Solving the school attendance problem in Keighley

I recently helped out with a project in Keighley, the location of Webanywhere HQ.

The project was a DVD production by pupils and staff from 15 of our local schools. Titled Every Day Counts, it was made to address the problem of poor school attendance in Keighley and the surrounding area. I helped out where I could and also featured on the recording. It was a pleasure to be a part of it and I’m glad people are focusing on such an important issue.

With attendance in our local area below the national average, I’d love to see an improvement. It’ll make a big difference to young people’s lives, as in the long run, children who go to school every day will always have the better job prospects.

Getting people into work is one of my passions and if there’s any way to help, I’m all for it.

The DVD was shown in our local cinema on Monday and even made the local BBC Look North News Bulletin. You can now watch Every Day Counts below. It features some really valuable insights from local customer, headteacher and community leader, John Devlin.

In the DVD, John shares some great tips on raising attendance, from a little bit of bribery to prizes each term. He also explains that they get tough if needs be, with fines and even prosecutions a possibility as well. With his attendance rising 2% in the last year, I’m really hoping people watch the video and listen to his advice.

John also made the point that “Attendance is absolutely essential. Better attendance means better achievement because the children are learning more and better achievement means better results which ultimately leads to better life choices.”

I don’t think I could have put it better myself.

My trip to St. Mary’s

Last week I went to St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Halifax as part of my “back to school” plans.

Having checked out their School Jotter website I was eager to speak to staff. Their site was looking brilliant, with regularly updated news and a library of children’s work.

It was good to get out the office and I felt very welcome during our visit. One of the first things I noticed as I walked around was how much they used ICT. Pupils and staff alike were using computers day in, day out, and you could see the influence in their work.


From using Spellanywhere for spelling tests, to Mathsanywhere during numeracy hour, St Mary’s seemed to be really making the most of our products. It was nice to hear that our services made a difference and most importantly, that ‘children are loving it’.

I was also excited to find out they’re interested in setting up a collaborative blog. Now I’m back in the office, first stop is putting them in touch with other schools doing the same thing.

Of course, the visit was a chance to get some feedback on how our systems work for teachers too. First I got some great ideas on how to improve the service. Then, I heard some fantastic compliments on the look and feel of School Jotter itself.

With plenty of comments and ideas scribbled down, I’m now looking forward to discussing the school’s requests with the rest of the team.

The Future Search Conference


The other day I attended the HRD Future Search conference. It was a really interesting day, with lots of discussion about a subject really close to my heart; the future of learning.

One of the things that really inspired me was how many of the subjects touched on ideas we’ve had as a business. From moving towards online learning, to using video repositories for learning purposes, it was nice to be able to relate some of our own services to the ideas discussed on the day.

The conference also covered plenty of other topics, including the move to bite-size consumerism and the growth of far more specialist services for customers.

One area that really got me thinking was the challenge of how to measure learning. While this has traditionally been a paper and pen exercise, it’s now becoming more ICT centered and I’m eager to see what we can do to help.

Careers day at University Academy Keighley


Today I went down to the local careers fair at University Academy Keighley. An event organised to help pupils find out about some of the great employment opportunities in our local area.

For me, it was also a chance to show young people that despite the tough economic climate, it’s still possible to take a leap into working life.

I had a great time meeting the school students. The fair was well organised and I was bowled over by everyone’s enthusiasm to get involved.

I’m a big believer in providing opportunities to school leavers in local communities, so we regularly take on interns and work experience candidates to ensure young people get a good start in life. With the commitment displayed today, I’m hoping to see a few faces from University Academy Keighley turn up on our doorstep in the future.

A visit from Dacre Braithwaite


Last week, one of our customers popped into the office.

Cath Lassey is the headteacher at Dacre Braithwaite Church of England Primary School. As a user of our primary learning platform, Learnanywhere, she came in looking for our input and opinions on how the system was being used in her school.

As Cath lives quite close to our offices, she often pops in to see us for advice, rather than talk on the phone. It’s something I’m really keen on. Despite the fantastic technology we now use in every day life, meeting face to face is still vital for building strong relationships with our customers.

During the visit, Cath spent time with one of our technicians, Matt Naylor, and discussed Learnanywhere in depth. Now she’s returned to school, Catherine will be hopefully be able to pass on the extra knowledge she picked up from Matt.

The meeting was useful for me too. It’s always good to get feedback on how our products are working in the real world and Cath had plenty to say about the service. In particular, I was pleased to hear some of the praise she had for the efforts of our training and support staff.

It’s always nice to have visitors. But, now the half term break is over, I’m looking forward to getting back out into schools, meeting more teachers, and discussing how we can help make a difference in education.

Friday morning at Whitehill Academy


This morning I paid a visit to Whitehill Academy in Halifax. Whitehill were one of the first schools who signed up with Webanywhere so I thought it would be great to go there and see them making use of our products and other great tools in the classroom. I was blown away by the quality of what I saw at the school. 2 ICT suites were fully kitted out with Apple Macs; iMacs were on view in all of the classrooms and in every classroom there were pupils making use of ICT to support their learning.

The staff at Whitehill Academy are really enthusiastic about their use of ICT and demand a lot of the products they use to enhance their pupils learning experience. Mr Sayles, the Deputy Headteacher, was particularly keen to find out how Webanywhere could support the development of use of ICT at the school. We looked at the way that the pupils are currently using a range of products and quickly identified a few areas where we could help out.

The issues that came up are quite common ones but we think we’ve found some solutions to them:

Parents are unsure how to help pupils doing homework: We’re helping the school create a series of guidance videos which parents can watch to see examples of similar tasks being done in school.

Building courses for Learnanywhere: We want to make sure our VLE for Primary schools is really well used so we’ve agreed to send our Education Advisor in to help them build some really effective courses.

Training and CPD: Whitehill have run some great training events in the past and are planning some more. We’ve promised to help organise and promote these and we’ve started planning a training event based on the creation and use of rapid content creation games to enhance teaching and learning.

One thing that surprised me whilst in the school was that a lot of the pupils are doing the Digital Creator course. I’ve seen this course in a lot of secondary schools before but to see Year 5 and 6 pupils engaging in a course that is normally studied by 14 to 16 year olds was inspiring!