Diary of a Lead Teacher: my journey as a Lead Teacher

Author: Martin Sexton, Lead Teacher

My name is Martin and I work at Mildenhall College Academy (MCA) in Suffolk. We have been part of the Digital Schoolhouse programme for the last 2 and a half years and I have been the lead teacher delivering the workshops and working with the primary teachers for all of that time.

I wanted to get on board with the programme after hearing about it at a Computing at School (CAS) board meeting I was lucky enough to attend. It sounded like a great opportunity to join together all of the work I was doing to support schools and teachers around me. I was already leading a CAS community as well as delivering Barefoot workshops through the Barefoot volunteer programme and I was looking to try to work with our feeder schools a lot more closely. The Digital Schoolhouse programme seemed like a great way to get support (and free resources) to help the primary schools around Mildenhall.

Our time as a lead school has not been easy, starting up is probably the most difficult part as you are building your relationships with the primary schools. Then COVID hit part way through our first year. I had only delivered one workshop before it hit. Since then it has all been about adapting to different situations. I spent the first lock down organising meetings to help staff to be more confident with teaching computing and then ran virtual workshops for a local primary school during our second year in the programme (last academic year).

This year, despite COVID still causing disruption, the offer of workshops has been enthusiastically taken up by the schools around us. We have so far delivered 5 workshops this term with another booked in for next month reaching over 170 children and 14 members of staff. It has been a great morale boost to see the enthusiasm from the children and the staff.

As well as helping out the primary schools with CPD for staff and fun computing lessons for the children, being part of the Digital Schoolhouse programme also has benefits for me. I attend multiple free CPD sessions organised for us throughout the year. These allow for networking with other schools where we discuss ideas for our own students alongside ideas for getting more primary schools involved with the programme. The CPD also shows us how different workshops can be delivered and how learning through play can be incorporated into the workshops and our own teaching. We also get sneak previews into some of the latest developments!

On top of the CPD, delivering the workshops also has its benefits. It pushes me out of my comfort zone teaching students younger than I normally teach and forces me to think about how to adapt lessons to those students. This has helped with how I teach some of my lower ability students at MCA. My last workshop used an adapted version of the Scratch Stories workshop to teach year 2 students at Iceni Primary Academy how to make videos in Movie Maker! This was an eye opener but a really enjoyable session as the students were so enthusiastic about the workshop.

Scratch stories is one of my favourite workshops to deliver. It allows me to promote creativity alongside computing. Students can come up with their own idea for an interactive story or their teachers may choose a topic area linked to current work. The story is created in Scratch which allows the students to program different endings to their story. The teaching of programming skills allows me to promote the use of PRIMM which is by far the best way I have found to teach programming and isn’t dissimilar to how most people will teach it but it offers a structure which really helps students to understand the concepts. It encourages students to really think about how code works before they start to write code so they are able to create better programs.

CAS has been an excellent platform to promote the offering of Digital Schoolhouse (including the workshops I run). I will always include a short section on what Digital Schoolhouse has to offer at my community meetings and the meetings I am invited. This has helped to reach a wider base and, on occasions, helped to get bookings for other Digital Schoolhouse lead schools. Both organisations are committed to improving how computing is delivered and how accessible it is to students so it is great that they can work together. CAS even hosted a CAS Inspire session all about Digital Schoolhouse which I joined as a panellist.

As a secondary school, I cannot recommend being a lead school enough. It has helped develop close ties with some of our feeder schools and is helping to support some of the primary schools in our trust.

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