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Recognition for good use of technology

This session had just started when I was made an offer I could not refuse.

It was suggested that I should be put forward for a Becta ICT in Practice Award for leadership in the primary school category.

My first reaction was delight that the school could be recognised for the work of the staff and the pupils in an area of the curriculum which we love, but what would we have to do? Now follow this closely, because it could be you next year (note, nominations have to be in by March 31).

I had to complete lots of paperwork. I had to study the criteria and put forward a case that it would be worthwhile for a team of judges to travel north to see our children learning, motivated by the wonders of the internet and interactive whiteboards.

That task completed, I put Becta to the back of my mind and returned to the joys of lots more paperwork, monitoring this and self-evaluating that around the school.

Imagine my delight, then, when word came that we had won through to the next round. More work loomed to prepare for a visit from some Becta judges.

It was a very important event and the staff were well prepared, but as the day dawned I still had finishing touches to put to my presentation before our visitors were to arrive just after lunch. Imagine how I felt when my secretary showed the first judge into my room mid morning.

Panic? Never! A primary headteacher takes everything in his or her stride.

(But I reached for my Becta letter to confirm the expected time of arrival.

Fortunately the second judge agreed with me and was in the air flying north with some journey time still ahead.) There was no chance that the judges were going to be offered a school lunch, so when the second one arrived they set off to enjoy the cuisine at a local inn in the sunshine and I settled to put the finishing touches to my presentation.

That over, the staff and children worked their charm and skills. "HT as an enabler" was my theme, as some of the pupils talked knowledgeably about animation or webcams. Even young children move with ease between Apple Macs and PCs, while I prefer the comfort of my PC.

Clever members of staff controlled class sets of wireless laptops and the children sold the benefits of and surfing the net.

Interactive whiteboards are our preferred tool to bring information and communication technology into the curriculum, as we dispensed with the cost of lots of licences or multiple desktop machines in each classroom. An absolute must, though, is a laptop for each teacher.

We have achieved our aim of having a Smartboard in each classroom. When one of the last boards was installed, a boy in P3 said to his teacher: "Don't worry, if you can't work it yet we'll help you." His class had had a Smartboard in P1 and P2 and the children were obviously experts in using it.

The experience of being put through our paces by the Becta judges was excellent. We had to think deeply about our policies and justify our decisions, always keeping the pupils' learning and teaching at the core of everything we did.

That visit over, there was another lull until I was sent to Coventry to face a formidable group of discerning judges at the final selection.

I can't help being pragmatic when asked to do some blue sky thinking.

Instead of being visionary about where ICT might be in five years, I tend to remember how long we still had BBC computers when the rest of the world had moved on.

The end of our story was success. I travelled to London, to Olympia and the BETT show to collect a joint runner-up award. The winner was from Ballymena Primary in Northern Ireland and I look forward to meeting with him and his staff at the SETT show in September to network and learn from one another.

The other runner-up was from Lickhill Lodge first school in Worcestershire.

If there are any civil servants in the Scottish Executive Education Department with some unspent money at this point in the financial year, you could do a lot worse than giving all primary teachers a laptop as their start on the journey to bring ICT to every child.

The day after my return from London, an HM Inspectorate of Education team arrived at school for a full inspection, but that story is for another time. Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary in Edinburghwww.queensferry-ps.edin.sch.ukIf you have any comments, email

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