Reimagining teaching and learning in a community with the build of a brand-new school is a rare and precious opportunity, one that Rector Iain Hughes and his team at The Waid Academy in Scotland whole-heartedly embraced.
“The new build has been amazing because it focuses you in on community and on learning. Learning solutions are what it’s all about.”
The Waid Academy serves over 700 students aged 12 to 18 in the tight-knit community of Anstruther, just north of Edinburgh. It boasts a rich history; its original building was a 131-year-old hodgepodge of Victorian construction with additions from the 1950s and beyond.
“When we tried to do something more innovative – like looking at IT with cabling and whatnot – it was always difficult, and there was a lack of social spaces,” Hughes says.
The new building was designed in consultation with the community and council, former and current students, and educators. It is open, filled with light, equipped with 25 new SMART Board® interactive displays, laptops, and WiFi. It was creatively conceived with moveable walls and multiple, large breakout spaces alongside more traditional classrooms.
“What we’ve begun to see is an opening of minds, a different way to look at learning and teaching,” Hughes says of the new school. “The whole building has become a computing room; we’re seeing youngsters more engaged in their learning.”
“Part of the work we’re doing here is to develop those digital literacy skills, getting them up to do presentations using SMART interactive technology that I would never have been able to do before,” says Scott Duncan, head of social subjects and religious students.
The new technology and open areas also facilitate group work, collaboration and more student-led learning.
“It’s the way I like to learn, by having a visual on the wall. So, I use the SMART Board to access the internet and work it through,” says Ben McKay, head boy in sixth year. “I reckon it’s going to be a lot easier to transition to university with having that responsibility given to us.”
Providing the access to technology is an essential part of preparing students for the jobs of the future, Hughes says. “We have to upskill youngsters, to ask what’s going to be their positive destination at the end of the day, and how are we going to get them there.”