Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ofsted ‘ICT in Schools 2008-2011’ Report

The last Ofsted report on ICT in schools appeared in 2009 and I wrote a short piece about it in this blog. The highlights then(as I saw them) were
- weaknesses in assessment of ICT capability
- weaknesses in KS4 qualifications in ICT
- consistent use of ICT as an enabler across the curriculum

Now in 2011 we get a further report on ICT and the key findings could have been copied and pasted from that 2009 report.
These weaknesses were found in both primary and secondary schools; tracking progress of pupils was poor leading to “teachers and pupils lacking an understanding of current performance and what was needed to improve” (p. 4), there is insufficient coordination of ICT learning in other subjects and a lack of support for staff teaching more demanding topics (like control and programming), and few schools are systematically assessing the impact of ICT on achievement.
Secondary schools were also found to have limited teacher capability in programming. Students were repeating work from previous years (as a result of poor assessment routines). The gifted and talented were not effectively attended to in ICT. Qualifications for KS4 were not meeting the needs of students; not preparing them properly for further study of ICT. There are fewer girls than boys choosing ICT at KS4. Finally and perhaps most worrying the leadership and management of ICT is no better than satisfactory in half of schools, and the overall effectiveness of ICT is good or better in only one third of secondary schools.
There are strengths revealed by this survey. ICT for SEN students is an area of strength as is e-safety. Primaries seem to be doing well with their leaders understanding the contribution of ICT to their school. These schools have regular audits of staff CPD requirements. The overall effectiveness of ICT good or better in two-thirds of primary schools. It was also good to read that there are some examples of “exciting and ambitious vision for ICT” (p. 30) in outstanding secondary schools (although not exactly a cause for jubilation).
Ofsted pointed to some trends;
- there were less PC suites and now more laptops and handheld devices
- VLEs were being used in most schools
- schools are facing real challenges with the procurement of new equipment.

These are the report's recommendations;
The DfE should “set out clearly the pivotal role of ICT in school improvement and in preparing young people for higher education and for skilled work”
All schools should
- Improve assessment of ICT
- Provide access to whole ICT curriculum
- Provide subject specific support and CPD to up teacher confidence and expertise
- Look into collaborating to procure
- Keep up their focus on e-safety
Secondary schools should
- provide a better range of KS4 ICT courses
- Provide opportunities for KS4 students to engage with ICT use in business
- Get more girls doing ICT KS4
- Make sure all students can benefit from ICT across all subjects

There are some thought provoking sections like para. 16 (p. 12 -13) that lists items found in good/outstanding teaching in primary;
- "well-judged pace was sustained throughout the lesson, with effective strategies for maintaining all pupils’ engagement at a high level, even through periods of time when data needed to be uploaded or equipment had to be changed
- teachers had excellent subject knowledge and teaching assistants were well informed and briefed
- consistent attention was paid to reinforcing pupils’ understanding and their use of key words
- planning was thorough and detailed, with particular attention to meeting the different requirements of individual pupils
- clear and explicit learning objectives were proposed and then discussed with pupils and displayed throughout the lesson
- safe working was emphasised at all times and with all resources
- a range of equipment and resources was available wherever pupils were learning, including laptops, cameras, recorders and alternative operating systems
- excellent use was made of interactive whiteboards to recap and review in a fast-paced manner, and to introduce new learning in a highly motivating, stimulating format
- opportunities were available for pupils to experience ‘real world’ ICT use outside school
- teachers encouraged pupils to be independent and to make sensible choices about appropriate equipment and materials for their task
- questions were used skilfully to challenge and extend learning
- formative assessment, through a variety of means, was an integral part of each lesson and self- and peer-assessment were actively promoted
- explicit links were made with key learning points in other subjects and most especially in literacy and numeracy.”

There is a similar list in para. 56 (p. 23) looking at good/outstanding teaching in secondary;
- “lessons were well planned with a good variety of activity and resources
- assessment for learning was embedded throughout the lesson with feedback, frequent marking and praise linked into planning the next lesson
- lessons were brisk with smooth transitions so that no time was lost for learning
- teachers encouraged well-structured peer and self-assessment
- students were clear about their own current level and what they needed to do to improve
- learning activities were expertly differentiated to meet individual students’ needs
- questioning was used to deepen understanding, rather than just to check knowledge
- key terminology was introduced and reinforced
- relevant and practical contexts were used to bring tasks to life.”
There is also para. 85 (p. 33) that describes additional features of good/outstanding cross-curricular use of ICT.
“The teacher’s skill in selecting appropriate ICT use was key to student progress. Good teachers made discriminating and well-planned use of ICT to support directly the aims and objectives of the lesson. They designed a wide range of activities which provided plenty of opportunities for independent and small-group work and peer review. There was a balance between the use of ICT and other forms of learning and students were encouraged to learn to choose the best ICT tools and applications and to discriminate between different sources of online information.”

I suffered from a confusion when reading these lists, are these recommendations, or commonly observed features, or always present? I’m not sure if they are a definition of what Ofsted considers to be good/outstanding teaching of ICT or what teachers did when another set of characteristics that define good/outstanding teaching were visible? In other words are these enablers or definitions of good teaching? Similar confusions afflict me when reading para 77 (p. 29 - 30) that defines outstanding ICT at a secondary school, as;
- “an ambitious strategic place for ICT as the engine for innovation and raising standards
- a collaborative approach to the development and implementation of ICT plans embracing the whole-school community
- clear and effective delegation, with all staff making a contribution
- commitment to continuing training and coaching
- self-critical monitoring
- planned investment in infrastructure and resources.”

Naace has already published a response to the report that is revealing about the present state of schools ICT policy, visble here. They welcome the report particularly that recommendation about the "pivotal role" of ICT. They are also quite pleased that Ofsted mentions their Self Review Framework and ICT Mark (p. 30) as a national benchmarking scheme. All of us involved in promoting the use of ICT in schools will be tempted to cling to these meagre statements like drowning men clinging to wreckage.

Friday, 25 November 2011

McKinsey Report on Social Technologies and Organisations

In the last week McKinsey have released a report on the ways that organisations are using social technologies to change and extend their business.

The report is available here.

Bear in mind that you'll need to register (for free) to access the content.

The report shows that of the 4,261 respondants to their survey, 40% indicated that they were using social networking for "scanning the external environment ". Social networking was found to be effective at allowing members of networked organisations access external experts. Furthermore 36% indicated that social networking helped them with "finding new ideas".

These are very interesting findings for any school interested in using social networking. Technology obviously has great potential to enable teachers to access experts external to their school. Social networking could be used to make it possible for teachers to get new ideas from other professionals. The McKinsey Report makes it clear that many commercial and other organisations are using social networking in exactly this way.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Pearson Report on Teachers Using Social Media for CPD

Pearson (the educational publisher) has just brought out a document entitled 'Tweeting for Teachers'. The document is available to download from
It references some individual developments that are impressive. The #ukedchat twitter conversation that takes place every Thursday evening is perhaps the most convincing demonstration of teachers using social media in an organic and widespread manner.
The report does have weaknesses; most notably that the authors have not drawn from two very rich sources of evidence. These are the fields of Knowledge Management, and that of Communities of Practice. The work of Etienne Wenger is very significant in relation to the latter, and Max Boisot in relation to Knowledge Management (see for example, 1995, Information Space: A Framework for Learning in Organizations, Institutions and Culture, London, Routledge). Wenger maintains a website with ample references to his work if you have an interest in pursuing further reading.
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