Drumhillery staff and pupils up to date with ICT know-how



Saturday 9 July 2022 11:00

DRUMHILLERY Primary School might not be very big in terms of its pupil numbers. They total 65.

But this little seat of learning in Middletown has just been recognised as one of Northern Ireland’s leading primary schools in the now all-important field of digital technology.

With only 87 of NI’s 796 primary schools having achieved this prestigious, nationally recognised award, staff, pupils and parents alike are understandably delighted at this success.

The Digital Schools Awards is a national scheme used to promote, recognise and encourage a whole-school approach to the use of digital technology. A three-step programme, it helps schools assess progress, with the award itself recognising excellence in the use of digital technology at nursery, primary, special education and secondary level.

Above all, the aim is to provide practical support and encouragement. And Drumhillery has it nailed.

In preparation for the award, the locals produced a short video, demonstrating how digital technology forms an integral part of teaching and learning within the school. This can now be viewed on the school website.

Expressing his delight that the school’s hard work in this field has now been officially recognised, the Principal, Mr Keith Campbell, told the Gazette, “The range of ICT experiences available to pupils in Drumhillery is fantastic and we’re so pleased to receive this award.

“I’d like to thank our ICT co-ordinator, Mrs Lorraine Johnston, and all the staff for their commitment to the development of digital teaching and learning here in Drumhillery Primary School.”

Explaining what the process en route to this recognition entailed, Mrs Johnson said, “Basically we had to sit down and go through an audit of everything we do with the children in terms of digital technology – different ICT tasks right through to everyday use for general purposes – their AR reading, Easimaths, Studyladder and things like that.

“We've been doing these things for years, so to have be given recognition for that is great.

“Having got through the audit we then had to submit our policies. We passed that, too, so then we had a validation interview which was mainly a discussion and questions.”

Mrs Johnson continued, “We also showed them a video of the children at work and the different uses of the technology within the school.”

Remarkably, these skills and this ICT knowledge is not confined to the more senior pupils. On the contrary, it starts as early as P1.

“We do tasks every year from P1 right through to P7,” Mrs Johnson confirmed. “Each class has three tasks – one per term – designed to help them specialise in various aspects of ICT. This year, for example, the topics were presenting, managing data and working with images.

“The P4s created pictures for the Armagh Show and the P5s made short movies about the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

“But even the P1s are able to create drawings using the box and interactive whiteboard, so from the word go we try to integrate as much ICT as possible into what the pupils are doing.”

She pointed out, “When they come into P1 and see a computer or whiteboard, they’re excited to learn using those things. The really can’t wait to get started, and when that’s the way they feel about learning it’s easy to cater for them.

“Every year, for the next three, we’ll do something different each term, so because they’re learning new skills all the time they continue to be interested.

“And, of course, these are skills they were able to use during the Covid lockdown, because when everything went online they had sufficient know-how to enable them to continue learning at home.”

Stressing the bigger-picture benefits she added, “Internet and ICT skills are part and parcel of everyday life now, so it’s about trying to ensure the children are equipped for the future.”

As well as lauding the children, she also hailed the attitude of her teaching collegues at Drumhillery, saying, “When you ask for new technology and you get that, the staff take it on board and get cracking with it.

“We all work together as a team. Each year we review our tasks and plan for what comes next. So everybody here – staff and pupils alike - just works hard.

“It's ever-changing,” she added. “Every year new software and new programmes come out, so you just have to work with the technology that's available to you and provide as much experience as possible for the pupils.

“We were classed as a satellite school, so let’s just say that our internet hasn’t been great! But thankfully we're now waiting for our fibre connection to come in, so that should improve things and make them a whole lot easier when it happens.

“Meanwhile we’ll do what we’ve always done - just try to make the most of what we have and get on with it.”

And clearly they have done so to great effect.

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