The Essa Academy is one of Essa Foundation’s projects. It was the first school in the UK to move into a 1:1 handheld mobile learning environment. This was before tablets were on the market. The academy caters for a student population of 900 and has over 40 languages that are spoken at the school. Although it is state funded, the impact on learning was measurable and students were able to access learning and communicate with teachers at any time.
Currently the school has a 1:1 tablet program, where lesson planning and courses are created on iTunes U by teachers. This provides a high level of transparency for parents, and students are able to learn independently. Currently, the school has a number of free courses online with over 20,000 subscribers from all over the world.
The school has been able to benefit from operational efficiencies such as significantly reduced use of printers and photocopiers as well as a reduction in the purchase of textbooks.
The aim of the project is to improve the life chances of the students at Essa Academy. Eighty percent of the students come from the 10 percent of most deprived communities (local government statistics). High levels of unemployment, low aspirations, and increasing numbers of refugee families in the locality are just some of the challenges. Literacy is a central issue that requires innovative practices to overcome the problem.
The innovative solution of the model consists in not grouping students according to age or ability but giving them freedom to learn at their own pace. Using the teacher as a cognitive guide rather than a deliverer of information, the project learning model uses technology to redefine the way learning happens.
The project has seen its base-level pass rate increase from 36 percent to 98 percent over the last four years. This has also been sustained over the last four years.
With regard to future developments and next steps, the project seeks to further refine itself and make content available to organizations all over the world.
Essa Academy seeks to achieve this by quality-assuring course material and making it accessible on a simple and reliable platform that is free to access for anyone, anywhere.