Two years ago, Broomwood Hall pioneered the use of iPads throughout the school. Here Joint Principal Malcolm Colquhoun describes the experience

Hard to believe, isn’t it, that it was only as recently as January, 2010, that the late Steve Jobs stood in front of an expectant San Francisco audience to unveil the latest child of his ever-fertile brain. Now, fewer than four years on, the iPad, and the host of imitators it has spawned, have taken over the world; it is estimated that more than half of all British people now own or have access to a ‘tablet’.

People in the field of education were not slow to spot the potential of these machines. But their introduction into schools has not been without controversy. Where I come from – Scotland – ‘tablet’ is the name given to a nastily sweet, tooth-rotting concoction of butter and sugar. Is the micro-chipped version going to perform a similar function on the brain, as some contend, or does it represent a performance-enhancing miracle?

Used wrongly, it could certainly be the former. Used intelligently however, I believe the use of iPads in schools represents a giant leap forward that unleashes creativity and opens up myriad educational opportunities. At Broomwood Hall, we took the decision two years ago to introduce iPads, from September 2012, as required items of individual equipment in the Upper School (our preparatory department for girls aged 8-13), and as classroom sets in the Lower School (boys and girls aged 4-8).

Has it been a success? Let me quote Director of Studies Rebecca Morris: ‘The iPads have met our every hope; at the touch of a button the children can use them as a tool in lessons to research or to present their work. They’re intuitive for the children and teachers, and don’t take up a desk – work can be done alongside it or it can be turned off and put away within seconds. Access to the internet, to word processing, to educational resources is instant, and the cost is low enough to enable every child to have a tablet. It lets us personalise their learning by, for example, giving our 13+ girls access to apps that the other children don’t need.

We can set personalised extension tasks or extra support tasks, and children can take their work home with them and show their parents (at Broomwood, all homework is done at school). Children who struggle with writing are really excelling in other areas now and are more motivated; whilst in no way replacing paper and pen, the iPads allow those pupils to revise in ways that suit their learning styles, to present their work as presentations or documentaries. It is exciting to see such creativity! Technical problems? Very few, and we can use the iPads for five minutes in a lesson, 10 minutes, or for a whole period with no time wasted’.

To begin with, some parents had doubts. Sixteen months on, I believe that those doubts have been stilled and that the use of iPads has gained complete acceptance. Do they have limitations? Of course, and they will never be a substitute for good teaching. But they enable us, for the first time, to do what all schools have always claimed to do (but didn’t), which is to integrate the use of technology right across the curriculum – easily, seamlessly, cost effectively and in a way that completely captures the imagination of the children.

Let Year 3 teacher Raquel Thomson have the last word. ‘Shall I Siri the text for our presentation?’ asked Horatia, one of her 8-year olds. Admits Raquel, ‘I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, until she showed me’. Children are so much cleverer than we are!

Broomwood Hall School, 68-74 Nightingale Lane, SW12 8NR; 020 8682 8800; broomwood.co.uk

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