Name and Address of Organisation:
LearnPlay Academy, Brownhills Activity Centre, Chester Road North,
Brownhills WS8 7JW
Telephone: 01543 452329 Fax No.
Email: email@example.com Contact Name: Mr Stephen Hands
Title: The Digital Family Project
The Digital Family Project is based on a new and innovative partnership between Learn Play Academy and Joseph Leckie Community Technology College; Walsall‟s Full Service Extended School. The project has two key aims:
1. To develop the Digital Family Project on a „school within a school‟ concept in
which it will reengage students with specific problems arising from being „at
risk‟ or „hard-to-reach‟ individuals whose educational performance is
constrained due to lack of engagement in the National Curriculum and with
the teaching methods employed. The project will utilise computer gaming
techniques, as pioneered by Learn Play Academy, as a learning methodology
to engage these students but in addition and uniquely, their wider circle of
friends and family. The resulting learning environment aims to increase
interest and motivation in the learning process and thus improve educational
performance, increase attainment and raise standards as well as building
confidence/self worth, enhancing social skills and communication skills.
2. To move Learn Play Academy from its current basis as an informal provider
of community learning activities to the Digital Native Academy, based on a
more robust and relevant constitution: that of a community interest company.
The new structure will engender additional confidence from funding bodies
and potential clients, build capacity in the management team and staff and,
cultivate a sustainable community resource which will create additional
impact both during this project and in the longer term.
The Digital Family project will address the issue of learner underachievement and disaffection by engaging the students in additional activities involving them and their
wider circle of friends and family.
The project builds on the work of Learn Play Academy which was setup through initial investment from the NLDC fund in 2003 to provide a service to young people in Walsall via a learning centre that was developed to suit their specific needs and
requirements. The project was able to provide a new and enriched form of training through a program entitled “19” aimed at engaging disenfranchised young people over the age of 19. The project was successful, engaging with a vast array of
beneficiaries from Walsall providing them with the necessary skills to enrich their ability for further learning.
It was through 19 that two beneficiaries went on to win awards at the 2004 Walsall Life Long Learning Alliance Awards hosted by Royal Correspondent “Jenny Bond”,
who presented both achievers with Prizes for recognition of learning for their age groups. In 2004 Learn Play Academy was given Duke of Edinburgh Award status as an access centre to provide skills training for individuals engaged in programs. Learn
Play was then given the chance to showcase its services for HRH Prince Edward on his visit to Walsall in 2004 at Walsall Town Hall.
Through these services it was recognized that there was a clearly identified need to tackle the issue of learner underachievement in Walsall, and through the support of the Walsall Lifelong Learning Alliance the project helped change the lives and attitudes of many disadvantaged young people. This included raising confidence and self-belief.
Because of Learn Play‟s grasp of interactive games and their potential when employed in a learning environment this allowed the project to provide a naturally appealing and alternative format for learning. Beneficiaries were empowered to increase their confidence and capacity through a range of complex and engaging learning activities.
In addition, Learn Play has developed experience in running pilot projects focusing on engaging families from local communities. These projects were supported and funded through the Black Country Knowledge Society programme and clearly demonstrated the latent demand for this service. This project captures lessons learned and applies this experience to the Digital Family Project.
In quantifying the need for the project, research data shows that the school‟s
catchment area, which encompasses the ward of Palfrey, has significant levels of educational and socio-economic deprivation. In terms of educational deprivation, the area lies within the bottom 0.25% nationally; within the bottom 10% nationally in
terms of socio-economic deprivation; and within the bottom 10% in terms of child poverty.
In addition, Joseph Leckie CTC, whilst rapidly improving its performance, still has to deal with a range of issues some associated with a minority of pupils in terms of
truancy, lack of engagement, anti-social behaviour as well as increased community
tensions. In addition, a Police Restriction Order is currently in force around the area of the school due to recent public disturbance in the area.
Who is the target group for this project?
Learn Play Academy is currently working with Joseph Leckie CTC on a pilot project to utilise its proven „gaming into learning‟ techniques with students who are at risk of exclusion from mainstream classroom activities. The Digital Family Project targets
the wider circle of families and friends within the Joseph Leckie CTC catchment area, who relate to these students and who, by their inclusion, can bring about a positive
change in the student‟s performance and social wellbeing. NB - because the main
target group for the project are the families of those children who at risk of exclusion, the promotion of this project is deliberately discreet and will be generated via school referral.
The target cohort includes families from diverse backgrounds thus helping to increase social inclusion and community cohesion, increasing opportunities for all and to enhance life chances.
Learn Play Academy will take responsibility for the production of marketing material which will include a project website, project brochures and promotional DVDs. Joseph Leckie CTC will provide appropriate logos and contact information for
mailings, correspondence and invitations.
