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St Julian’s Primary School runs a Digital Leaders programme to support its most digitally-engaged pupils

Digital Communities Wales trained pupils on how to help people in their community get online and develop their digital skills.

Quick read

St Julian’s Primary School runs a Digital Leaders programme to support its most digitally-engaged pupils. They also run a number of intergenerational projects with the residential home opposite the school.

Digital Communities Wales trained pupils on how to help people in their community get online and develop their digital skills. The newly trained Digital Heroes then decided to create a new intergenerational digital project. Teachers prepared the pupils to pass on a new skill every week, showing tenants how to use their own devices, as well as teaching them about new apps, websites and online services.

As well as helping tenants to overcome their fears and build confidence in using digital tools, there was huge enjoyment on both sides from taking part in the sessions. Everybody involved has benefited from sharing their experiences, learning and companionship.

What was the issue that needed to be addressed?

St Julian’s Primary School has a programme of multigenerational activities involving its pupils and tenants of a nearby residential home, Glyn-Anwen Extra Care Scheme. It is a strong link that’s been developed over a number of years and the children get involved in a wide range of activities from reading groups to arts and crafts.

The school also runs a Digital Leaders scheme, encouraging and supporting pupils with an interest in technology to share their skills with others in the school community.

Bringing these two programmes together and working with Digital Communities Wales, the school has created a scheme which builds the skills and confidence of its pupils while at the same time creating a regular social, learning opportunity for the tenants of Glyn-Anwen.

What was the intervention and how did it work?

DCW used the Digital Heroes model to create an intergenerational project with the school. Pupils from years five and six were trained to be able to train others and pass on their digital skills and know-how. A group of seven pupils from the school’s Digital Leaders were trained to become Digital Heroes.

To start the programme, the school held an event with parents and carers where the pupils presented advice on cyber security, managing passwords and staying safe online. On the back of that success, the school saw an opportunity to use its long-standing relationship with Glyn-Anwen.

The children visited every week from January until the end of term in July. Sessions were kept to around 30 minutes so that they fitted in with the home’s schedule. Working one-to-one, the children were encouraged to focus on sharing a new skill each week – from how to spot a secure website and keep your passwords safe to identifying icons and using Google.

As friendships developed, conversations naturally turned to the interests and hobbies of the tenants and the pupils were able to use online tools like YouTube to find interesting, relevant content to share.

“We had one visit where one of the women  was talking about needing to go and look at a new car. Within a few minutes, the pupils were teaching her how to search and follow Google Maps. Or they’ve helped tenants who like to do puzzles to find them online, to take and share family photos, use facetime or to check the weather forecast.”

Dan Frost, teacher at St Julian’s Primary School

The school is repeating the programme for a second year with a mix of new year five pupils and some from the previous year who have moved up to year six.

What was the impact of the intervention?

  • Making weekly visits and working together one to one with the same partner built strong relationships over time.
  • There was no expectation that a particular set of skills would be taught and mastered, more that there was a chance to learn something new every week which tenants could then try and use.
  • This also helped to overcome tenants’ fears about trying out new technology and their worries over getting things wrong. Teachers reported how much confidence increases on both sides as a result.
  • As time went on, tenants started to bring their own devices and challenges for the pupils to help with – everything from sending some photos to their family to setting up catch-up apps so they could watch tv on an iPad.

“A lady brought her phone along and asked how to take a selfie – so the children showed her how to turn the camera round and pose! They love showing them how things work. While the focus is on the digital skills and reinforcing the children’s learning, so much more has come out of this – companionship, community links, the pupils understanding different abilities and learning how to communicate. “

Dan Frost, teacher at St Julian’s Primary School

The School won the first Digital Heroes Champions award in 2019 and was visited by minister for housing and local government, Julie James AM

What has been the outcome in terms of new skills, better health and enhanced well-being?

  • Pupils gained a better understanding of age and developed their empathy skills. They built friendships with the older people which was good for confidence and communication skills.
  • There has been a crossover with the curriculum. For example, one of the tenants shared his memories of WWII while the children were learning about it in class – and the children are taking their coding projects into the home to show to the tenants.
  • Seeing their increased confidence, teachers asked the pupils to present what they’d done at a full-school assembly. Tenants were also invited.
  • Friendship and companionship have been a real benefit on both sides. When some of the Digital Heroes left year six for High School, the tenants came to the school with cards and presents to wish them well.
  • For tenants with mobility issues, the sessions have been a valuable opportunity for regular interaction with visitors.
  • The older people have learnt how to make greater use of their own devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. This has opened up new opportunities to keep in touch with family and friends, support for hobbies and the chance to find a much wider range of entertainment content to enjoy.

“The Digital Project between the tenants and school children went exceptionally well and all of the tenants involved in the project were able to say that they had all learned new skills and were able to do things with their iPad and mobile phones that they couldn’t do before. One of our ladies said that it proved that age is no barrier to technology as long as you are willing to learn and try new things and one of our gentlemen said he was really amazed what could be done right at your fingertips.”

Tina James, manager, Glyn-Anwen

  • Tenants clearly enjoyed spending time with the young people and looked forward to the weekly visits. They report that increased interaction has helped with wellbeing and keeping the mind active.

What can we learn that could be repeatable, transferable or scalable?

Intergenerational projects have a clear two-way benefit:

  • As well as learning new skills there were clear wellbeing benefits for tenants: companionship, enjoyment of activities; forming new friendships; accessing new content; using digital communication to keep in touch with family.
  • The children learnt empathy, listening and communications skills as well as reinforcing their digital knowledge. There were also connections back to the wider curriculum linked to the older people’s lived experiences.

The programme has benefited the school:

  • Stronger links to the community and new opportunities to engage parents.
  • National recognition through awards and a ministerial visit.

Using existing relationships made the programme easier to run and more effective:

  • The school had been working with Glyn-Anwen for a number of years so there was already a trusted relationship on both sides.
  • Using an existing partnership – and not having to spend time finding and developing a new relationship – meant that staff could focus more on the pupils and the content of the programme.
  • Is there an opportunity to map co-located primary schools and residential homes throughout Wales?

Structure the content, but let conversation flow:

  • Each week teachers prepared the pupils with a new skill, tool or experience they could share during the session.
  • As friendships developed, they left room in the sessions for the partnerships to explore their own interests or questions they had.

Start small and build up from there:

  • Working with a small group of pupils meant the programme was manageable for staff.
  • In year two the school is involving more pupils and integrating more curriculum-linked content (such as sharing the pupils coding projects).

“I believe the main drive that made the project so successful was the interaction between the tenants and school children. Tenants really looked forward to the weekly sessions just as much as the children, and very strong friendships were forged which resulted in both being able to learn from each other. I cannot praise the teachers or school children highly enough for their willingness to engage and support our tenants in Glyn-Anwen and I am confident and sure this will continue.”

Tina James, manager, Glyn-Anwen