Groundbreaking initiative scoops national award

Capability Scotland’s Corseford School scooped a national award at this year’s Times Education Awards for their work with academics from the Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee.

Competing against schools from all over the UK, the school won the category of Outstanding ICT Learning Initiative of the Year for their involvement in the groundbreaking technology project known as How was school today?.

The How was school today? software, developed by scientists from the two universities, uses a combination of technologies to enable children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and learning difficulties to have conversations in a faster, more interactive way.

The technology, the first of its kind in the world, uses sensors to track the pupils as they move around the school - gathering data and information that pupils can then edit into a story describing what they did at school.

Pupils can then pass this onto their parents or carer when they return home at the end of the day, giving them the opportunity to share information in a more natural way.

The Times Educational Supplement panel of judges thought the project to be an impressive winner.

They said: “The technology they've developed means that children with severe learning difficulties can now communicate with their parents just as well as any others. It's a really good use of technology and it's been life changing for the youngsters who have been involved."

Sue Williams, headteacher at Corseford said:  “We are absolutely delighted to have won this prestigious award.  The technology really has been life-changing for our pupils. It has allowed them to have much greater interactive narration, enabling them to easily talk about their school day and to quickly answer questions much more independently”.

Dr Annalu Waller from the University of Dundee’s School of Computing who helped to develop the technology said:  “I am delighted that Corseford has been recognised in this way as without the commitment and vision of staff, pupils and parents, we would not have succeeded in developing new technology that truly meets the needs of the children and actually works in the school environment.”

Rolf Black from the University of Dundee’s School of Computing said: “It is always a fantastic experience working with the children at Corseford School and it is great seeing their work rewarded in this way.”

The award ceremony took place in London last week and Corseford student Nicole Vallery who helped trial the software, and Depute Head Teacher Fiona Catterson attended the ceremony.

Fiona said: “Nicole had a wonderful time. It was the first time she had been to London and she enjoyed every minute of it, from the taxi tour around town to collecting our award onstage at the Grosvenor Hotel.”

The How Was School Today? project received additional funding of £285,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council earlier this year to develop the devices further.

The Aberdeen and Dundee University researchers are aiming to support children with a wider range of difficulties through more compact forms of the equipment, for example using mobile phone technology.