With the increasing emphasis on personalised learning, CPD Week investigates some innovative use of VLEs in Essex, plus we look at the new professional standards

Terry Curtis, AST in Modern Foreign Languages at King Harold School in Essex, has been instrumental in setting up a virtual teaching and learning environment (VTLE) for his school. I caught up with him to find out all about it, and how it affects personalised learning in the school.

What is the virtual teaching and learning environment?

A system on the school server through which staff, students and other stakeholders can access resources, whole courses, assessments and tasks. Our VTLE is called Kaleidos and we are a field trial school for a web-based portal which allows information management systems to transfer data direct for school-specified user groups to access via the internet.

How does it work?

Staff add their resources to the school’s VTLE. They can simply add a file with a short description and keywords, or they might choose to use QCA objectives too. Schools can also use published packages that come pre-tagged and are easily imported into the VTLE by IT support staff.  Users can then access these resources through the school server. This week, we are hoping to enable access to all of these resources through our web-based portal, we would then not be tied to school servers but will have the freedom of the internet to help us!

How has it been received?

On the whole, staff have been positive towards the notion of a VTLE but have not necessarily felt in a position to benefit fully from its potential. So, we have had initial whole school CPD from the VTLE provider, and I have run refresher training in recent twilight sessions. Most staff now feel confident to access the resources in the VTLE and are ready to transfer their own resources across to create a shared base of multi-skill resources.

Was it a specific response to the call for personalised learning?

We were fortunate to be involved with our provider from the outset, when the personalised learning debate first appeared some years ago. It is evident that with the changing nature of education and the need to provide stimulating, easily accessible resources for all, even from outside of the school, VTLEs will be as standard a teaching and learning tool as chalk, boards and OHPs once were.

Has it contributed positively to personalised learning in your school?

Most definitely! We are able to assign particular resources to individuals or whole groups with or without time limits. Leaving the resource available to the students once they have already seen it really helps with revision…students can even add resources to their own e-portfolio.

Has it had an impact on attainment?

In MFL we have participated in two CILT ICT Action Research projects and have noticed a clear upward trend in summative attainment in comparison to previous years. Other colleagues believe the same is true for their subjects; I would hope they might undertake a similar study to obtain empirical evidence.

Any top tips for other schools wanting to do the same?

  • Discuss what it is your school or community hopes a VTLE might enable
  • Speak to a variety of companies who provide VTLEs: they should be able to arrange an on-site visit for you to see the product(s) in action
  • Speak to other schools who are in similar contexts
  • See if you can fund the VTLE as a cluster, some LAs will support this
  • Stagger training, perhaps beginning with a focus group and gradually rolling out to whole staff as the focus group can model and exemplify the way in which they use the VTLE.

Find out more

To read more about VTLEs and the experiences of King Harold School click here.

Click here to read how Dorney Combined Primary School is embedding personalisation as a core principle.

New professional standards for teachers

A new framework of professional standards for teachers comes into effect this month. These standards have been designed to bring coherence to what is expected of the school workforce and create a natural progression from one level to the next. The standards cover the following career stages: Q – qualified teacher status C – core standards for main scale teachers who have successfully completed their induction P – post-threshold teachers on the upper pay scale E – excellent teachers A – advanced skills teachers As teachers progress from one stage to the next, the expectation is that they would be meeting the standards of their existing stage and satisfying the standards of the next stage. The framework of standards has three interrelated sections which cover:

  • professional attributes
  • professional knowledge and understanding
  • professional skills

Find out more

You can find further information about the new standards on the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) website www.tda.gov.uk. Click on the ‘new national standards’ link. The standards for each individual stage of the framework can be viewed.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2007

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes is the author of CPD Week