The first major university-sponsored technical college in England, Aston University Engineering Academy sits alongside the university in the heart of Birmingham.
Opened in September 2012, the academy teaches 14-19 year-olds, and its unique focus on engineering and science is enhanced through strong links with local and national industrial partners.
“BlueSky is the glue that holds lots of processes together… we’re using all the tools BlueSky has to offer.”
Goals & Opportunities
Being a new school, there were no dog-eared folders or piles of paper to replace. The school's management could build its systems from the ground up. Indeed, in keeping with its innovative ethos, the team's paperless vision meant that the school had a grand total of just four printers.
From the outset, their goal was to foster a culture of openness, where staff could drive teaching and learning in an accountable and supportive environment. Vice Principal, Daniel Locke-Wheaton comments: "We looked for systems to support staff performance management and an effective way to manage lesson observations. To ensure we offer staff CPD appropriate to their needs, we needed high-level analysis from the information we entered on individual staff. Once we were ready to review staff performance, we wanted it to be based on evidence."
Having studied four candidate performance management systems, the new school chose BlueSky. They had in fact been developing their own software but quickly realised BlueSky could deliver everything they were looking for, and more.
They began by using the Performance Management feature, and a couple of months later they piloted the Self-Review area. Two terms later, they were using BlueSky's complete suite of tools.
Crucially, staff feedback was positive as they added evidence to their individual portfolios. The school immediately added their own lesson observation proforma, with input made via iPads, making strengths and weaknesses quick to identify. Curriculum area leaders also started using BlueSky for area reviews, targeting activities such as learning walks, marking and feedback.
The school has found that the biggest impact of BlueSky is how the staff now:
- assess their own needs
- highlight their strengths, which can also support others with coaching and mentoring
- identify their areas for improvement
- link this to a personal learning plan
- identify training needs
- complete the training
- capture CPD evidence
- record impact, and
- provide evidence for the totality of their role and pay progression.
Daniel describes BlueSky as "the glue that holds lots of processes together… we're using all the tools BlueSky has to offer. Staff want everything to be on the system".
Getting more from BlueSky
The school continues to build a significant body of evidence within BlueSky. This will enable them to measure the long-term impact of CPD and target it to maximum effect. Meanwhile, the staff are using the myBlue area, sharing learning and experiences across the online community.
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