But more than 90 per cent of teachers are competent with ICT, say inspectors. Jon Slater reports
Variations in the standard of computer use in schools are unacceptably wide and increasing, despite a pound;1.3 billion investment, inspectors say today.
The use of information and communications technology even differs enormously between subjects in the same school, an Office for Standards in Education report found.
David Bell, the chief inspector, said that more ICT resources are available to schools than ever before and provision compares well with other countries.
However, pupils' ICT experiences remain dependent on individual teachers, despite more than pound;1.3bn being invested since 1998,.
The inspectors praise the Laptops for Teachers scheme for helping to boost the confidence staff have in using ICT.
But a pound;230m UK-wide programme of ICT training funded by the National Lottery has "proved to be a cause of severe disappointment for schools and individual teachers".
In many schools, opportunities to exploit technology to improve learning are lost every day.
"As yet, the Government's aim for ICT to become embedded in the work of schools is a reality in only a small minority of schools," the report says.
In a typical secondary there are only a handful of departments which perform well with ICT. Primary schools have succeeded in improving pupils'
computer skills but inspectors found insufficient use of ICT in other subjects.
ICT in schools: the impact of Government initiatives five years on says that the combined impact of ministers' policies has been positive. More than 90 per cent of teachers are competent users of ICT and the impact of ICT is satisfactory or better in three-quarters of schools.
Six out of 10 lessons involving ICT were rated as good or better by inspectors, an improvement on on their previous findings in 2002.
Mr Bell said: "The positive impact of financial support from the Government has been noticeable, mainly in staff confidence, record resource levels and improvements in pupils' ICT capabilities.
"What the Government, local education authorities and schools must now focus on doing is ensuring that the quality, diversity and extent of pupils' ICT experiences is consistent across all schools."
The report also calls for improvements in technical support which it says makes a big difference to teachers' confidence in using ICT. At present such support varies widely between schools.
The main report is published alongside 13 subject reports on the use of ICT in each curriculum area. Use of ICT is unsatisfactory in about one in three schools in history and art and design, one in five schools in English and geography, and one in six schools in modern foreign languages and business education.
In maths, the use of ICT to promote learning is "weak and underdeveloped" with some schools even failing to make appropriate use of calculators (see box above). By contrast science teachers are good or better with ICT in more than four-fifths of schools.
The ICT in Schools report can be downloaded at www.ofsted.gov.uk