Monthly Archives: October 2012

Knightswood Secondary School Case Study Evaluation

Knightswood Secondary School – Spy Quest Evaluation

Why and how we used Spy Quest

Learning from and with peers is a proven and extremely effective approach to learning and we have been looking for an opportunity to build this approach into our transition activities.

Spy Quest provided an ideal opportunity and was utilised as an enhancement to our current transition programme.

It was hoped that this activity would allay many fears that P7 youngsters regularly express about coming to secondary school such as –

  • How will I find my way around the school?
  • I won’t know anyone in my class.
  • Who will I ask for help?

I was hoping that in addition to answering these questions it would allow relationships between the P7 youngsters, the Buddies and staff to be initiated. I was also really keen that our youngsters left on a high and were excited about their return in August.

Organisation and Planning

Prior planning and organisation was essential to the success of this activity.

All 240 P7 pupils were divided into 28 groups of 9 agents. This was done based on the actual tutor groups that they would be placed in on their return in August.

Spy Quest wasn’t just for the youngsters, Dr Devine wished to encourage children to understand more about science and played the part of the Mad Scientist to great effect.


Groups entered the room to the sound of explosions and sight of fire balls lighting up the dark room – Awesome !

All pupils had to be issued with an individual Spy card that had their individual code name and password, these had to be written out in advance and separated into 28 the groups.

Areas of the school had to be identified for the P7 youngsters to get around and included key areas such as the school office, the fuel zone, S1 playground, assembly hall, youth wing and a number of subject areas.

ICT facilities were made available and login passwords generated as each group had to log in to access each of their missions. The overall progress for all the groups was displayed on a leader board in the assembly hall.

Senior buddies were briefed in advance and were issued with the information pack for their groups.

The role of spies was allocated to senior Drama students and venues and props identified.

What did the P7 youngster gain from Spy Quest

Developing communication skills – In order to complete the missions, which included cracking numerical codes, working out the meaning of puzzles, listening to verbal information and linking clues, all the group members had to communicate together and in a respectful manner to achieve their goal.

Quote – “I don’t really speak to people I don’t know but I had to and it was ok”

Team work – The teams were problem solving, identifying strengths within the team, developing trust and getting to know each other.

Quote – “Team work rocks”

Developed listening skills, their visual and special awareness of the building – They explored the layout of the school as a group and saw the set up and layout of rooms.

Quote – “When I was looking for the fortune tellers I worked out how the room numbers work” and “I’ll know my way all round this school”

They enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in groups in a more fun, social atmosphere.

Quote – “I had loads of fun and I didn’t even know anyone in my team before today” and “It was awesome, it was really cool because we were like real spies, the computer work was really fun”

Getting to know their Buddies – They spent the afternoon working with their Buddies with limited supervision from staff.

Quote – “See you in August Marc”

What did the Buddies gain from Spy Quest

Knightswood Secondary School Buddies

The chance to interact and get familiar with P7 youngsters allowed a bond to be created between spy groups and agents.

They answered numerous questions from P7 youngsters, questions they may have been too shy to ask staff.

The invaluable opportunity to further a leadership role as they took their groups around on their own, ensuring that the groups were kept on task, noise levels were minimised, keeping the groups together and working as a team.

Provided an opportunity for pupils to take on a key dramatic role and role play the part of a spy.

They were constantly problem solving and this allowed their confidence as a Buddy to grow.

The Buddies felt they were giving something back.

Transition Evaluation

Spy Quest was a very positive experience as it allowed me to see the groups interact and work together as teams.

The nature of the missions naturally encouraged the participants to be excited, focused and enthusiastic about completing their mission.

They developed social skills, core skills and allayed many fears/ concerns through a fun activity and they really remained oblivious to the fact that actual learning was taking place.

It was interesting to see how focused the teams were on winning and really embraced working together, I watched some of the teams identify strengths and start to support each other.

Developing friendships within their groups was evident and on the first day of term I overheard 2 youngsters say “I remember you, you were on my team”.

The engagement in active learning was very rewarding especially for youngsters who had only met the day before, where in unfamiliar surroundings and completing very unusual tasks.

I was especially pleased to witness the change in the Buddies, who really rose to the challenge. To see their confidence grow as peer educators and develop a real team spirit was especially rewarding.

We finished a very busy visit with an award ceremony which was a real highlight for the youngsters. Primary schools were informed of the winning team and it was a pleasure to include Spy Quest in our end of term newsletter.

Assessment opportunities – Spy Quest also offers facilitators review instructions for teachers and corresponding self assessment review papers for each pupil.

Every mission is carefully constructed to offer a wide range of core skills including –

  • ICT
  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Working With Others
  • Numeracy
  • Motivation
  • Leadership
  • Literacy
  • Planning
  • Strategy
  • Physical Fitness

Pupils can reflect on their performance and learn from the experiences of how others who took part tackled the same problems.



