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Secondaries slow to plug into the Grid

Inspectors have confirmed that secondaries are often slow to develop new technology skills in pupils. In mathematics and English, it is "rare" for pupils to use computers regularly.

In primaries, teachers are making good progress, although too few pupils have the chance to use computers often enough in their class work.

The latest progress report on the National Grid for Learning (NGFL), published by the Scottish Executive, confirms researchers' findings (TESS, last week) that many pupils are unchallenged by ICT work outside of subjects that demand frequent use of new technology, such as business education, graphic communication, art and music.

"There was a clear correlation between those departments in which assessment requirements for national qualifications required pupils to have frequent exposure to ICT hardware and those with the most frequent use of ICT," the report notes. Inspectors stress that "there is still much to be done" to ensure pupils have more access to computers in their daily work and in planning effective programmes.

Most schools provided S1-S2 pupils with a basic course in ICT skills but at later stages planned development was "almost entirely" confined to business education, computing and technical education. "These programmes were effective in developing appropriate skills," the report states.

One positive sign is the advent of the Scholar programme in S5 and S6 where pupils learn online.

In terms of back-up, one in three secondaries was using ICT effectively in administration, communication and guidance systems.

In the primary sector, nearly one in three schools had good or very good programmes for ICT. "However, in the majority of schools inspected, important weaknesses in the programmes restricted pupils' progress. Too often, programmes did not permit the appropriate development of pupils' skills in controlling and modelling, collecting and analysing and in communicating and collaborating," HMI points out.

It adds: "Too often pupils who were first to finish other tasks that did not involve the use of ICT were then set to work on unrelated tasks on the computer. Pupils in only a few schools met expected levels of attainment as set out in the 5-14 national guidelines for ICT."

The progress report confirms that secondary schools have met their target of five pupils to one computer and this has been exceeded in special schools. All secondaries and more than three out of four primaries and special schools are now on the internet.

The percentage of pupils who have e-mail addresses has risen from 16 per cent to 52 per cent in primaries and from 68 per cent to 80 per cent in secondaries.

As the number of terminals rises and staff development progresses, the focus is turning "to the true goal of NGFL, the embedding of ICT into everyday use in teaching and learning".

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