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And the lesson today is...

Over many years of inspectors' reports, ICT has had a very bad press. It is the worst taught subject, and pupils' achievements are low and worse than in other subjects. Despite a vast increase in spending by government on infrastructure and equipment, this remains true. There have been improvements over the last couple of years, but improving on a very low baseline has still left us far from a satisfactory judgement.

ICT is delivered through a number of methods with some heads, governors and others convinced that it is only a tool for other subjects to use and that the logical conclusion is cross-curricular delivery. This conclusion is in spite of the HMCI finding little evidence of high standards achieved this way, and the skills, therefore, demand for workers competent in ICT continuing to be headline news. Over 90 per cent of new jobs will require ICT expertise. Those schools that do teach discrete ICT lessons often drop them in Year 8 or 9 and most have low take-up of ICT courses at key stage 4.

If a teacher were to require pupils in a geography lesson to search the Net effectively to find appropriate information, what would happen? Does the teacher spend time concentrating on ICT objectives in this lesson and lose the geography objectives until next lesson? Is the teacher qualified to teach these pupils how to search the Net efficiently and effectively? Or is heshe happy just to hope that at least a few of the pupils are able to find something useful so they can get on with teaching geography? Who is monitoring the pupils' ICT achievements during this process?

It might be argued that geography teaching becomes more effective if the ICT capability has been taught and pupils are applying that capability in their learning. After all, English teachers teach many of our pupils' literacy skills in English lessons, so why do some remain opposed to such a model for ICT?

The ICT strand of the key stage 3 strategy aims to enhance ICT teaching in schools and therefore increase the ICT capability of all 11 to 14-year-olds. In achieving this we will enhance the use of ICT across all curriculum subjects. The strategy will train those teachers responsible for the ICT programme of study to ensure it is taught well. There are issues about the number of ICT teachers without the appropriate subject knowledge. The Curriculum and Qualifications Authority's own research suggests that many schools do not have an ICT teacher with a first qualification in ICT and, where they do, much of that knowledge quickly becomes out of date. We must move beyond teachers only being able to teach basic skills towards them having enough subject knowledge to debate pedagogy and become creative in the way the subject is taught.

The ICT strand will demonstrate a progression through the ICT programme of study, something that has only been done through the DFESQCA scheme of work published in 2000. It will support teachers by producing lesson plans based on that scheme to exemplify how teachers might teach the year-on-year objectives. It will be supported by local consultancy and a programme of training designed to enhance subject knowledge and ICTteaching. By demonstrating how ICT might be taught and training teachers in the subject knowledge, pupils' experiences in ICT lessons will be enhanced. Teachers' expectations of pupil achievement will also increase and the process will support debate and innovation. A by-product will be reaching the Government target for key stage 3 ICT.

Clare Johnson was principal manager for ICT at the QCA and is now ICT strand director, KS3 strategy

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