The learning outcomes we hoped to achieve for a transition event were greatly surpassed and we quickly realised that Spy Quest presented a unique opportunity for all pupils to participate in a cross curricular learning experience which could be aligned with the Curriculum for Excellence core skills.

We look forward to developing Spy Quest into the curriculum for all year groups and utilising it to enhance our transition programme for P7 pupils.


Polybius Games Social Responsibility Commitment To Scottish Schools

Polybius Games have launched a Social Responsibility Commitment to provide their award winning Spy Quest educational game to all Scottish primary and secondary schools. Under the scheme up to 750,000 Scottish pupils will benefit annually by learning core skills in a fun and engaging way.


Dr Devine inspiring pupils to learn more about Science during a recent game at Knightswood Secondary school, Glasgow

Schools have till the 9th November 2012 to register their interest at Polybius Games will then invite two teachers from each school to attend a 3 hour local training event. Prior to them attending we will liaise with each school and have their game constructed so that they can ask relevant questions on the day and thereafter start straight away with their new game.

The Spy Quest game was originally launched to entertain children whilst they were on holiday in hotels and resorts worldwide. Whilst the popularity grew in Europe, America and the Middle East we continued developing and trialling the game to be used a context for learning in line with Curriculum for Excellence core skills within primary and secondary schools. We created a game that can offer bespoke games for every class, school, or venue tailored to their individual requirements. Schools can utilise it for outdoor or indoor environments and even change the location of clues up to four times a year.

Spy Quest has now been successfully deployed in a variety of education settings with wide ranging success. Participants have been motivated, developed a wide range of transferable skills and actively participated in the game simulations. Evaluations with thousands of children ranging from P1 to S6 have always been nearly 100% positive. It’s success is founded by combining engaging technology, sound pedagogy and an immersive story, which captures the imagination of children and their teachers.

Through gameplay learners develop knowledge and understating of a variety of curriculum areas. Importantly, learners also develop a range of transferable skills to better equip themselves and prepare for future situations in school, at home and life. They also have great fun.

A White Paper written by Ollie Bray, then Senior Policy Advisor & Consultant for Scottish Government & National Adviser for Emerging Technologies in Learning is available for Head Teachers on request. Mr. Bray is a leading figure in the international arena on the future of computer-based games learning. His work has been recognised and commended with many international awards including.

•    2009 – Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum, Brazil for ICT in the Community.

•    2009 – First Place. Microsoft European Innovative Teachers Forum for ICT in the Community.

•    2009 – UK Microsoft Innovative Teachers Award for Computer Games Based learning

In August 2012, we hosted events for Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Minister for Education and Life Long Learning, heads of Education Scotland and SQA in order that they could experience the game for themselves. Mr Russell said afterwards “I am sure children that young people will enjoy playing Spy Quest which can help them to learn and develop team-working skills in an engaging way.”  We are also working with SQA to have the game endorsed as a learning resource and exploring the potential for award accreditation for 4th, 5th and 6th year pupils.

To ensure that every pupil can have access to the game we have pledged as part of a social responsibility commitment to the Scottish Government to offer the game on an annual basis to every Scottish primary and secondary school for £250.00 (plus VAT). This is a saving of approx. 90% and is to cover the additional expenses of training two teachers from every school on how to operate the game.

SQA have said “Spy Quest can be used by schools to promote learning in a fun and engaging way across a number of subjects and encourage pupils to think creatively to solve problems and complete tasks together.” 

At the heart of the Spy Quest philosophy is the ability to use the game to develop a wide range of important transferable skills. In modern society transferable skills are as important as academic qualifications.

The Scottish Education system Curriculum for Excellence – Strategic Vision and Key Principles was published in September 2009 and outlines the aims to help every learner develop skills and attributes for learning, life and work. These are encapsulated in four key areas of successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.


Pupils from Knightswood Secondary school reflecting and self assessing what they learnt during their Spy Quest game.

Spy Quest embodies the aims of the Curriculum for Excellence and each game is designed to develop a range of transferable skills, some of which are listed below.

