Aberdeen City Council (ACC) is one of the 32 local education authorities in Scotland which are responsible for the provision of schooling for children up to the age of 18 in their area. Since 2017, Aberdeen City Council has progressively rolled out Read&Write literacy support software to schools across the local authority.
With financial responsibility for 48 primary and 11 secondary schools, the council’s goal is to give over 20,000 children and young people in Aberdeen the best start in life. ACC aims to reduce inequalities in educational outcomes through fostering lifelong learning to benefit every individual in the city.
Their aim when implementing EdTech has been to ensure they meet their accessibility requirements, while also giving every pupil with unidentified requirements unrestricted access to all the tools they need. In Read&Write they've found a solution that works across their schools - primary and secondary.
The introduction of Texthelp’s easy-to-use literacy tools on Chromebooks, PCs and laptops has been championed by Education Officer Hazel Lynch, who believes passionately in the role of technology in positively influencing outcomes for every learner. “For us, a big part of Read&Write’s appeal is that it’s a solution based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. That’s something we believe in whole-heartedly in Aberdeen, where we believe in giving all students equal opportunities to succeed."
Crucially, Read&Write’s implementation has been supported with a comprehensive engagement strategy for teachers, students and parents. This included initial training for two pupils and two teachers in each of the 59 Aberdeen schools to become ‘mentors’ to introduce their peers to the software. This has been complemented by an extensive programme of training for families and carers at parent groups and evening workshops.
“We’ve got Read&Write on pupils’ Chromebooks as well as teachers’ laptops,'' states Katie (Katriona) Westacott, who teaches Primary 5/6 pupils (aged 8-10) at Kaimhill School. “It’s really well integrated with Google Classroom plus Docs and Slides that we’re using all the time. Lots of children really like being able to hear PDF documents read to them aloud, particularly if they have problems recognizing some of the trickier words. Texthelp initially provided us with training, and now we’re encouraging our pupils who are already using Read&Write to mentor other kids so that everyone is familiar with it.”
Meanwhile Read&Write has found a wide range of applications at St Joseph's Primary School, as Principal Teacher Louise Lacaze confirms. “When rolling out Google in all our classes we introduce Read&Write to the pupils right at the beginning, and they’re always encouraged to dip in and use it at school or at home. As a teacher in P7, I particularly like the text highlight and study skills feature. Children can pick out selective phrases and gather them together as homework tasks – it’s great for grammar and vocabulary lessons.”
“In addition I've found Read&Write useful for our EAL pupils who use the translate option when checking their work,” adds Louise. “It’s also very helpful for their parents who may not have a good grasp of English.” Louise notes that Read&Write is also beneficial for students struggling with literacy challenges, “it opens a door for them and they can create stories without the barriers they often face.”
At secondary level, Aberdeen Grammar School is using senior pupils as ambassadors to introduce Read&Write to younger year groups. “Now we’ve got a team of seniors from sixth year who are teaching our First Years,” notes Claire Murray, Support for Learning Coordinator. And whilst it’s available on every device in school, pupils can also access Read&Write from home while they’re doing homework by logging into Google Classroom on their own computers.
“The children also find it useful hearing their work read back to them to help with proofing and editing. In addition, its research/study tools make Read&Write great for learners at every stage,” Claire adds.
Two enterprising P7 students at Dyce Primary School have set up their own lunchtime club, mentoring other pupils to use Read&Write.
As Tech Leaders, Kaleb and Greig have gained confidence and motivation through their new roles, winning an award from Aberdeen City Council in the process.
“Read&Write gives us a single solution covering early years through to older students,” notes Charlie. “As a local education authority, it has also allowed us to benefit from some very attractive economies of scale in terms of deployment, support and administration.”
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