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Trailblazing headteacher leads digital makeover at Newark school

Posted onPosted on 22nd Apr

An independent school in Newark has given its open day activities a digital makeover with tours featuring QR code technology, and a new website.

People visiting the school will receive a personal tour and be able to use their mobile phone at various points to access the QR code content that reveals more about life at Highfields.

A dedicated virtual tour page has also been set up on the school’s new website, enabling prospective parents/guardians to view embedded ‘tour’ videos led by pupils at the school, and book in-person tour slots.

The independent school was awarded Excellent in all areas in their most recent Independent Schools Inspectorate report.

Headteacher Sarah Lyons said that the digital makeover was necessary to help people to see what it’s like at Highfields in the covid-era, adding: “In a normal year, we would hold an open morning where our children would come into school and take part in organised activities, giving visitors a glimpse into a regular school day. As ambassadors for our school, it is the children who would normally show our prospective parents around Highfields. This year, we had to come up with a covid-secure solution to keep our children and visitors safe.

“Our pupils are the lifeblood of Highfields, and it is they who sparkle and demonstrate the true ethos of the school. They have an input into all levels of school life. We never plan purely from an adult’s perspective, Highfields is truly pupil led and it was natural that our pupils played an active role in our adapted activities for prospective parents.

“Children take on various roles within school, whether that’s leading on sporting events, wellbeing or charity work. In Year 6, every child has a prefect role. Getting our pupils involved in creating videos was a natural progression for us, showing our school values and demonstrating our pupils’ presentation skills. QR codes have been used in education for a number of years, and can be used across the curriculum such as in literacy or with Google Maps in geography. Anything linked to IT really engages children and facilitates opportunities for independent learning.

“At our open morning, there will be teachers in most classes but no children. In areas where there are no adults, such as the music room, visitors can for example, use the QR code to access clips of our choir and orchestra. In the school hall, they can see the children eating their lunch. We hope to bring our school to life virtually!”

Mrs Lyons joined Highfields in 2019 and says that showing the school in a natural, non-edited way was important:

“The relationships children develop at Highfields, and the day to day interactions between children, and between staff and children, make Highfields what it is. I wanted to video content to reflect that, rather than an airbrushed version of reality.

“I joined Highfields as an experienced headteacher working in Rutland, I wasn’t actually looking for a new role but you could say that Highfields, already an excellent school, found me and the opportunities to create a curriculum which works holistically for children, unrestricted by any external pressures, is extremely exciting.

“One of our projects involves FOSIL, refining a framework for independent learning for young children. Children’s learning is always central at Highfields, informed by the latest developments in learning research whilst also allowing children to experience a very natural and organic start to their formative years, and preserving their childhood. We want to encourage children to be the best learners they can be, but also to have a wonderful all round school experience and be happy, inspired by our teachers who are role models for wellbeing.

“Children are born with a natural curiosity but there is the danger that this can become diluted due to an overly prescriptive curriculum provided over time. Instead, we can harness that natural curiosity and grow it. They need that curiosity for life, it is where positive mental health, strong self-esteem and wellbeing comes from. With this, they can move mountains.”

The Highfields School open morning takes place on Saturday, 24th April, and personal tours can also be booked online at