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Kay Hanson admits to knowing little about ICT when she arrived as deputy head at Ash Green Junior and Infants school in Halifax. "I certainly wasn't Mrs Bill Gates," she says. "But my role was to focus on ICT - and I never do anything by halves."

After a three-year whirlwind of activity, the results of her efforts speak for themselves. Just before Kay's appointment, Ofsted rated ICT in the school as below national expectations - not a single pupil had attained level 4. By the end of last term, when she left to take up a headship, not only had that figure soared to 90 per cent, but average level 4 attainment in science, English and maths had risen from 40 to 80 per cent - remarkable progress recognised with a National Achievement Award.

The estate which Ash Green serves is one of the most disadvantaged in the country, and from the outset Kay determined to reach out far beyond the school walls in her plans for ICT. Having persuaded her colleagues to sacrifice their staffroom - they moved to a former cupboard - she furnished it with a network of 16 PCs, and it became the focus for a whole raft of activities.

After a "white-knuckle ride" with the mouse to bring herself up to speed, Kay took a fast-track approach to training her fellow teachers, coaxing them to the screens to learn alongside their pupils. It was, she says, the only way to move forward rapidly. "I couldn't let the children's life chances be put on hold while the staff caught up. My strategy was to put the children's learning first, bring on staff expertise second, then look to community links."

With a growing enthusiasm in the classroom there has come a wealth of opportunities for children to extend their learning beyond school hours, and to muster their whole families behind them. At homework clubs, pupils use integrated learning systems to monitor their own progress. The Breakfast Club, billed as "ICT Fun", is packed to capacity. Parents now come to school to learn about the Net so that they can help with homework, and take advantage of a special purchase scheme which provides affordable, re-conditioned PCs. There is even an ICT "drop-in" for mums and toddlers.

ICT has been employed as a confidence-builder, and has made the world of learning more accessible to pupils and the community.

Kay is a great believer in the power of peer tutoring. Pupils create learning materials for younger children, and have taken part in a successful pilot scheme to train graphics experts, who acted as tutors to other pupils. Ash Green now boasts laptops and a multimedia projector in every classroom, and is the lead school among the 24 primaries in the Halifax Education Action Zone (EAZ).

Remarkably, Kay achieved all this without an ICT budget. "I decided not to have one, and to make raising the finance my challenge," she says. The funding has been achieved through an imaginative combination of bids and pilots, and from the former staffroom, where ICT courses are run at weekends, drawing in families as well as funds. The energetic Kay also topped up revenues by selling her time to the Halifax EAZ as ICT consultant.

Working in the computer suite is Lisa Cutts, ICT support assistant and proof that Kay has broadened the horizons of the community. Lisa was the school cleaner and dinner lady, until a busy afternoon when Kay invited her to "help with the computers". Now training to be an ICT teacher, Lisa has never looked back.

Dorothy Walker

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