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Holywell Primary School logo...Holywell Primary School

School No:  749

Use of Apple iPad Tablet Computers in Foundation Stage


11 March 2011

Subject Coverage:

Early learning

Key Stages:




Chris Carter
Tel: 01438 843918

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Holywell Primary, situated in Watford, has approximately 275 pupils on role in the 3 – 11 age range. Great emphasis has been put on developing the ICT provision as a tool for learning in the school during the 2010/11 and 2011/12 school years. During this time the school received additional support from the Hertfordshire ICT Team.

As part of this development, the school purchased 3 iPad tablet computers primarily for use in the foundation stage, which enjoys a newly purpose built unit, opened in 2010.  The Headteacher and ICT subject leader were keen to explore the potential of the touch-interface of the iPad for enabling the children to access this type of ICT and the wide range of early learning games and activities available on this platform.

Device Management

The Apple iPad is a tablet-form computer with 9.7” (diagonal) touch-screen. The model used has wifi internet access and a 16gb hard disk. Full information about these devices can be found on the Apple website (see link above.)

A computer in the school office was set up with iTunes, and a school iTunes account was created so that apps could be downloaded to this computer and synced to the iPads when needed. A credit card is required to set up an iTunes account. Protective cases were purchased for each iPad. The devices charge via mains adapters. A full charge can take some time but battery life is good in a new iPad (Apple state 10 hours of video playback or 140 hours or audio playback on a full charged battery.) At Holywell if the battery charge was low, the devices were plugged in to charge whilst the children continued to use them.

Use in the Nursery & Reception Unit

Screen shotBefore introducing the iPads to the Nursery and Reception classes, a number of free apps were installed to each device. See the section on apps below for further details of the apps used in the school.

Staff in the foundation stage were given a brief overview of how to operate the devices and access the apps, and the children were initially introduced to the iPads in groups of three, with support from an adult. The children were invited to play with some of the apps for a few minutes at a time, and were shown how to choose their own activity from those available. After the initial introduction stage the iPads were put out on a daily basis on a desk area in the Foundation Stage Unit, as an activity that the children could choose to do, amongst the many different activities offered around the unit.



The children soon learned to access the devices independently, and choose / launch the app they wanted to use.

They were generally given the freedom to use their app of choice, though some guided activities were introduced where the teacher used a drawing app to write a correctly formed letter, over which the child would copy the letter to practise correct letter formation.


Apps Used in the School


Screenshot from Tozzle
developed by Benjamin Riegler

Shape Puzzle

Screenshot from Shape Puzzle
developed by Li Hong

When the project began, only free versions of apps were used in order to evaluate which apps might be successful. After the first term of use a small number of apps were purchased to extend the iPad use further.

Apps used included:

  • Tozzle
    A matching game in which the children drag and match shapes, pictures, letters and numbers.
  • Doodle Buddy
    A painting and drawing program, with accompanying sounds.
  • Kids Shape Match
    A simple matching game.
  • My First Puzzles App
    4 piece picture puzzles.
  • Lego Duplo Farm Friends
    A program encouraging young children to explore scenes, which animate when different features are touched.
  • Shape Puzzle
    A simple jigsaw-style puzzles.
  • iLearn English
    An activity to help young children learn colours, numbers and words.
  • Word Match HD
    A game to help children learn basic words. Words are dragged on to their corresponding picture.

iPad tabletThe children were able to learn how to access the devices and start their chosen apps very quickly. The intuitive interface not only lends itself well to use by younger children, but is also probably more reflective of the type of ICT interaction that will be widespread or the norm when the children are older, and mouse/keyboard input devices become replaced by touch screen technology.

They were very engaged by the early learning apps installed and the iPads are a very popular activity in the foundation stage.

Children were usually happy to share the use of an iPad with a peer, often working together on a puzzle or other activity.



Jungle maths

Screen shot from Jungle Maths
developed by Mark Ralph

Because the iPad has only limited security features to restrict access, the children sometimes accidentally deleted apps. This meant that until the devices could be synced again with the computer in the office, that particular app would be unavailable. Whilst ‘upkeep’ of iPads is relatively straightforward, occasionally Apple release updates to the operating system and these can be time consuming to apply to each device. After some time in the foundation stage, scratches could be seen on the touch screens, though these haven’t affected the performance in any way.

Future Development

Use of the iPads in Foundation Stage has been considered successful, and the school is now planning to timetable in slots for the devices to be used in years one and two as well.  The main focus of use will be on maths skills, and a number of simple maths apps have been installed with this in mind.

The school have also sought to engage pupils higher up in the school by purchasing iPod Touch devices. This was primarily for use in maths but is rapidly expanding to include other curriculum areas.