Tag Archives: Ofsted

ICT: Challenging but exciting times ahead

Terry FreedmanTerry Freedman share his views and gives advice on the challenges that lie ahead for teachers with regards to ICT and education in general.

The challenge of waiting for the new curriculum, CPD, keeping up with new technologies, finding out the best and most cost-effective way of using technology across all subjects to engage pupils, budgetary restrictions, creating the next generation of innovators etc.

What a year 2012 was! First we celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Then we celebrated the Olympics and the Paralympics. One of the Olympic venues was the Excel centre, the new home of the Bett show. Perhaps fittingly, the events held there included boxing and weightlifting…. So, should we in the ICT community be celebrating – or commiserating with one another?

Well, let’s just stand back for a few moments and look at the overall picture. Mainstream schools no longer have to follow the Programme of Study for ICT (although they do have to teach ICT in some form or other). As part and parcel of this, schools do not have to abide by the Attainment Targets and their associated Levels. There is no longer a designated central budget for schools to spend on ICT.

Even Ofsted is taking a hands-off approach in the sense that inspectors will be looking for evidence of learning taking place, which means that teachers can use ICT in their lessons how they like as long as their pupils are making the progress expected of them. Slavish adherence to detailed lesson plans is no longer required (although lessons will still be expected to have been planned!). Even the much-publicised observation by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw that mobile phones can be disruptive in lessons and that he didn’t allow them to be used in his school was not an edict to ban them from the classroom but, I think, a challenge: if you’re going to allow them in school make sure they are used purposefully. As for advice on how to do so, there are no longer official agencies to guide you, and time and money for CPD are, as ever, difficult to come by.

If we had to sum up all of this in a single phrase it would be, I think, “Laissez-faire”, which literally means “let it be”. This is either incredibly liberating, rather scary, or a little of both.

Last year, I invited people to respond to an online survey about the trends seen at Bett 2012 and what the future might hold. The two stand-out features were more and more cloudbased applications, and more mobile, mainly tablet, devices. These two trends are not unrelated, of course.

On a purely anecdotal level, it would seem that schools are becoming more and more interested in one-toone computing as a way of engaging learners and making anytime-anywhere access to the internet a reality. There have been number of trials involving the use of tablets such as iPads. While there are advantages of giving students a tablet of their own, such as the fact that they can use it wherever they happen to be, there are challenges involved too, namely the expense at a time when there are no ringfenced funds for ICT. How have schools squared this particular circle?

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and to overcome their financial constraints some schools are starting to look at the idea of Bring Your Own Device, which is something I have been researching of late. This side-steps the financial burden associated with buying and upgrading a large number of devices. However, BYOD brings its own potential headaches which schools need to think through before doing anything. In other words, BYOD is not a quick fix, and a few building blocks need to be in place before it can start to be implemented.

Interestingly, on the subject of budgets and spending, things are not all doom and gloom. According to recent research from BESA (An assessment of digital content sales in UK schools, April 2012), sales of digital content have risen, especially in primary schools. The result, is that a 5% increase in spending is predicted for 2012. That’s a welcome sign because it would seem to suggest that an absence of designated funding for ICT may not lead to an overall fall in spending on it.

The research does not provide reasons for this, but it could be that the disapplication of the ICT Programme of Study from September has led schools to rethink what they are doing in ICT and try something new. Providing a curriculum that will inspire the next generation of e-learners, is a challenge and a half – but how exciting to be able to wipe the slate clean and start completely anew!

In my opinion, the only way to cope with all these challenges is to become something of a researcher. That doesn’t mean walking around in a white coat and carrying a clipboard, but taking the time and effort to find out what other people are trying. Even if you don’t have much time, that would be a worthwhile investment. There are several ways you can do so. I’d say going to the Bett show is an absolute must – and I’m not saying that just because I am writing this for a Bett publication! Bett is an excellent opportunity to get to see the latest products, hear what people are doing in their own classrooms, and to meet other people facing the same challenges as you.

If you’re not already on Twitter, sign up now! The days when people told everyone what they are having for breakfast seem to have gone, thankfully. Search for #edtech or #ictineducation and follow a few of the people who appear in the list. I’ve found this invaluable for finding out about new resources, reports and websites.

Go to http://www.technorati.com and search for blogs on educational technology or ICT in education, and fi nd one or two that you like the look of.

There are two good things about having a laissez-faire environment. First, nobody can truly say they have the answer. The time is right for trying new things out, whether in terms of the curriculum (should you have a greater emphasis on computer programming), assessment (how do you judge standards?) or technology (tablets or laptops?). Second, because of that I sense a real excitement in the air, and a greater than ever willingness to share.

Have a good Bett!

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Using data to ensure that every child matters

Rosie Simmonds is head teacher at Leverington Primary Academy, where 96 per cent of pupils achieve Level 4 or above in their SATS.  The school was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and recently became an academy. Here Rosie talks about how, despite their achievements, they still face the challenges that all schools face – ensuring every child matters. 

Raising pupil attainment has been no mean feat at my school.  Over a third of our pupils are on the SEN register and we face high mobility of our school population.  In just one term, the proportion of children having free school meals almost doubled. Therefore, we need to work hard to maintain the levels of achievement we have spent so long building.

As an academy, we have more freedom to make decisions about the curriculum and the resources that we purchase for the educational benefit and welfare for our children.  However, it also means we are also more closely under the spotlight so we need to ensure our pupils continue to achieve.

Alongside good teaching and learning, using data to track pupil progress is key to this.

We enter achievement, behaviour and attendance data on to our SIMS management information system (MIS). We use this information to track a pupil’s performance to see where we can help support them more effectively. 

We had a boy, for example, who arrived from another school following permanent exclusion in Year 4.  He was at Level 1 in all subjects at Key Stage 1, his attendance was poor due to ill health and he had ADHD.  From his first day, I monitored his attendance and behaviour in our MIS as well as his achievement against short term targets that we set.   

By looking at data relating to his behaviour and performance in individual subjects, it was clear that when he was struggling to understand something, he would misbehave and distract other pupils. 

This helped us to make decisions about how we could intervene to improve his behaviour and achievement.  To keep the pupil included, we used ‘time out’ strategies, a one to one rapid reading programme and enrolled him in a social skills group to improve his self-esteem and confidence.

As well as feedback from teachers, data on the MIS showed us the impact of this intervention and the pupil is now on target to achieve Level 4 in English, Maths and Science by the end of Year 6.  The improvement in his behaviour encouraged his parents to get more involved too and his mum asks for help from time to time. 

We look at the data of children who are high achievers too as it is important that we do not lose sight of their needs.  An intelligent pupil that is not stretched will show signs of poor behaviour or disengagement from learning. By being able to spot these trends on our MIS we are able to step in earlier to provide more challenging work and offer enrichment activities.  

I firmly believe that data has a vital role in ensuring a school can understand and monitor to meet the needs of every child, and to help schools support their pupils in achieving more.

Rosie will be taking a seminar at this year’s BETT show. “Using Data to Meet your Every Child Matters Obligations” will take place at 14:30 on 11th January in Conference Room One.  You can book a place by contacting 0207 728 3898.

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