  • Motivation – Spy Quest is motivating for children as it links suspended disbelief with real world problem solving with the competitive but non-threatening world of a computer game.
  • Communication – Spy Quest encourages learners to communicate using verbal and non-verbal communication skills. There are opportunities to consolidate these skills back in the classroom through follow up work.
  • Planning – Linked to good communication and discussion planning is needed to complete all Spy Quest Missions. Some missions are only achievable if the team of plans and collaborates correctly. Teams develop punctuality through timed missions as well as learning about the important of meeting deadlines.
  • Problem Solving – All Spy Quest missions involve problem solving. Problem solving is on two levels the first level is the solving the problem of how to deploy resources to gather clues and information. The second level is how to use the clues to crack a variety of codes within a set time frame.
  • Leadership – Spy Quest develops leadership at all levels and for young people to succeed in a mission they will need to demonstrate good leadership skills. Missions often work best if young people use honesty and integrity to self- elect a group leader to make the final decisions in the group.
  • Strategy – Linked to communication and planning Spy Quest missions require good dialogue and strategic planning between players if they are going to be successful.
  • Developing working relationships – Even spies fall out! But in order to progress to the high levels of the Spy Quest missions, particularly when groups are randomly selected, young people will need to learn to work together with a wide range of people in a variety of situations.
  • Coping with adversity – Spy Quest helps young people develop resilience and through game play and motivation they will learn to use the skills within the team to be adaptable and make the most of all situations.
  • Teamwork – As Spy Quest is so reliant on good teamwork learners quickly release that the only way to succeed is by working as a team.
  • Challenge the individuals within the team – Although the team element is core to Spy Quest the individual tasks that need to be performed can be very challenging to individuals.
  • Support and trust in colleagues – In order to complete the game learners will need to support other people in their team by giving them help, time and space to perform their individual tasks. Crucially, as learners will be expected to work independently on certain aspects of the problem solving they will need to develop trust in their peers to perform these task and to ask for help from the rest of the group if required.Identifying other members strengths and attributes whilst examining personal strengths and weaknesses. Linked to supporting and trusting colleagues and good leadership Spy Quest requires learners to play to strengths and weaknesses of the team as well as getting learners to examine their own personal strengths and weaknesses. These skills can be further evaluated and examined through appropriate classroom follow up activity.

As well as being a fun and engaging learning experience Spy Quest also gives a number of opportunities for learner assessment and celebrating achievement.

  • Summative Assessment Opportunities – Summative Assessment is the formal testing of what has been learned in order to produce marks or grades which may be used for reports of various types. Spy Quest already gives a number of opportunities for summative assessment including being able to record if learners have completed missions and the time taken to complete them. Scores and credit can also be given for the successful solving of problems.
  • Formative Assessment Opportunities – Formative Assessment is when the emphasis is on on-going assessments of a variety of different types are used to judge how best to help pupils learn further. Spy Quest gives a variety of opportunities for formative assessment including questioning, focused discussion, structured review, reflective journals and peer assessment.
  • Celebrating Achievement – Linked to all Spy Quest Games is the notion of being able to celebrate achievement. All participants who successful complete their Missions are awarded a certificate and given credit for their work.
  • Learning from Failure – A key aspect to the learning involved in Spy Quest is that not all individuals and teams will succeed. Whenever a team fails at a Spy Quest mission a structured discussion needs to take place to help learners understand why they have not been able to succeed and an action plan needs to be developed for future missions.


Michael Russell MSP, Scottish Cabinet Minister for Education and Life Long Learning

“I am sure children that young people will enjoy playing Spy Quest which can help them to learn and develop team-working skills in an engaging way.”

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

“Spy Quest can be used by schools to promote learning in a fun and engaging way across a number of subjects and encourage pupils to think creatively to solve problems and complete tasks together.”

Eileen Kennedy DHT St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, Glasgow

“An excellent resource. Fun, engaging and great value for money”

DHT evaluations, pictures and video interviews with primary and secondary schools pupils can be seen here

Keep up to date with by following us on Twitter @SpyQuest

A Deputy Head Teachers Perspective On Using Spy Quest For Transition and Alignment To Curriculum For Excellence

On first receiving information on ‘Spy Quest’ I was immediately interested in exploring the opportunity that it provided for game-based learning. I was convinced upon reading the design brief, that if it genuinely was an immersive learning experience the student’s primary-secondary transition programme would be enhanced through the inclusion of ‘Spy Quest’ in the learning activities planned for the first week of term. I hoped to use ‘Spy Quest’ as a motivational catalyst to support our new students in building relationships and in exploring their new school. Coming to terms with its layout and design by ‘osmosis’ rather than the traditional guided tour.

As it turned out the game did all of this and more. The range of missions required that the young people deployed their inter-personal skills – communication, team working, negotiation, decision making and also their cross cutting skills in ICT, numeracy and problem solving.

Curriculum for excellence aims to ensure that our young people develop the attributes, knowledge and skills needed for life, learning and work. The first year students were quick to recognise the teambuilding aspect of the game but the review materials provided were invaluable in supporting the students to reflect on the skills used during the game and allowed them to recognise their own personal strengths and those of their team.

Although St Thomas Aquinas RC Secondary School used this with first year students to support their transition to secondary school the scope for using this with other year groups to develop teamwork and analyse core skills is clear to see.

An excellent resource. Fun, engaging and great value for money.

Message from Polybius Headquarters


Eileen Kennedy (Depute Head Teacher, St Thomas Aquinas RC Secondary School)