We chose to work with Insight UK, a Norwich based interactive virtual tour specialist, to create virtual tours of our Norwich Primary Schools. These virtual tours combined the use of photography, videography and 3D Matterport technology to create an engaging and immersive experience that allowed both parent and child to virtually walk around their new school environment and meet some of their teachers. Within the tours, Insight UK captured key areas of interest such as the Reception classrooms, the school office, the outdoor provision and the library, and then embedded short interviews with key members of staff welcoming new families to the school. These virtual tours were then shared with families via the school’s website, the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) website and the local authority, between July 2020 and the start of term. All the virtual tours created can be accessed in the resource section of this page.
The NOA team worked closely with Insight UK to create a shared vision of the virtual tours. We were conscious that the tours had to meet the needs of the parent(s), the children and the schools, therefore careful planning was required to ensure we met our brief.
Once the vision had been established and the timescales discussed, expressions of interest were gathered from eligible Norwich Primary Schools in spring 2020. 18 Primary Schools opted to sign up to this project and from here, each school was contacted by Insight UK to arrange a time for filming. Each virtual tour planned to capture the school’s reception classrooms, outdoor provision, school office and communal areas (such as a hall or library), the schools were advised in advance on the best ways to get these spaces ready.
Filming typically took place over two sessions; one session for the 3D Matterport filming where the areas to be filmed needed to be free of children and adults, and a second session for the staff interviews, which usually took place in a classroom. During the interview, all headteachers and class teachers were asked similar questions to ensure some consistency across the project. Nevertheless, where the school had something unique that they wanted to include, this was also encouraged.
After the filming had been pieced together, Insight UK worked with each school to add in a series of media tags to their virtual tour. These media tags appear as small coloured circles in the tour that give the user more information and help them to navigate the space. For example, schools used media tags to label different areas of the classroom (“this is the book corner”), to give directions to another room (“go down this corridor to return to the school entrance”), or to host one of the interviews on. On some media tags, we also chose to add in a voice over of a child saying what was written on the tag e.g. “This is the role play area where we pretend to be other people!”. This addition of a voice-over provided a nice child-friendly touch and made the media tags accessible to parents with poor literacy skills.
Once the virtual tours had been finished and signed off by all involved, the schools were encouraged to upload their tour to their school website and promote it to their prospective families. The NOA also uploaded the tours to their website and worked with the EDP, a local paper with an online presence, to further promote the virtual tour resources to families in the area.
The NOA decided to extend the project for summer 2021 and invited primary schools who hadn’t yet taken part, as well as Infant Schools and Early Years settings to participate in the project. All resources were promoted in summer Term 2021 to support with transition into new settings in September 2021.