There are many reasons why LEA ICT support services have had a difficult time over the past few years: some the fault of LEAs themselves, some the fault of covert government policy. To weaken them when the need for support is greater than ever has been folly. So it is particularly heartening to meet LEA people as dedicated as Kathryn Buckby.
Quiet confidence, calm determination, persistence and total professionalism mark the work of Kathryn, the primary ICT co-ordinator for Redcar and Cleveland LEA. The new unitary authority of Redcar and Cleveland is taking ICT seriously and the centre in Redcar is an indication of that. The support service is well funded and Kathryn has a very good base. The centre facilities are excellent, with welcoming training rooms.
Kathryn listens to the schools. The centre has a copy of all the ICT development plans and those are used to inform the centre's thinking and the planning of courses. She spends a great deal of time in the schools and this also helps in awareness of current issues.
Classroom credibility is important. One of her nominators wrote: "Kathryn was ICT co-ordinator in a primary school for many years before she took on this new role, so she knows what she is talking about. She has excellent ideas and course materials, which are extremely accessible for school use and highly motivating to us and children alike."
A defining feature is documentation that Kathryn has prepared. It is of the highest quality and in complete accord with both QCA and TTA policies. The work she has done and is continuing to do will greatly assist the development of ICT work in the classroom. She still works through strands and feels that this helps teachers to find a way through what is required. There is a danger that someone as conscientious as Kathryn could hamper the development of ICT within schools by giving them too much. She manages to avoid that. She does not give schools a model policy but enables them to formulate their own.
The range of assistance and courses offered by Kathryn and others at the centre is impressive. All the work is closely related to the national curriculum and QCA. Teachers work through every strand, eg text, sound, graphics, data-handling, modelling and control. For every strand they plan a package for the year group they teach and for another key stage group. Planning is a two-part process: children are taught the skills they will need and in the second part of the planning the new ICT skills are used to support a specific curriculum subject. The curriculum objectives, vocabulary and skills that children should acquire are noted. The children's progress is recorded and assessed at each stage.
Kathryn's work is tightly integrated into the Single Regeneration Budget, and Education Action Zone funding mechanisms. The local EAZ obviously feels confidence in the ICT service as they work with them and Kathryn has spent time running courses and advising the co-ordinators in the EAZ schools. She has also influenced the way that the money for hardware is being spent.
The teacher who nominated Kathryn originally wrote: "I think she has been one of the biggest influences on my teaching in my whole career. She hs given me the confidence to teach ICT effectively and this has passed on to the children I teach." You can't say fairer than that.
* A clear, forward thinking ICT development plan shared by the whole school community
* An ICT scheme of work for teachers that defines clear learning outcomes with small steps to achieve them
* Staff who are skilled to teach ICT
* The 3Es - Education through Exploration, and Enjoyment, and ICT resources that reflect the needs of today's world
* Children and teachers who realise the educationally beneficial opportunities that ICT can provide
RUNNER UP - MIKE PARTRIDGE
Stockport's main claim to fame has been the magnificent viaduct, the largest brick-built structure in Europe, that crosses the Mersey just below its source. Now it can claim that its LEA ICT team, headed by Mike Partridge, is one of the best in the country.
LEAs have not enjoyed a good press in recent times, the cutbacks have fallen savagely on some areas, so the support from 95 per cent of local schools keeping faith with the service means that the Stockport team headed by Mike Partridge has achieved a great deal through difficult times. Mike's team has also created one of the best educational websites in the country. Obviously the good old days for schools in Stockport have never gone far away.
Mike acknowledges that there are benefits about being a small metropolitan borough, but whereas unitary authorities have been able to start afresh Stockport has had to build on established links - not quite as easy. Mike sees the success flowing from the continuity and ongoing contact with teachers, leadership and the fact that they are operating a business model with quality service foregrounded.
Teacher development is a very strong focus and the centre in Dialstone Lane is well equipped. Schools can go there to see new technologies such as whiteboards. Group or individual training can be provided. Planning for ICT curriculum development is extremely thorough including full curriculum and ICT audits, with the centre providing each school with three-year plans which include the monitoring of teachers' progress.
There are different units within the centre including a managed services-style shop, three advisory teachers, three software engineers doing frontline maintenance for secondary schools, eight other engineers, two full-time Internet programmers, three primary advisory posts, a support technician and an office manager. All units need to make a profit, so schools pay an annual fee.
A further impressive feature is that the LEA maintains and updates websites for all the schools. These are not uniform in content, and are outwardly focused to encourage community links. Future plans are well developed, focusing on improving teaching, learning and school management with ICT.
* Keep an open mind
* Develop the ability to use ICT fluently
* Nurture the ability to integrate ICT into all aspects of learning
* Value good teaching skills that incorporate effective organisation, differentiation and appropriateness of task
* Ensure that learning outcomes are matched to teaching expectations