Headlines: May 17th, 2004

Schools are failing to deliver the potential improvements in learning despite the unprecedented funding for information and communications technology that has been pumped in since 1997. Ofsted, the schools watchdog, reviewed the impact of ICT in schools during the last five years and found that although e-learning was adopted almost universally the emphasis was on the ‘e’ and few schools successfully applied the technology to the whole process of learning. Inspectors found that many in education continue to see a sharp distinction between ICT as a set of skills and knowledge on the one hand and as a tool for learning on the other.The inspectors found a gap between the best and worst ICT provision and there is concern that the gap is increasing. In the most outstanding examples, ICT is starting to have a pervasive impact on the way teachers teach and children learn. But the quality, diversity and extent of pupils’ ICT experiences vary widely between schools. The quality of use of ICT in any one subject varies enormously from school to school, and the typical picture in a secondary school is for a handful of departments to be working well with ICT. It is not always the same handful. In schools that are furthest forward, ICT is starting to have beneficial effects in teaching and learning in all subjects.

A major factor that has contributed to the current situation is that continuing professional development has proved problematic, and has often been a cause of severe disappointment for schools and individual teachers. Professional development in ICT was not tackled as an integral part of the school improvement process The need for competence with the technology drove the training rather than implications of the use of ICT for learning.

Ofsted recommends that the problems should be approached at different levels. The DfES should strengthen the focus on the contribution ICT can make on improving teaching and learning. Local Education Authorities should seek further ways of embedding the understanding and planning of ICT across aspects of support, aimed at improving standards. Schools should develop approaches to evaluating the impact of ICT at different levels so that staff are confident to assess its influence on teaching and learning;