The Grimsby Institute: Digital Dynamite

Ahead of her Learning Technologies Award Showcase webinar, Deborah Millar, Executive Group Director for Digital Learning Technologies shares the highs of working for the Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ and multi-award-winning Grimsby Institute.

The Grimsby Institute is a national leader in digital innovation in the education sector. I’m proud to say that our track record in the development of digital learning and digital curriculum innovation is unparalleled and we actively develop and support the cascade of this expertise to other providers across all phases of education. We serve an area of the country affected by significant social and economic disadvantage and support some of the hardest to reach students in the country to achieve exceptional levels.

What do we do

We specialise in digital skills transformation, securing employment for those furthest away from the labour market, readying young people for higher education and the labour market and enabling our local and regional employers to thrive.

We are one of only 12 Microsoft Showcase Colleges and one of 11 Ed Tech Demonstrator Colleges in the country. We are active in college wide digital collaboration and are part of two brand new and ground-breaking Institutes of Technology. We use our expertise in digital technology to ensure no learner is left behind and we actively level the educational playing field for students facing socioeconomic disadvantage. Student outcomes and student satisfaction are among the best in the country, digital learning is exceptional quality and expertise is shared freely and widely with the rest of the sector. We are a beacon for how learning technology can transform lives and life chances.

Our strategy to deliver the technologically literate workforce of the future is now exceptionally well developed, technologically mature and widely shared nationally and internationally.

Our approach to the digital needs of staff

We invest heavily to ensure our teaching staff, curriculum support staff and business support staff have exceptional training and digital infrastructure and equipment. We prioritise the digital training of all staff, not just front-line teachers because we understand that organisations excel when all roles are valued by leadership teams and all staff have the opportunity to optimise their performance using a full range of technological tools.

Digital technology has the power to intimidate as well as transform. We understood that the journey to transform our curriculum and operations considering the technological changes the vocational education sector faces could not be done without the full support of our staff team, many of whom had under-developed digital skills. We made a compelling case for change and following it up with comprehensive, on-demand, high-quality training which is highly personalised to the individual needs of each staff member – we call this training ‘Level-Up’ and it won an AoC Beacon Award in 2018 for the best staff development programme in the sector. It has gone from strength to strength since then.

As a result, all our staff regardless of their role in the organisation are at the forefront of digital developments in their field, exceptionally well trained and united in our goals to produce technologically literate students who can adapt and innovate to the industrial changes they will face. 

Our approach to the digital needs of students

Our students will spend their working lives in a very different world to the one that exists now. The risks of automation are very real, McKinsey (2019) predicts that 800 million workers could be displaced by technology across 42 countries because of the 4th Industrial revolution. It is important to note this is displacement – not losses – jobs will transform, as outdated jobs are lost to digital innovation and automation and new, more technically complex jobs are created. Our focus is to enable our learners to compete for – and win – these new opportunities.

Technology as an equalizer

30% of our students have a learning difficulty disability. We have used a range of digital learning tools to level the playing field for them and ensure they achieve in line with, or exceed, their peers.

All students are trained in these tools during their induction period at the college, we have written a specific training package ‘Level Up – Learning Tools’ which 1890 students completed within a twelve-week period. As a result, learners with disabilities and learning difficulties who are students with us achieve to a significantly higher degree than in other similar providers nationally and match their high achieving peers within the organization.

Our approach to the wider educational community

We believe that we are stronger when we work together. As an Ed Tech Demonstrator College, we have supported 88 schools and colleges in the last 18 months to advance their own digital skills and provision for learners. We have over one hundred schools and colleges our expertise, created bespoke training packages, shared our staff training and offered support and encouragement for staff at all levels to improve their digital skills. We did this against the backdrop of a global pandemic, two national lockdowns and successfully supporting our own very large cohort of students to be successful.

We have created an online CPD Hub for education staff across the country and trained over 1000 teachers in other schools and colleges via ‘Level Up’; we have also supported over 500 external teachers to become Microsoft Innovative Educators. In addition, we have actively sought to play our ‘digital’ part in helping education and home-schooling communities that were not part of the Ed Tech Demonstrator Programme.

Education 4.0: Inspiring staff and students to think beyond the here and now

Do join me on Tuesday, 19th October 13:00-14:00 BST UK as I share further insight into how a small, dedicated team is continually inspiring students and staff to think beyond the here and now and transforming learning culture beyond their hometown.

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