How is technology revolutionising one of the UK’s most famous schools?

Business Leader recently spoke to Emma Bateman (COO) and James Wilton (Deputy Head) of Repton School about the school’s recent EdTech journey and how they have helped their students throughout the pandemic.

Can you give an overview of Repton School?

JW: We’re one of the oldest boarding schools in the UK and were founded in 1557, yet Repton has a very modern outlook on education, and our 625-student senior school has world-class facilities you would expect from a significantly larger school.

We know how technology is changing the world, and how it continues to alter the way people work. In the world of business, what your leaders are going to want is people with exceptional interpersonal, problem-solving, and collaborative skills. What we think is unique about us is that we are supplying those things in abundance through our traditions as well as our modern, tech-focused education. That’s what sets us apart.

How has the school used technology to grow?

EB: I don’t come from the sector; I come from a corporate and commercial background. And when I arrived here, the single greatest area of dissatisfaction from all my internal customers was technology.

Repton required a complete rebuild of absolutely everything: infrastructure, hardware, software, and user experience. Literally every layer needed to be rearchitected and reconfigured. And my view was that it could be done better by outsourcing to a third party. That isn’t a common view in this sector, as many schools still seem to have in-house teams and on-premise solutions. Given my background, I could see an opportunity to bring in an expert partner, and to go cloud-based.

I looked around for a third-party IT outsourcing company and there were many that delivered a perfectly good service. And many of them work in the education sector. But none of them were educationalists. None of them actually run the schools. We then started working with the Greenwood Academies Trust, who were already doing fantastic work with technology in schools.

They were already running an amazing technology service for their own Academy trust, which had grown from one school to 45 in five years. They set up a commercial division and we effectively became the first external customer. We now have fantastic IT service from people who truly understand education. We are now ahead of the curve when it comes to technology in schools.

How did you support your students and their parents during lockdown?

EB: We are award winners for our efforts in this – as we were presented with the Education Business Award for outstanding Remote Learning provision during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ideas we implemented to support our pupils and families were exceptional and ran against a lot of the advice that was out there about what could be achieved. Repton has well-established principles of teaching digitally, and we were able to get up and running to teach online quicker, when compared to a lot of organisations.

However, we were conscious of that extra level that we always offer our pupils in terms of support. We pivoted towards giving them as much familiarity as possible – let’s still do tutor meetings, every lesson on the timetable; offer music, sport, chapel, and one-to-one counselling sessions – the list went on.

What we found was that in probably the most anxiety-ridden period any young person has had to face, 97% of our pupils were reporting they have little or no added anxiety at all – they felt that they were being well supported, and that allowed them to keep learning and grow at Repton.

I think that has been and will always be the key to technology at Repton – our approach is about the intersection between the technology and the human experience and using one to enhance the other – that’s what sets us apart.