Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Ofsted Report 'The importance of ICT'

This is worth reading and can be downloaded from here http://tinyurl.com/bllnbb.

The comments about the very slow improvement to achievement in ICT are the main findings highlighted by others including the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7919350.stm). But I'd like to draw attention to the second section of the report (Section B from page 29 onwards).

This section starts by asserting that assessment of capability in ICT is still a very significant problem in the state sector. One in five of the schools Ofsted visited had no systems for making these judgements and so students were given the same work in different places. As worrying is the finding that: 'In the majority of the primary and secondary schools visited, teachers did not evaluate specifically how well pupils and students applied and used their ICT skills when working in other subjects.' (page 29) and that 'Most of the primary schools visited missed opportunities for pupils to become involved in peer or self-assessment...' (page 29).

Ofsted then devote a couple of sides to analysing the qualifications at KS4 in ICT. The report is pretty damning in its judgements on the new vocational qualifications. I was taken aback. Here is a particularly cutting observation.
'Accreditation of the vocational qualifications is based mostly on the assessment of coursework... Consequently, they are often demonstrating what they can already do rather than being taught new and more difficult skills. Sometimes, teachers direct students’ work too much. In some of the lessons observed during the survey, teachers led their students through the steps necessary to demonstrate that their work met the accreditation criteria. Students were able to meet the criteria, whether or not they had understood what they had done.'(Page 31)
It is a view I think I would have to agree with. It doesn't seem to be very helpful to the present issues around the introduction of diplomas that the government is facing. The report also describes the vocational qualifications as 'limit[ing] the achievement of higher attaining students' and failing to develop the really important ICT skills for the future such as 'manipulating data and programming' (page 32). Ofsted really puts the boot in when they state that there needs to be a 'proper evaluation of the challenge posed by vocational qualifications ... if they are to retain credibility with students, parents and employers.' (Page 32) In other words these vocational qualifications aren't rigorous enough, they don't teach the right skills and students can pass them without knowing even the undemanding content they do encompass. Ouch.

For a professional working with schools to embedd ICT I read the final part of section B 'Getting ICT to the learning' (page 35) with very great interest. It contains a very great deal of wisdom about the issues around integrating ICT across the curriculum. For example my own experiences are very much in accord with this observation from the report: 'Nationally ... although the use of ICT in other subjects is generally improving, the picture this survey establishes is one of patchy provision and inconsistent progress.' I nearly shouted aloud in agreement when I read 'Progress in using ICT to improve learning in other subjects is sometimes limited because its use was not sufficiently considered when planning the work or because of individual teachers’ lack of understanding of when and where ICT might make a difference.' (Page 36) Another hallelujah 'Schools have successfully created a demand from teachers to be able to use ICT to improve learning in other subjects but are rarely able to meet it. Most primary and secondary schools have chosen to centralise the bulk of their ICT resources in networked computer rooms. This is necessary for whole-class teaching of ICT but the result is that resources are often extremely limited elsewhere for work in other subjects.' (Page 36) The practical problems of enabling access to ICT for students through all their lessons is still a very big and serious limiter on teacher use of ICT. Ofsted think that mobile devices might be an answer. I'm not sure. You can't edit video on many handhelds I've seen. This is an issue that isn't going to go away.


  1. Thanks for the piece - I was surprised the report didn't generate more interest in the media today as some of the commentary about areas like VLEs, the use of office suites etc ought to be debated more widely - wish I was at the NAACE conference to hear whether a good discussion was going.

  2. Well summarised Alex - I too welcome the comments in the 'Getting ICT to the Learning,' though I'm less worried about the current popular drive towards smaller devices. For me it's about the right device for the right job and whilst a handheld device probably isn't the right device for video editing, they do have a multitude of other uses . . . but you knew that already.

    The one thing I notice cropping up repeatedly in the report is the term "effective(ly)," sometimes with positive and sometimes negative connotations. What I don't read though, is what actually makes a particular ICT tool, intervention or opportunity effective. How is that judgement made? What are the criteria? We use assessment criteria with students to help them evaluate their progress, so what are the criteria against which teachers' effective use of ICT can be measured? If they were clear and explicit and teachers had the time to reflect on their "effectiveness," then we might be able to make better progress.

  3. I'm not sure Ofsted would be willing to publish a list of effective and ineffective educational ICT tools. This may be a little like asking Ofsted to list effective books.

    All tools; ICT, presentational, communication and so on, are not in themselves effective. What makes them effective is if they are well chosen and deployed to achieve a given educational outcome. Of course some ICT is less effective than others, some software doesn't work as it should or has a difficult to decipher interface.

    So, I suppose Ofsted would answer your request by saying that the answer is the same as for what makes effective teaching. Effective ICT is where it is used to support effective teaching. Ofsted have published a very great deal about their criteria for and how they define, evaluate and judge effective teaching.

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