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Atom Learning visits Port Regis School in Dorset

By Atom | Jun 8, 2023, 4:04 PM

Photo of children walking through the grass in front of Port Regis School


An interview with James Webb, Senior Deputy Head

Port Regis is a co-educational day and boarding prep school in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for children aged 2-13.

How long have you been using Atom at Port Regis?

We started using Atom a few years ago: we were one of the first schools to start using it, having seen the possibilities it offered in terms of targeted learning on very specific topics programmed by the teacher both in class and after school. Many of our children signed up for the Home version of the product as the extra functionality allowed them to extend themselves at their own pace and the child-friendly bonus features encouraged further engagement. We are excited by the addition of science to the Atom curriculum as we do a lot of science here, and we will be looking at ways to integrate it with our current lab-based teaching, perhaps with the web-enabled devices which certain year groups will be using in class from next year.

How did Port Regis use technology to react to the lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021?

We are a Microsoft school so we just switched on our Microsoft Teams product for all children in Year 3 and above, emailed timetables to parents and taught them via live video meetings, one ‘Team’ per subject. Our younger children were on Zoom. It didn’t take long to get used to the new way of working and it all went very smoothly the first time around, so when in January we had to do it all over again, the teachers and the children knew straight away what to do. We’re still using it, in fact: some overseas boarders have been unable to return so the teachers are welcoming the majority of children into class as normal, but the online learners are tuning in remotely and handing in their work online. We have also had one or two more local children with broken legs finding it easier to join in from home for a few days rather than hobble from classroom to classroom on crutches!

Did the lockdowns hinder the children’s learning?

Yes, because being present in a classroom is always better than doing everything on a computer, and certain subjects like art, ceramics, craft and design just can’t be done in the same way at all from home without specialist parental help. Atom came in useful again here, actually – at the end of the Autumn Term 2020 our Head of Maths worked out which topics had not been covered in sufficient depth and so set the whole of Year 6 a maths “homework” on Atom so they could work on plugging the gaps at home and use the help sheets and videos if they didn’t understand a topic well enough.

Is holiday work the main thing you use Atom for?

It’s an important one, but the most significant feature prized by our parents is the capability of the Atom software to replicate the question styles of the ISEB Common Pre-Test, along with the adaptive programming which prevents a child from being given too many questions that they can answer easily without having to think harder. Not all senior schools require children to sit it, but there are 100 schools that do, and Port Regis regularly feeds to around twenty of those. In advance of these pre-tests, those Port Regis children who are due to sit it are invited to a specially designed course in school with a senior member of staff who, having taken them through the question styles and provided some tuition on top of that, sets practice questions on the Atom platform to give children the full familiarisation experience they need as well as identify subject-specific strengths and weaknesses. The majority of these children choose to sign up to Atom Home in addition to the school-based course because it gives them unlimited access to the Atom question bank without a teacher having to operate the account.

Is there anything else you would like to see on Atom School?

I’d love to see more Common Entrance subjects on there one day: geography, modern languages and Latin are at the top of my wish list.


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