Serif in Education

An outstanding school with no computers?

This week, a story appeared in the Nottingham post about a school “rated outstanding by inspectors yet without computers or a head teacher”. We were intrigued by this, not only because we are a computer software company for education, but also because our Head Office is in Nottingham. Journalist Dan Russell reports how one of the city’s “best schools” starts every day by singing, does not have a uniform, has no exams and does everything on traditional blackboards.

The primary school, called Iona School in Sneinton Dale, was founded in 1985 and is run by an internal College of Teachers which is made up of ten members of staff. There is no head teacher but instead decisions are made as a group.

Perhaps most controversially, the school doesn’t have computers because “screen time is not good for children” according to founding member Richard Moore. He says: “We want them to have neat handwriting over using computer keys. We are more concerned with developing human relationship and interaction. We are not educating children to fit into society, but to be human and when a child leaves school they are in just as good a place academically if not better than others in mainstream schools.”

Iona is a fee-paying school and costs £5,400 a year. Because it is independent it is inspected by the School Inspection Service and not Ofsted – although the same framework is used in the ratings – and has been rated as outstanding.

So what do you think? Can a school truly be an outstanding one, in a technological world without the use of technology?

We have to admit that at Serif, we are torn. It seems this school is no stranger to creativity, with activities like house building, clothes making, building dens and climbing trees. We are a huge advocate of creativity and I’m sure classes are a lot of fun for the children! We often suggest in our blogs that children need to learn transferable skills outside of the curriculum, to really thrive in their future careers. When students leave school and start the task of looking for a job, potential employers may look for a host of different requirements and skill sets, only one of which will be a student’s final grades. They need to learn to be creative in their thinking. Instead of just learning how to code, they need to learn how to problem solve and think critically.

Desired skills by employers  include communication skills (the way you verbally communicate, use written words and also how you listen), teamwork, flexibility, leadership/management, multicultural awareness, planning and organisation, and analytical/research skills – amongst others . Some skills are job specific and others are what we call soft-skills.  Nowadays though, most jobs (if not all) will also have a requirement for some computer and/or technical literacy.

This last point is an important one. The world is no longer a place where you can just ignore computers. The current Government has transformed the subject of Computing to become what it is today, and it clearly has an important place in the national curriculum in both primary and secondary schools for a reason. They continue to stress how important it is to teach Computing, and skills like coding, to keep up with children in other countries and to stay ahead in industry. Specific computing skills are lacking in young adults these days and the Government is trying to fill the gaps. 

But, what’s to say that the children at Iona aren’t learning how to use technology outside of school hours? We’d take a bet that every child in the school has access to some kind of technology outside of school – an iPad, iPhone, tablet, home computer perhaps – so is it imperative that they use computers inside of school? Is it better to leave them to explore technology on their own at this young age?

This story is a very interesting one and we could talk about it for hours… but instead, we’d love to know what you think. Let us know on Twitter @serifeducation.

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