsoft Office, for the duration of their time at Kingsmead School. The Office suite includes the ordinary Microsoft apps, such as Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook, Excel, Access and Teams.
Instructions on how to download and install Microsoft Office can be found here:
§ On the device you wish to install the Office suite, visit office.com in your preferred web browser.
§ Use the Login link at the top-right and sign in with the student email address and password eg: 009876Surname@kingsmeadschool.net (this is the same as the details they use for Satchel One/Show My HomeWork)
§ At the top-right there’ll now be an "Install apps" link – click this and follow the instructions. Office will be downloaded and installed via your internet connection.
To use Office the student will need to remain signed in to the suite once installed. You can do this on up to five separate computers at the same time, so if you have a home PC you can install it on there also.
Q. How will school manage personal laptops that have software / hardware issues during the school day?
A. The school’s IT Support office is open all day for students to visit and report problems, as well as an email address they can also use. For leased and school-bought laptops we will endeavour to resolve all problems and will provide a best-effort service for laptops that have come from home.
Q. What controls are in place to stop children going to unsuitable sites?
A. All internet access is via the exact same connection that the school computers use, which has a filtering solution on it that should block unsuitable sites. Of course, no solution can cover the entire internet, but any that are revealed to us can be blocked in moments.
Q. I like the idea, but what would happen if the laptop became infected outside of the school environment and then infects all others when it connects to the network?
A. A Windows device by default has a firewall which should prevent any infected device from affecting another, so the scenario presented here is highly unlikely. In the past eighteen years at Kingsmead this has never happened, despite the Sixth Form being allowed to bring in laptops from home and staff also occasionally using their own devices during school holidays.
Q. Who ensures patching is up to date, would an infected device be covered under any support agreement?
A. It will be the responsibility of the laptop owner to ensure that the device is kept up to date. Again, by default Windows does update itself (including the anti-virus) automatically, so this is unlikely to be an issue. We’ve asked the provider if a device that is compromised via infection would likely still be covered, and they’ve said that it most likely would be, but that each case is considered on it’s own. We must stress that this decision is ultimately made by the laptop provider and not by Kingsmead.
Q. Can my child use a personal laptop, if we ensure that the software is up to date and loaded with the programs they need?
A. Yes, you absolutely can. Please just bear in mind our recommendations concerning the age of the device – if you don’t intend on buying another one soon, ensure it is capable enough to last three years.
Q. If we bought a device on the high street, do you put any other software on to our device?
A. No. The majority of other platforms that the students will use in the classroom will be accessed via the internet. The only requirement will be for students to connect to the WiFi and install a security certificate.
Q. How will the devices be recharged?
A. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that their laptop/device is charged and ready for lessons. For this reason, we recommend that parents buying on the high street, choose a device with a long battery life.
However, students will be able to recharge their laptop whilst they are in school (we know that there will be mistakes made and charging will be forgotten sometimes – we have all been there).
Q. I’m really pleased to hear that lockers are being explored and brought in. Is it true that students can share a locker? In September I will have 2 children at Kingsmead.
A. Yes - family groups, friendship groups and more - it really is up to you.
Q. What is the size of the locker? Will it hold a laptop, PE kit, cooking ingredients and coat at the same time?
A. The durable waterproof plastic lockers are large (1800mm high x 325mm wide x 450mm deep). To help you visualise the capacity of the lockers, they will comfortably accommodate the PE kits of several students if desired.
Q. Will the lockers have thumb print recognition? Many thanks and you are all doing a cracking job during Covid-19. Genuine thanks.
A. The locker units will have 4 digit combination locks, as well as sloping tops and heavy duty vandal proof concealed hinges. Students will be able to reset their own combinations and the master keys will be held by staff – so students will always be able to access their own locker. Where a locker is shared, the students can use the same code.
Q. If my child’s laptop is left at school overnight, she would not be able to use it for homework. Could she use a school computer in school and a personal computer at home?
A. If your child needs to use their laptop at home, after school, then it will be their responsibility to take it with them and not leave it in their school locker.
|The point of blended learning and the school scheme is that students can use their laptop to seamlessly continue with their learning, after they have left school.|
Obviously, we do not have enough school owned laptops, desktop computers and other devices to provide one for every student, in every lesson. Ultimately, it is your choice whether you send your child to school with their laptop, or they just use it at home.
Q. Lockers are a great idea, but will teachers allow students time to pick up and drop off their PE kit from their lockers between lessons?
A. Students are responsible for arriving at their lessons promptly – we are sure you would agree we don’t want students to miss out on learning. We wouldn’t expect this to change with the introduction of lockers. Students will have the opportunity to go to their lockers before school, during both break and lunch, and again after school.
Q. Are break time and lunchtime long enough for students to use their lockers if they want to?
Yes, although we will keep the movement around school and in between lessons under review.
|Students have 15 minutes at break and 30 minutes at lunch. We feel this is an important point on speaking to students and have therefore measured the time it takes to walk from the dining room to the playground, where most of the lockers will be sited - it took approximately 20 seconds. We have also measured the amount of time it takes to walk from the PE changing rooms to the end of E block – it took approximately 90 seconds.|
Q. Will there be electronic versions of the planner to save the additional weight?
A. Yes. A digital version of the knowledge planner will be used with the laptops which is what students have asked for and, we would add, significantly reduce the printing costs that the school will incur. We will use these savings to purchase devices for students to use in school.
Q. Would the lockers be secure overnight so items can be left in them?
A. This will be personal choice in terms of what to store in the lockers. The area where they will be placed is covered by CCTV. School budgets are extremely stretched and despite fund raising, seeking sponsorship from companies and purchasing laptops from the pupil premium funds, we do not have the finances to pay for lockers. These lockers belong to a private company and are not the property of the school.
Q. How has the £36 charge been arrived at?
A. The lockers we have chosen are larger than the metal lockers that are typically found inside schools. Also, the lockers are designed to be sited outside – they are waterproof and manufactured from durable plastic, they have 4-digit combination locks, as well as sloping tops and heavy-duty vandal proof concealed hinges – hence the cost.
|The space to site lockers has always been a huge restriction at Kingsmead. The corridors are simply too narrow. Because of this, the only way we could introduce lockers was by siting them outside.|
Q. Are sixth formers going to have to hire one of these lockers or are they still able to use the ones in the sixth form common room?
A. Sixth form students have the choice of hiring one of the small internal lockers, found inside the sixth from building (Q block), or one of the larger external lockers.