What the project intends to do:
This new setting for the project will be the first Digital Native Academy service and the first to be placed within an educational environment i.e. Joseph Leckie Community Technology College The Full Service Extended School. This „school within a school‟ concept has been developed to re-engage hard-to-reach individuals
with specific problems arising from being „at risk‟ and, whose educational performance is constrained due to lack of engagement in the National Curriculum and with the teaching methods employed.
The principal aims of the project are:
; To build community capacity through the development of a more robust
structure for the embedding of learning through gaming i.e. the establishment
of the Digital Native Academy as a community interest company
; To enhance this capacity through the use of Community Volunteers who will
then act as facilitators for increased project activity
; To help reduce students becoming „at risk‟ and at disadvantage whilst in an
; To better prepare pupils for the world of work through confidence building
and improved routes into learning
; To develop and enhance their core social and key skills. These will include
confidence building, teamwork, interpersonal skills, communication,
numeracy & literacy as well as improved IT skills
; To cultivate a learning culture within pupils and their friends and families
The primary objectives are:
; To move forward the LearnPlay and LanPlay concepts by establishing the
Digital Native Academy as a community interest company thus providing the
legal, constitutional and operational base from which this innovative service
can become more sustainable and effective
; To utilise the DNA company as the effective community instrument to offer
the Digital Family course back into the community
; To increase the capacity and competence within DNA management and
thereby enhancing the effectiveness of its service delivery
; To recruit and train Community Volunteers who will then act as digital
facilitators to work with students and their families
; To engage a cohort representative of the target group and generate outputs and
outcomes consistent with the concept and aligning with the aims and
ambitions of the NLDC funding stream.
The project builds on the work undertaken at LanPlay and LearnPlay Academy in which computer gaming was used as a means of engaging „hard-to-reach‟ individuals
and teaching them a range of social, technical and creative skills. This pioneering work is being continued through a schools pilot at Joseph Leckie CTC, The Full Service Extended School in which these techniques are now being applied for a
number of purposes e.g. as an innovative mechanism for engaging pupils who, due to a range of personal circumstances and difficulties are on the threshold of exclusion and, to acquire or develop innovative educational courseware based on gaming
technologies which enhances and supplements National Curriculum content and teaching methods.
Whilst the use of gaming as a means of engagement is being deployed during the weekly timetable, the purpose of this project is to enhance this provision by reaching
out and engaging individuals and their families as part of Joseph Leckie‟s Extended School‟s activities.
Individual students will work toward the achievement of „Digital Native‟ status, a term coined to appeal to the target audience and which is based on a progression route to learning. At the same time the project concentrates on working with family groups to achieve „Digital Family‟ status. Whilst not a formal qualification in its own right it has been developed as a brand to appeal to the target audience. The project intends to seek accreditation of developed courseware via OCN. In addition, Learn Play has Duke of Edinburgh Award status for skills and, as and when applicable, pupils can acquire Bronze or Silver awards for understanding and using ICT effectively.
In practice, the Digital Family project takes a „multiplier, trickle-down‟ form. The
initial cohort of community volunteers will be trained in the methods used and each will then take responsibility for a group drawn from students and their families and
take them through the training course. It is the intention to arrange the course in such a way that students/family members gain skills at beginner, intermediate and advanced level. As their skills are developed and their knowledge increases they will
move from single-player to more advanced multi-player games which will test their
abilities to work collaboratively as a team by playing with and against other family groups. In addition, further groups of volunteers will be recruited and trained to
multiply the outputs and effectiveness of the project.
Research has shown that, whilst computer gaming is being used in the United Kingdom and elsewhere as a means of community engagement, there is significant evidence to show that this concept adapts itself well to the learning process. The United States especially has a thriving research and project community in which „serious games‟ are being used to enhance the educational process. The Digital Native Academy presents a „first mover‟ opportunity to exploit these technologies for the benefits of students, their families and the wider community.
In 2004 Learn Play Academy worked in partnership with the University of Central
England (UCE) via their Technology Innovation Centre, which provided placements
for MSc students to carry out research to establish the educational value attached to games. The findings of one MSc research paper, “An Analysis of the Potential for Development of the Edutainment Market”, have provided a number of key findings
which have been used to inform the preparation of this bid.
Electronic Arts, the world's leading interactive entertainment software company, and NESTA Futurelab, a UK organisation dedicated to researching, developing and evaluating new technologies for learning, are teaming up to launch a European study into how computer games can be used in schools. The research project, named Teaching with Games, will begin in September 2005. It aims to explore the practical issues surrounding the use of interactive computer games in schools and the changes needed to better support learning in schools across Europe. DNA will forge links with this and other related activities to ensure this project takes full advantage of the latest developments in this innovative new area.
The concept has been endorsed by the current Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Ruth Kelly who, in her forward to the recently published „Harnessing
Technology: Transforming Learning and Children‟s Services‟ (2005) states,
“Borrowing ideas from the world of interactive games, we can motivate even reluctant learners to practice complex skills and achieve much more than they would through traditional means.”
