WriteOnline Success Story

The Burgate School and Sixth Form Centre

Phil Brennan – Special Needs Coordinator

In the summer of 2011 we bought a whole school licence for WriteOnline using Pupil Premium funding. The Pupil Premium was relatively new at the time and we were looking for creative ways to use it to help remove barriers to learning for some of our most disadvantaged students. Low literacy is a major obstacle to success for some students and interactive, technological solutions can help them to achieve more both in school and at home.

Our SEN Manager Michelle Dean went to visit a nearby school to watch a demonstration of WriteOnline and came back very excited about its potential to support all our learners, and in particular those with literacy difficulties and special educational needs. The fact that mind-mapping, speech feedback, word prediction and vocabulary banks were all included in one product was particularly appealing.

The flexibility for students to be able to use the program at home and at school is a really important aspect of WriteOnline for us. Homework is a real problem for some of our children, particularly those with dyslexia. We are able to help them during the school day but at home their parents may be working or experiencing literacy difficulties themselves, making it difficult to keep support consistent. WriteOnline gives these students the support they need wherever they are and we are seeing a significant improvement in the quantity and quality of homework they are handing in. 

Proof reading is a major weakness for a number of our students, so being able to listen back to their work is really encouraging them to reflect on what they have written and correct any mistakes.

Training has been key – WriteOnline is relatively easy to use once you’ve had a bit of practice, but we’ve also ensured that regular training sessions for staff and LSA’s have taken place throughout the year so that everyone feels confident using it. We’ve tried to make good use of all the free training materials Crick Software provide on their website, including printing out all the 90-second training guides and making them into a pack for staff to use in school and for the children to take home with them.

We’ve got WriteOnline networked across the school, and it’s being used in a lot of different ways. Proof reading is a major weakness for a number of our students, so being able to listen back to their work is really encouraging them to reflect on what they have written and correct any mistakes. I’ve also seen one of our English teachers use this speech element really effectively to work on punctuation skills by taking all the punctuation out of a piece of text, then asking the children to listen to it and decide where the punctuation should go so that it sounds correct.

The mind mapping tool (WorkSpace) is a particular favourite of the students, it’s so easy to create a useful and impressive looking mind map quickly. The way I like to use WorkSpace is to have a child standing at the whiteboard collecting the other students’ thoughts on a particular topic and actually creating the mind map, then getting everyone to use it to support the writing task – it’s a lovely way to pool, record and then build on everyone’s ideas.

Being able to provide relevant vocabulary banks is a great way to further support topic-specific writing – we’ve used a lot of the free ‘Wordbars’ that come with the product but it’s very helpful to also be able to make your own. Some of our students have felt confident enough to go off and find a piece of text on a certain subject and transform it into their very own Wordbar!

As well as helping us to support those with low literacy levels or specific needs, WriteOnline can be used to help everyone develop those key skills of planning, structuring and reviewing work.

If I was to try and sum up the impact that WriteOnline is having on our learners, I’d have to say that it’s the way the program increases the confidence of those who use it, and their ability to access the curriculum and demonstrate understanding. We have a number of students who have got fantastic ideas, but struggle to get these down on paper in a way that accurately reflects their knowledge and intellect. WriteOnline really helps them to achieve this.

As well as helping us to support those with low literacy levels or specific needs, WriteOnline can be used to help everyone develop those key skills of planning, structuring and reviewing work, which are so important as they move forward in their academic life.

All in all, WriteOnline is a really great resource for our students to have access to as part of their learning toolkit.