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North Lakes Frog initiative connects rural schools

North Lakes School

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The Penrith Hub


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North Lakes is a 224 pupil-strong junior school with a resourced provision located in Penrith. Rated by Ofsted as ‘Good’ and with glowing feedback from a recent Inclusion Quality Mark assessment, the school has been recognised for its effective use of technology. Frog champion Martyn Soulsby has been a key driver of this progression and naturally thought of a Frog solution when the Penrith Hub concept was first conceived.


Connecting Schools


As a rural school that’s not part of a multi academy trust, opportunities to collaborate with other schools can be restricted due to location and distance. North Lakes is part of a collaborative cluster of nine schools and Mike Pincombe (North Lakes Headteacher) and other heads wanted a solution that would bring people and resources together across a 10-mile radius in the Eden Valley. Sharing information could offer huge benefits for schools in the area, usually isolated from this type of interaction. Convinced that Frog would have a solution without the need for a new platform, Martyn raised the idea with the team at Frog.

 

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The MAT Intranet solution powered by FrogLearn (the platform already used by North Lakes School) was designed to meet the needs for multi academy trusts to collaborate and share information across several schools. Scaled down and with some personalisation, this would be the ideal solution for Martyn to create and develop ‘The Penrith Hub’ site.

In collaboration with the Frog team, Martyn used the friendly Frog interface to customise the Hub. They aimed to reduce the number of emails being circulated by adding notices and forums to the Hub instead. It would contain subject-specific areas (mini hubs) so that subject leaders such as, headteachers, SEND, KS1 Writing, Computing, and Maths could easily communicate. To increase use, he encouraged the nominated ‘Hub Leads’ to add important meeting notes, resources and links so that people would need to login to view. The plan was to begin at teacher level and expand usage as confidence increased.

 

The Penrith Hub Launch


Once the Penrith Hub was ready, North Lakes invited headteachers and Hub Leaders from nine local schools to attend a launch event. They had over 15 attendees in attendance for a guest keynote by Mark Anderson (ICT Evangelist) and solution introduction, Martyn’s demonstration and training and launch session was well received...
 

“Thank you very much to all involved from Frog & North Lakes. I think this will be a very useful way to communicate and share.”
 

“A great way to share info within our cluster. Thanks for setting up.”

 

With 95% of those enrolled having logged on at least once since launch, teachers are beginning to connect with each other. Because some schools were not yet familiar with Frog, Martyn embedded a ticket support system within the Hub to provide quick assistance with any user queries.

With information appearing only on ‘The Penrith Hub’, making it a ‘one-stop-shop’, the need for email is expected to drastically reduce, with time savings gained by information being shared only once.
 

“Introducing new schools to the Frog ‘Wow’ factor is rewarding, especially when a new-to-Frog teacher stops you and says ‘Martyn, We Love Frog!’.”

Martyn Soulsby, Frog Champion, North Lakes School

Early Impact

 

The original motivation for the hub was to centralise information and reduce workload, creating ‘one source of the truth’, ensuring there’s no duplication of effort.
 

“The Frog Portal is a great way for our cluster to work collaboratively together in an effective and efficient way. The file sharing and calendar is certainly a good way of reducing teacher workload. It is easy to navigate, and Frog has been fantastic at listening and responding to our cluster’s needs.”

Tom Armstrong, Head Teacher, Culgaith School


As well as supporting staff at the school, the report recognises that a dual benefit of FrogLearn is that it also enhances pupil learning and the school experience.
 

“It’s so much easier to share information in one place, where it can be stored securely for future access and reference. In the past sending messages and attachments via email had security issues, difficulties in reaching the correct source and colleagues often reporting problems.”

Sharon Sanderson. Head Teacher, Brunswick School

 

Next Steps

 

The plan is to expand usage, in September membership will be rolled out to support staff which will mean The Penrith Hub will reach 9 headteachers, 100 teachers and over 100 support staff and governors across 9 schools.
 

“I know that governors are very excited about joining the groups currently on the portal. It would be great to be able to provide some online training and resources for governors as we move forward.”

Sharon Sanderson. Head Teacher, Brunswick School


Requests have already been received to set up a Science Hub and Governors Hub, with talks under way for a School Business Managers Hub too. The model is being shared as a beacon of good practice with the hope of other schools in Cumbria looking to benefit from being better connected with others using this model.
 

“Developing ‘The Penrith Hub’ has been both exciting and challenging. The ability to create a bespoke portal which meets the needs of our cluster, promotes collaboration and contributes to workload reduction means we can enhance teaching and learning across our schools and share good practice.”

Martyn Soulsby, Frog Champion, North Lakes School
 

“The introduction of the Frog Portal for the Penrith Hub has been warmly welcomed by all schools involved. This now provides us with a secure, easy-to-access platform where we can share key information and documents. It’s a single information point for dates, documents and key contact details. The Hub also provides a vehicle for ongoing dialogue and discussion, which will add greatly to the way we collaborate.”

Mike Pincombe, Frog Champion, North Lakes School

Schools in the Penrith Cluster:

Appleby Primary School, Beaconside Primary School, Brunswick School, Clifton Primary School, Culgaith Primary School, Lowther Endowed School, North Lakes School, St Catherine’s RC School, Shap C of E School.

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