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Help for the bewildered majority

Angela McFarlane peruses the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority's guide to the latest IT Order.

Non-statutory guidance on information technology "Information Technology: the new requirements" key stages 1 and 2, 1 85838 046 4; key stage 3, 050 2; "Information Technology and the National Curriculum" key stage 3 (set of A3 sheets for each subject), 047 2. Pounds 2 each. School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Newcombe House, 45 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3JB The latest national curriculum-related documents to drop on to the doormat are the non-statutory guidance for IT from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA). If non-statutory guidance is your kind of thing, make the most of them because this is all you will be getting this time round.

Apparently the Department for Education felt that schools should not be swamped with paper, so they were against any guidance papers. An exception was made for IT, presumably because the perceived need was so great. In fact so much so that you will get a further set of IT documents in the near future from the National Council for Educational Technology. SCAA and the NCET have worked closely, so the two lots should be complementary, but no doubt some people will be puzzled because they have two sets of IT advice.

SCAA has produced three booklets, two for key stage 3 and one for key stages 1 and 2. They include an explanation of the IT Order and practical examples of the kind of activity teachers can introduce to cover each strand. The key stage 1-2 material is all in one booklet; for key stage 3 the example materials are presented separately, as a set of double-sided A3 sheets, one for each subject. This should be handy for the IT co-ordinator.

The activities are tried and tested, with cross-references to both the IT and related subject Orders. One useful piece of advice SCAA offers is that teachers should be clear when they use IT whether their aim is to satisfy the IT Order or subject requirements.

Any teachers who have made progress with the integration of IT into their teaching will find nothing new in the SCAA recommendations, but they might enjoy the reassurance that they are on the right track. However, the data in the DFE statistical bulletin on IT in schools published last month suggest that those teachers are in the minority. Only 25 per cent of primaries, 35 per cent of secondaries and 40 per cent of special schools report that IT makes a substantial contribution to teaching. Implementing the SCAA recommendations in full would surely represent a substantial contribution.

A further look at the DFE figures suggests that this increase may not be so easy. Even though figures for teacher competence with IT increase with each biennial survey, 46 per cent of secondary teachers and 28 per cent of primary teachers have little or no awareness training. Even for the trained, the level of access to computers is likely to be restricting. Average ratios of 18 pupils to one machine in primaries and 10 to one in secondaries make it difficult to see how teachers can give pupils time on a computer for the range of IT activities that SCAA recommends.

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