Mount Carmel School is an 11-16 girls school in Islington, north London, and recently became a Technology College. Information and communications technology (ICT) development has been rapid over the last four years supported by business, LEA and Education Action Zone partners. ICT is mapped across the curriculum; no discrete ICT is taught.
The school has excellent training provision for staff. There are 120 computers on the network and staff and pupils have video-conferencing and their own email. Internet access is via an ISDN line but there are plans for broadband, which will be used for video-conferencing and online courses.
The school was the pilot for Islington's NGFL, and staff are training for Web design (on Saturdays) and pupils will incorporate Web design for the local business community in their design and technology GCSE curriculum. All staff received training to use NGFL. The first priority was to build staff confidence and develop skills for email and accessing relevant information quickly. One result is that the RE department has developed a curriculum website with City and Islington College.
The staff use the NGFL to access DFEEQCA documents, share information and resources with other schools and to enrich the curriculum. Yet finding time to train is a problem, and no cover is provided for ICT training. Motivation is hard after a long day's teaching.
Staff non-contact time is limited, so email is an invaluable communication tool. Many departments have used the NGFL to encourage pupils to communicate with business to enhance their work, ask for advice and for research. Lunchtime clubs take place every day and pupils work independently using the Internet and email. Pupis attend holiday revision centres where they can use the network rooms.
Staff have developed resources which are stored on the network to guide pupils to relevant information and encourage them to analyse and query. Pupils email their work to staff for assessment and support. Mount Carmel is a multi-cultural school; many pupils use email to stay in touch with relatives in other countries.
The development of the schools resources, access to the NGFL and Internet have greatly enhanced the pupils learning. The ICT results at GCSE were 100 per cent A-C on entries, and this represents the skills developed through across the curricular ICT model and improved access to information leading to higher standards of coursework.
The biggest problem faced by the staff has been finding suitable content, but as skills develop and the Web becomes easier to navigate, the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages. Teachers need to have professional dialogue and share ideas and resources, the NGFL provides this opportunity.
NGFL challenges teachers much more than pupils, who readily accept that both communication and the way we work are changing. Headteachers need to support this development in providing training and resources for all staff. Pupils who are denied this opportunity are not receiving a broad education, more importantly than that they are not receiving their entitlement to life skills.
The greatest support the DFEE can contribute to any teacher is time! ICT at its best can ease administration tasks, enhance teaching and learning and support professional development, but providing resources is only half the equation.
Anne Casey is technology manager at Mount Carmel School