Case Study

Turning the educational tide at a school with a “challenging cohort”

“GCSEPod is proving its worth , both teachers and students find it useful and see the value in it. One unexpected benefit of GCSEPod has been its effect on less engaged students, including two boys formerly deemed to be among the most disruptive. It’s the way GCSEPod speaks to students on many different levels. GCSEPod is a massive asset to the school.”



Ellis Guilford School

Sometimes it’s the small steps that make the biggest impact, as the Ellis Guilford School in Nottingham can attest. The school’s GCSEPod lead, Matt Smith, explains the part the online teaching and learning platform is playing in helping turn the educational tide – not least amongst its more challenging students.

Teacher, Matt Smith explains…

It’s the first Monday after the autumn half-term, and art and photography teacher Matt Smith, is in a buoyant mood.

And not just because he’s about to become a father for the first time. The latest school Performance Tables have just been released and Ellis Guilford School in Nottingham has achieved a Progress 8 score of -0.65 for the 2018-2019 academic year – well below average and putting it in the bottom 10% nationally.

It doesn’t seem something to be cheerful about. But the previous year the school – which became an academy in autumn 2018 – recorded a Progress 8 score of -0.97. It would be fair to say that Ellis Guilford has been performing well below average for a number of years.

Which is why Matt can’t keep the excitement out of his voice. Because whilst Ellis Guilford’s score of -0.65 might on paper seem nothing to shout about, it actually marks a turning point which has seen the school in the Basford area of Nottingham move into an altogether more prestigious national league – the top 8.5% most improved.

It is, as Matt says, a small but significant step “and shows we are improving.”

There are many reasons why Ellis Guilford is on the up. Since 1 November 2018 it has been part of the Creative Education Trust, which has a history of transforming schools previously deemed inadequate, into good ones. Staff retention and recruitment has improved. And there is now an ethos of adding value to Ellis Guilford’s 1300-plus students’ education.

One way this has been achieved was the introduction in spring 2018 of the award-winning GCSEPod teaching and learning platform. Initially only used for science, GCSEPod with its short, snappy videos known as Pods, proved so popular with both teachers and KS4 students, that in February 2019 Ellis Guilford upgraded to all subjects.

But there are enough signs that GCSEPod is proving its worth in a school that sits in one of the Midlands’ most deprived areas, for Matt to feel confident about the future. 

Referring to the August GCSE results, he says: “The last few years we had seen adip in our results. But in August we saw the first rise, with our results going up by 0.32 Progress 8 points.”

He is awaiting analysis of the results to build a clearer picture, but his gut feeling is that GCSEPod has played an important part, with an astonishing 16,000 Pods watched last year – 12,700 during the exam period between March and June.

GCSEPod is proving its worth at our school

“The teachers and students are finding it useful and they can all see the value in it. Because it is working, people are obviously going to say they love it, but the feedback is that it is easy to use and access, and the audio and videos especially speak to our under-performing students. It is helping them mop up information,” Matt explains.

“Staff have started to use GCSEPod as part of their lessons now and are setting homework based around it, getting students to watch the video clips so they are learning outside the classroom and coming to school already familiar with what they will be doing, allowing for more discussion and giving teachers the time needed to help those students who are struggling.”

One unexpected benefit of GCSEPod has been its effect on Ellis Guilford’s less engaged students. Matt is candid about the school having a “challenging cohort”, many are regularly absent.

Ellis Guilford uses an internal exclusion room separate from the classroom to remove troublesome students. It’s equipped with laptops on which pupils are encouraged to continue their school work.

A happy outcome has been that among Ellis Guilford’s biggest GCSEPod users are two boys formerly deemed to be among the most disruptive in the school.

“Our seventh highest user is a Year 11 student who has been in and out of bother,” Matt says. “Since September he has only had 18 negative logs, which is a massive improvement, and only one instance of truancy.

“Our fifth highest user has only had eight incidents logged since we returned to school in September. Before that, he was being logged two or three times a day.

“You could argue that both these boys are now more engaged and that GCSEPod is helping them get back into lessons.

“Based on behaviour logs and GCSEPod streams, there are many more cases of iimproved behaviour across the school too.

“The way GCSEPod is set up and works speaks to students on many different levels. The technology behind it is helping open new doors to learning.”

It has also helped that Matt has been particularly creative in promoting the take-up of GCSEPod.

He has launched a Parent Pledge aimed at the Year 10s, which was unveiled at an open evening. More than 50% of parents turned up to the event where they had the chance to meet lead teachers and find out more about GCSEPod.

Parents were encouraged to scan a QR code which took them to the GCSEPod website. And Matt devised special pledge cards where parents were asked to commit to various ways they would encourage their child to use and make the best of GCSEPod, whether it be ensuring they were logging on, to setting up a quiet space in the home to study, or helping pull together revision cards.

Matt has also introduced GCSEPod to tutor times. “In Year 10 and 11 once a week during tutor time, we are currently asking students to watch GCSEPod video clips and make revision cards for the JB Priestley play, An Inspector Calls, based on the six main characters.

“The cards can contain anything from notes to keywords based on the GCSEPod information. In all, they should finish up with 36 revision cards. It was back in Year 9 that the students started studying the play, so the revision cards based around GCSEPod will help them revisit it ahead of the exams.”

It all takes time. But Matt says: “With the parents and staff on board, I am more convinced than ever that GCSEPod is going to be a massive asset for both our students and the progress of the school. I can feel it.”

The Results

“One unexpected benefit of GCSEPod has been its effect on less engaged students, including two boys formerly deemed to be among the most disruptive in the school. It’s the way GCSEPod speaks to students on many different levels. GCSEPod is a massive asset to the school.”

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