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Rules of engagement

ICT has played a major role in the success of Glasgow's Jordanhill school, with professional development a key factor. Dorothy Walker finds out more about the winning formula

What you won't find among our staff are people at the cutting edge of technology," says Paul Thomson, (above centre right). "But you will find that everyone is using ICT at a high level, and that's what we aim for.

There is no use in having one energetic teacher who is miles ahead. You have to direct the energy into ways of helping everyone else to develop so you can sustain long-term benefits."

Paul is rector of Jordanhill school, in Glasgow, and winner of the Secondary Leadership category in this year's Becta ICT in Practice awards.

Jordanhill is a combined primary and secondary and has been a consistent top performer in the state sector for the last decade. It has a unique status in Scotland as the school is not under local authority control and receives a direct grant from the Scottish Executive.

Since Paul's arrival eight years ago, ICT has made a major contribution to Jordanhill's success, and Paul's strategy for professional development has been a key factor. "Professional development in ICT only works if the wider culture of continuing professional development is positive and supportive,"

he says. "Like many schools in Scotland, we used to have a staff development co-ordinator.

"Here, the job was too big for one person, so a few years ago we formed a core team of four people who would take a co-ordinated approach to all aspects of professional development for teachers, support and administration staff. Our overall focus for teachers' CPD is on learning and teaching, and we have made a major investment in three programmes: co-operative learning; critical skills training; and assessment for learning. All focus on the dynamics of the classroom and I see ICT as a means of realising aspects of all three. For example, if students are using an interactive voting system with a whiteboard, that is bringing formative assessment alive: children are able to test their own learning, they get immediate feedback, and since they vote anonymously, no one can feel stigmatised."

Shortly after his arrival, Paul started encouraging staff to use computers for administrative tasks. "ICT only starts to have a real impact when it is part of people's day-to-day experience. Once you are using a PC for routine jobs, you feel much more confident about starting to use it for creative purposes in the classroom."

As confidence grew, Paul encouraged staff to take decisions about the technology they used. After trialling a range of interactive whiteboards, a group of teachers selected the model the school would adopt. "After that, it just took off. Colleagues saw what could be done, and asked for boards.

We have never bought ICT that has sat idle. Instead, we install enough to show people what can be done and then we respond to the demand for technology and training. That means people get what they need."

Some trainers are brought in to run courses, but Jordanhill's teachers also volunteer to give after-school training. Says Paul: "Staff come along to learn how to use digital cameras or create simple web pages, that's the kind of thing they ask for. Rather than running a grandiose training scheme that might not meet individual needs, we give people freedom to opt in for the sessions they think will be useful."

Teachers have emerged to champion various technologies. "One has taken the lead in interactive whiteboard training. Another is co-ordinator for SCHOLAR, the virtual learning environment for higher and advanced higher students. Neither is an ICT specialist - one is a chemist and the other a modern languages teacher."

Last year, Jordanhill took part in Connected Leadership, a Hay Group project that studied how a range of schools encourage their staff to share and promote ideas. "The research identified that we had no 'power cliques'

- information is not being channelled through small groups who try to dictate opinion or take control of resources," he says.

"One of the reasons is that we use ICT to engage with as wide a group of people as possible about what is happening and give teachers a voice in decisions on issues such as ICT. Because people have input at an early stage, projects are much more likely to reflect their priorities and move ahead in a way they feel comfortable with."


* We want to pursue the ICT Mark. It will be a good way of benchmarking where we are and getting validation that what we are doing is effective. I hope it will help us focus on issues we need to pay more attention to and identify areas that are fine and that we can leave for the moment.

* We like to have an external perspective on what we do. That is particularly important here as we are not subject to local authority scrutiny. We regularly bring in outsiders to look at our practice, and we survey parents for their views.

* It is vital to develop leaders and encourage people to take the initiative. In a complex world, it is no longer feasible for everything to go through the head and senior management team.

* One of our aims is to develop professional learning networks in the school and these groups will use email to maintain their momentum between formal meetings. Email is not a substitute for meetings; whether you are talking to colleagues, pupils or parents, there are some things that need to be said face to face.

* ICT is not a replacement for good teaching. For example, we do not use integrated learning systems (ILS); the research says they don't offer any positive impact, and sitting in front of a computer screen for a whole period - without any dialogue with a teacher or fellow students - is just as boring as sitting in front of a pile of printed worksheets.

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