Who will be responsible for each element of the project’s delivery, evaluation
LearnPlay Academy will take responsibility for:
1. The establishment of the Digital Native Academy as a community interest
company thus providing funding organisations and the target audience with
confidence in its constitution.
2. The selection of members, directors and the project steering group to oversee
3. Responsibility for the ICT and gaming software licencing requirements for the
project activity and their subsequent acquisition.
4. The development of a coursework framework and content in readiness for
5. The recruitment of volunteers to act as coaches and mentors for the learning
6. The training, deployment and management of volunteers throughout the
7. Arranging basic skills assessments for project participants
8. Providing effective solutions from the world of interactive games and thus
motivating reluctant learners to practice complex skills and achieve much
more than they would through more traditional means
Joseph Leckie CTC will be responsible for:
1. The provision of physical resources i.e. room etc. to allow the activity to take
2. Investigating with the project managers, the accreditation of the Digital
Family course content to OCN standards and accreditation
3. Ensuring the facilities conform to relevant health and safety legislation
4. Ensuring all personnel connected with the project conform to current Child
5. Ensuring relevant insurance e.g. public liability is in place
How will the project be managed and delivered? As a minimum it should contain detail on the design and delivery of the project, including information on supporting systems, where possible.
- Management arrangements
- Delivery arrangements
- Monitoring arrangements
LearnPlay Academy to date has worked from a limited constitutional basis and the formation of the community interest company will enhance the confidence in its ability to deliver projects from its target group, the wider Walsall partnership and appropriate funding bodies. It will also establish systems which comply with company legislation and financial accounting procedures.
Joseph Leckie CTC is playing a key role in the Extended Schools Initiative in Walsall and as such brings professional advice and support to engaging with children and their
The partnership will create a project steering group to provide a robust mechanism for
managing, delivering and monitoring the project and ensuring its successful delivery. Its membership will be drawn from the partner organisations and representatives from
the wider community and voluntary sectors to effectively oversee the project. DNA will take responsibility for the day-to-day running of the project and will be
responsible for scheduling and arranging steering group meetings and ensuring the
project meets with its operational and financial targets.
The project timetable is realistic in that it coincides with the college academic year and as such, will negate downtime and release resources for use by the project.
The partnership is relevant in that the core activity of the project is learning. Both partners bring relevant experience and expertise to the project. The pilot project currently underway has cemented the partner relationship and both look to the use of
these innovative technologies to help overcome disadvantage and disillusionment with the learning process.
The project plan includes the development of a project steering group drawn from representatives of the partnership, from community volunteers as well as from
representatives of the target audience who are the user group i.e. students and their
families. In the development of such an innovative service it is considered important that such involvement from potential beneficiaries will provide on-going feedback for
subsequent refinement and ratification of the service.
Outcomes and Outputs:
The project contributes to the priorities of the LSC Annual Plan 2005-06 by:
1. Making learning truly demand led so that it better meets the needs of young
2. Ensuring that all 14-19 year olds have access to high quality, relevant learning
a. Encouraging more collaboration amongst schools and training
b. Raising the aspirations of young people in the Black Country
c. Improving the quality, equality and success rates of provision and:
d. Ensuring that provision is of high quality and is purposefully focused
on local needs
It addresses the issues raised in the WLLA‟s Development Plan, specifically:
1. Finding new ways of promoting new attitudes to learning and by bringing
back those who do not see the relevance
2. The learning opportunities should be responsive to the needs of the learner and
the community [and capable of amendment and customisation]
3. Every effort should be made to recognise, monitor and remove any barriers
which prevent the learner from learning
4. Flexible and accessible opportunities to learn should be available throughout
5. Appropriate opportunities for learning must be developed to meet the needs of
the diverse range of citizens
a. Reintegrate and reengage excluded pupils into education by:
i. Providing alternative routes
ii. Support to schools to prevent need for exclusion
6. Pilot innovative uses of ICT as a learning tool
It meets with the aims of the Walsall 14-19 Action Plan by:
1. Working with parents to enable them to help their children in their studies
2. (Helping to) overcome obstacles to learning for those young people who
currently fail to enter and form of learning
3. Engaging excluded young people through structured placements with training
providers to prevent them from becoming NEET
4. Engaging young people who are NEET or in danger of becoming so and work
to engage them with positive learning opportunities
The project partnership contributes to the Joseph Leckie CTC F.S.E.S outcomes by
helping to ensure the aims of OFSTED, the Children‟s Act 2004, the EMC five outcomes for children and the Education Act 2002 are met and achieved
The project management plan includes actions to minimise any risks by establishing a more robust structure (DNA cic) for the training provider and, upon successful project completion, the partnership intends to undertake further activities based on the Digital Family approach. In addition, the creation of skilled community volunteers through the project‟s capacity building component will provide a valuable resource for future projects and activities.