Now in their third year of existence, the Alpha Plus Group Innovation Awards are designed to foster creativity and innovation as well as reward ideas that have the potential to improve learning across all of our schools.

The hotly contested awards are assessed against a range of criteria in a number of categories. We are delighted to announce the 2021 Innovation Awards winners. Here is a summary of the winning projects for 2021. ​​​​​​​

 

2021 Winners

The New Normal – Portland Place Online

​​​​​​​Portland Place – The hybrid school was established as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The offer blends traditional with new, offering families a flexible and accessible approach with students online four days a week, and in-school for one. The onsite day allows for the use of specialist facilities for practical activities and a space to embed the online learning, build relationships and socialise with peers. Portland Place has identified a gap in the education market, combining established education methods together with innovative digital learning. The education provided is bespoke alongside outstanding pastoral and well-being support. Academic monitoring shows students are making equivalent or better progress than their day school peers. Following its creation in September 2020, the hybrid school has grown to 30 students and counting, demonstrating a demand for online education beyond the pandemic. The first hybrid school in the country also reflects the shift to today’s blended workplace. There is potential to adapt and expand the model for new year groups and other schools.

Charity – Pursuing Independent Paths

Digital Literacy/Curriculum/Resources – The Story Lab 

Minors Nursery – In 2020/21, ‘The Story Lab’ (delivered by Groundswell Arts) was introduced at Minors for students 2.5-4.5. The project involves engaging the children in creative, literacy-based filmmaking. Techniques used include stop-motion, green screen technology alongside backdrops and soundtracks created by the students. The cross-curricular project promotes collaborative skills; creativity; communication and language; confidence; understanding of story and narrative; digital literacy and personal, social and emotional development. The project reflects Minors Nursery’s approach in harnessing technology to encourage children to communicate and engage in the world around them. Monitoring of impact has begun and has already shown a very visible impact on children’s collaborative skills and self-regulation. The potential for project replication across the group is great, its nature lends itself to adaptation for different age groups and purposes.

Charity – Groundswell Arts & Cancer Research UK

 

Welfare and pastoral care – Sleep Practitioners

​​​​​​​DLD – Sleep deprivation is a leading cause of anxiety and depression amongst teens. Sleep deprivation can also lead to weakened immunity and high blood pressure. To counter this, sleep awareness training and a sleep audit were conducted in the Boarding House at DLD, in collaboration with The Sleep Charity. Following an 18-month period, sleep education is playing a major role in supporting the health and well-being of the students and DLD has become the first boarding school in the country to have three trained Sleep Practitioners.

The project aimed to raise the profile of sleep issues and to reduce the stigma of asking for help. Students are offered one-to-one sleep clinics, individual plans and group sessions. Sleep diaries are also kept by participants to improve their understanding of sleep and to support the students in sustaining their own well-being. Following its introduction, students have greatly improved their sleeping patterns and their understanding of their needs. Conversations surrounding sleep are now commonplace across the college and there is a clear desire for an improved balance of studies, personal life and use of technology. Across the group, lessons learned can be shared by the practitioners to staff, pupils and parents. Introducing sleep education is key to vastly improving student well-being. The Sleep Charity worked with DLD on the pilot project and it is now working with the Boarding Schools Association to deliver a sector-wide Boarding qualification in sleep.

Charity – Mind – Lambeth and Southwark

 

Teaching and Resources – Word Aware Initiative

Chepstow House – Over the past two years, Chepstow House has been working to improve reading and writing skills through Word Aware lessons, focusing on vocabulary, reading strands, etymology and morphology of words. The lessons equip the students with the skills needed to decipher unknown words that they may come across in assessments in KS2. Other initiatives include early exposure to ‘PEE’ and explicit comprehension lessons in the lower school to develop skill awareness and vocabulary.

The initiatives have led to higher-level discussion, cross-curricular links, greater understanding of question types, and clear improvements in verbal and written vocabulary. All children endeavoured to use a higher level of vocabulary, regardless of their writing level. Impact was tracked through reading data, which showed that Year 5-6 students (who had been exposed to two years of the approach) had a significant positive increase in the difference between their chronological age and reading age. There is potential for impact beyond Chepstow House as a whole school approach could be replicated in other schools. Schools need strong communication between staff, opportunities for CPD sessions and a willingness to implement something new.

Charity – Parkinson’s UK

All 2021 winners received £250 and £250 for a charity of their choice. The winners of ‘The New Normal Award’ received £1000 in vouchers and £1000 for a charity of their choice. We congratulate all winning teams on their vision and their ability to turn ideas into reality!