Get them all involved
There are many reasons to celebrate in Ofsted's latest secondary subject report on ICT. Teaching has improved and pupils' achievement has improved. ICT is the fastest-growing subject at GCSE with more than half of those entered awarded the higher grades, and standards were maintained as the A-level entry increased by 15 per cent.
However, Ofsted identifies continuing weaknesses in the leadership and management of ICT. As usual, it is good at identifying weaknesses but doesn't suggest what might be done to improve. Not that I would always want them to, however reassuring this might be, as schools trying innovative strategies might feel stifled. However, it's useful to know what successful ways of managing ICT in secondaries have been developed.
In the secondary schools that are most successful at managing ICT, the headteacher or a senior deputyis an enthusiastic leader. He or she chairs an ICT leadership committee which includes ICT-literate senior management and ICT experts, such as the head of ICT, the ICT co-ordinator and network manager.
This leadership committee of about five makes key decisions about whole-school ICT. For example: how ICT will be timetabled; which hardware and software to buy; where it will be located in the school and who will have access to it; the number of specialist ICT teachers and technicians needed; how other teachers will be trained to use ICT; internet and email policy. To ensure this leadership committee meets the needs of the whole school, it is guided by a more open ICT committee which any member of staff can attend.
This open committee is usually chaired by the head of ICT or the ICT co-ordinator, and will include an ICT evangelist from each subject department and support staff. In addition, there is an ICT department which is organised in a similar way to more traditional departments, such as maths or science.
Why does this arrangement for managing ICT work better than others? Like any other subject department, ICT will push for sufficient timetabled time and make sure pupils are entered for exams.
The needs of the whole school are taken into account through the open ICT committee and teachers' needs can be built into the planning.
If sub-committees are needed for specific issues, it is more obvious who is interested, and these can be formed more easily. The leadership committee ensures that decisions are made quickly, and that these are well informed, meet the needs of the whole school and represent value for money.
This arrangement assumes that ICT in secondaries is taught better when it is organised as a discrete subject complemented by its use across the curriculum. A few schools organise ICT effectively entirely across the curriculum, but most secondaries find this very difficult.
What evidence do I have that this way of managing things works? I've recently completed research which looked at ICT achievement at key stage 4 (see website). The most successful schools managed ICT in ways similar to that described. I also looked at general theories about the management of schools and tried to derive successful strategies from these for ICT management. This analysis strongly supported the approach I've described here.
Roger Crawford is the subject leader for the PGCE ICT course at Huddersfield University. www.hud.ac.uk/ITsec/ rac1.htm