Classroom evolution

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Headteacher Enid Bibby welcomes own analysis to help embed ICT in schools

The phrase self-evaluation is much used these days and it's probably necessary to remind ourselves that good schools have always examined their own practice, whether they've called it self-review or not.

The common-sense process of revisiting and assessing your planning, teaching and learning, and then deciding what you're going to do in the short, medium and long-term, is surely the only way to ensure progress.

What's happened in recent years, then, isn't so much a fundamental shift in how schools are managed, but a sharpening of focus - a move to a more formal, closely managed and administered way by which schools examine and judge their own performance and practice.

Against that background, Becta's Self-Review Framework is a natural, evolutionary development to set alongside, for example, the way that Ofsted's inspection process has changed. The framework is, in fact, a natural complement to the Ofsted process. It's also ground-breaking in a number of ways. It is, for example, detailed and sharp in the way it searches out actual practice in classrooms and offices, yet at the same time it has considerable breadth, ranging not just across the taught curriculum but into school management and administration and the growing area of out-of-school learning.

It's important to be aware of that breadth, because it makes this a document, and a process, for the whole school and emphatically not just for the ICT department. Look at the headings of the eight "elements" starting with "leadership and management" and "curriculum", and it's clear that they are all in their own right the areas that we should be reviewing.

Every judgment we make as we apply the framework has to be capable of being checked. My feeling is that this isn't a big problem for well-run schools.

In most cases they'll already have what's needed and the task becomes one of identifying and gathering what exists in departments around the school.

We spend a lot of money on ICT these days, not just on initial investment but on sustaining the quality of provision year on year. It's one of the biggest budget items after staffing, and this places a heavy responsibility on governors and school managers, who need to be clear about whether, and where, there is value for money in terms of the quality of teaching and learning.

This has never been an easy judgment to make because ICT should permeate and enhance the whole of a school's activities. Now we have a framework which provides the necessary detailed prompts. There surely isn't another major area of school spending where we have this detailed level of prompts and benchmark, making for a clear picture of where we are.

It's difficult to imagine any school that won't benefit from using this framework. Those that are effective and confident may want to confirm their performance by applying for the ICT Mark. Those that are working to improve, perhaps addressing weaknesses, will find the framework supportive and challenging in ways that managers and classroom teachers will clearly understand and welcome.

In my view Becta, whose profile among heads and teachers grows as ICT matures into an indispensable whole-school support system, has produced, in its self-review framework, a significant contribution to school improvement.

Dame Enid Bibby, headteacher of Wood Green high school college of sport, and member of Becta council, was talking to Gerald Haigh

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