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FRONT LINE FIRST - EDUCATION

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Government funding of ICT resources through the national grid for learning continues to make an important contribut...
Government funding of ICT resources through the national grid for learning continues to make an important contribution to the development of ICT provision in schools. But the associated training scheme funded by the new opportunities fund has proved more problematic, according to Ofsted's second progress report on ICT in schools.

Although publicity and information for schools has improved and the level of enrolment has exceeded expectations, the issue of quality in teachers' use of ICT in the classroom still needs to be addressed in around six out of every 10 secondary schools and half of the primaries. There have been some improvements in training, especially where providers have acted on feedback from schools and from the quality assurance carried out by the Teacher Training Agency. Teachers have improved their basic ICT skills and the use of ICT in classrooms has risen, especially in primary schools.

New Opportunities Fund training is most successful where senior managers in schools take an active interest in teachers' progress, where there is effective peer support, and where groups of teachers meet for part of the training. Teachers left to their own devices to use distance learning materials in their own time rarely make the same headway.

Personal access for teachers to a computer for the purpose of preparation and planning is one of the strongest influences on the success of ICT training and subsequent classroom use. Government schemes to fund laptops for teachers have recently been extended.

There has been a positive shift in council support for ICT away from infrastructure towards its use in the classroom. Nevertheless, there remain weaknesses in a significant minority of councils and a need in many to develop a more coherent corporate vision for ICT.

The ability of senior managers in school to plan for ICT developments continues to improve, as does the support for this process provided by councils, but there is still some way to go.

Good support ensures that schools focus on how ICT will improve teaching and learning across the curriculum alongside the appropriate development of pupils' skills, knowledge and understanding of ICT itself. Pilot training courses for head teachers and deputies on the management and leadership of the ICT curriculum should be extended to enable schools to make the most of the extensive expenditure in ICT.

Regional broadband consortiums have ensured progress towards the government's target of connecting 20% of schools - including all secondaries - to broadband services by August 2002. Where schools have had broadband connections, the improved reliability has affected teachers' perceptions of what they can achieve and has further raised the overall level of ICT use in the school.

Amongst the report's recommendations are that discussions should be initiated between schools and their training providers where training has been unsatisfactory. The report also urges the government to set out broad intentions withregard to any future specific funding of ICT beyond 2004 to ensure recent advances are maintained.

Council education departments need to provide a clear corporate vision and strategic plan for ICT which is in line with the specific ICT objectives for education.

Ken Dyson

Specialist adviser for ICT, Ofsted

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