As a specialist technology school, they are forward-thinking and like to adopt the latest innovative developments to ensure that their teachers and students have access to technologies that help create exciting lessons to engage and motivate their learners.
ICT is embedded across the entire school in all aspects of teaching and learning, however, they identified that one particular area had not been developed in line with the others; and that was their approach to classroom seating arrangements.
“With more than 1,000 students, we know that where they sit in their classroom has a significant impact on their learning, and also on behaviour, so seating planning soon became a key focus for us,” explained senior assistant headteacher, Damian Mitchelmore .
The senior team worked closely with teachers to identify the key issues they faced with their current seating plan strategy and it became clear just where the problems were.
“Our teachers completed seating planning just like hundreds of teachers do across the country; generally sketched on paper, or an excel spreadsheet. As well as being outdated, this approach caused a number of limitations,” said Mitchelmore.
Time was the most notable issue as teachers were spending hours creating plans that left very little room for margin and once a seating plan was put together it was virtually impossible to update unless the teacher began the process from scratch.
If a new student joined or teachers needed to rearrange the seating, this became a particularly tiresome task.
A further limitation was the inability to share the plans that were available. So if a teacher was absent from school, there was no means for the supply teacher to access the classroom seating plan, which made things complicated and made getting to know the students that little more difficult.
Damian and his team soon recognised that it was vital to bring their approach to seating plans in line with their forward-thinking in other areas: “It had to reflect our modern approach to teaching and learning and support us moving forward.”
“We also aim to achieve an outstanding Ofsted report, and recognised that if we transformed our seating planning, it may help towards our goal.”
They wanted to reach a point where teachers were spending a minimal amount of time deciding where students would sit; administration duties for teachers need to be kept to a minimum so they can spend as much time on their core teaching duties as possible.
“We had a successful trial, and the teachers involved in the pilot really bought into the new process, reporting significant benefits, so we decided to extend rollout across the entire school.”
The impact MINTclass had to seating planning was greater than they initially anticipated; from saving teachers’ precious time, and building their relationships with students, to improving behaviour and even helping Tolworth meet Ofsted requirements.
The school was able to overcome the issue of individual teachers holding their seating plans and has also made life easier for their supply teachers who can easily understand student needs and access seating plans that are already in place.
In addition to solving those key problems identified by the team, Mitchelmore was also greatly impressed with MINTclass’ ability to connect directly with a school’s MIS, in Tolworth’s case, SIMS.
“This allows teachers to view students’ key information such as target grades, whether they are low, middle or high achievers, and so on. For instance, information on students with complex social backgrounds was previously held in different pockets, not centralised. Now it’s all in one place, so there is access to all the information, on a controlled basis, which helps teachers teach better.”
Planning seating arrangements online with MINTclass is now part of the teachers’ daily routines and has evolved along with the rest of their school to further improve their creative learning environment.
“Sometimes there can be an element of scepticism in terms of the real benefits of new technology, but the implementation of MINTclass has been such a smooth adoption process; it is so convenient and intuitive to use that teachers throughout the school, regardless of their own technical know-how, have really backed the move.”
Today, planning the classroom seating is quick, easy and convenient for all of Tolworth’s teachers as they use our online planning solution to do all the work for them.