An ailing UK school makes an incredible transformation.

Once earmarked for closure, a school outside Manchester in England uses iPad, Mac and iTunes U to achieve a 100 per cent pass rate.

The inspiration

Growing up in Bolton, England, a town on the outskirts of Manchester, Showkat Badat was not allowed to attend Hayward School, the state-run school that served his neighbourhood. “Parents like mine believed that if you went there, you were never going to succeed,” says Badat.

In 2009, when Badat returned to his hometown to take the helm as principal of the struggling school, that belief still prevailed in the community. The school’s dreary physical environment — a series of dingy and, in some cases, dangerous buildings — was matched by its low test scores. More than 70 per cent of students were failing their classes, and Hayward School was at risk of being shut down.

The surrounding community, home to large immigrant and refugee populations, ranked among the most economically disadvantaged in England. The school’s 900 students speak more than 40 different languages, and many were struggling to overcome language and cultural barriers. “Every minute we weren’t making a difference to our young people, it was costing the community lives,” says Badat.

Badat knew he had to make drastic changes. He applied to designate the school an independent academy and renamed it Essa Academy. This new classification would give administrators more autonomy to make decisions about curriculum and staffing, and allow them to pursue new investments to supplement government funds. But it would not be enough to turn the school around.

In his previous job as principal of a different school, Badat had witnessed the power of technology to engage students. He believed that reinventing Essa as a hub of technology-assisted learning would reflect the new leadership’s commitment to the community and, more importantly, remove barriers to academic achievement. “I don’t see technology as an add-on, a nice option to have,” says Badat. “It’s what enables learning and creates an environment that sparks creativity.”

“Apple has helped us create a complete learning ecosystem where the building itself, and everything contained within it, is centred around how students actually learn.”

— Abdul Chohan, Director,
Essa Academy

The implementation

Like its buildings, Essa Academy’s technology was outdated. Teachers who wanted to give students opportunities to use interactive software or access online resources had to go through multiple steps to sign out a laptop trolley and log students in. Badat charged Director Abdul Chohan, a member of his leadership team, with researching technology to create a more dynamic learning environment.

Essa’s first move was providing every student with an iPod touch. “We needed to give them direct access to information,” says Chohan. Almost immediately, administrators noticed a difference in students’ enthusiasm for learning. In one instance, a group of students was spotted playing soccer with headphones on; they were listening to a podcast about atomic structure to prepare for an exam.

As students got excited about discovering apps and online materials to help them learn, their test scores improved. This early success helped Essa administrators secure funds to build a new facility. Every aspect of the new classrooms was designed to support interactive learning. Each teacher was given a MacBook Air and iPad to directly access online resources and educational apps. Every classroom was outfitted with a large-screen TV connected to Apple TV, allowing teachers and students to use AirPlay to share relevant content — 3D renderings of plant cells, a slideshow of Viking vessels — with a tap. Teachers find creative ways to integrate iPad into their teaching, directing small groups to record conversations in French and practise their pronunciation, or filming PE drills and playing back the video to help students better their game.

Essa administrators also decided to provide every student with an iPad to use in the classroom and at home, letting them learn in a more hands-on way. Students create Keynote presentations to share in class and use the built-in camera to snap photographs for reports. The iPad has proved particularly beneficial to the school’s many non-English speakers. Before, these students were pulled from lessons for one-on-one language tutoring. Now they stay in class and use translation apps to follow along and improve their comprehension.

Every department in the school uses iBooks Author to create interactive textbooks for iPad. iBooks Author provides Essa teachers with a simple way to refresh their textbooks to reflect current events and to weave together traditional reading materials with multimedia content. “You’ve got videos and 3D graphics in front of you, and you can highlight and take notes. It’s a more interactive way of reading, and it really helps us learn,” says seventh grader Hamza Umar.

Essa Academy is one of the only schools in the UK to make all its courses available through iTunes U. Students use the iTunes U app to access all their learning materials in one place, keep track of assignments, and receive notifications whenever a teacher updates the information. Teachers use the iTunes U collection to discover podcasts, videos and other resources that enrich their lessons. “iTunes U gives us access to content created by gifted teachers and experts around the globe,” says Badat.

“By using iPad, students can go at their own pace. We can individualise learning, and set up all our students to succeed.”

— Catherine Chadwick, Science teacher,
Essa Academy

The results

Essa Academy’s turnaround has been dramatic. Within two years of the pilot iPod program, the pass rate at the school jumped from 28 per cent to 100 per cent. Test scores have increased significantly for all students. “Students never walk in the door thinking, ‘It’s going to be a boring day’,” says Modern Languages teacher Jennifer Greenwood. “They’re excited by all the things we’re doing with iPad, and eager to learn.”

What makes the school’s accomplishments even more exceptional is the fact that operating expenses have decreased. Previously hefty budget items like tech support, one-on-one tutoring and textbooks have all been slashed.

Educators from around the country and beyond visit Essa Academy to learn from its successes, and people anywhere can access the school’s iTunes U courses. “With Apple, we can create complete learning journeys,” says Badat. “We’re helping our students achieve good grades, but more than that, we’re changing lives and empowering the community. Every door is now open.”

Products they use


This revolutionary mobile device introduces a whole new way of teaching and learning. Learn more about iPad

MacBook Pro

These notebooks are great for learning both inside and outside the classroom. Learn more about MacBook Pro

Apple TV

This device makes it easy to stream lessons, photos, videos and more from iPad to a large-screen TV using AirPlay. Learn more about Apple TV

iTunes U

Make your own courses on iTunes U, and deliver learning materials to students using the iTunes U app for iPad. Learn more about iTunes U

iBooks Author

Create interactive textbooks for iPad for free and bring content to life with 3D objects and video.
Learn more about iBooks Author