The quality of ICT teaching in primary education has improved at a faster rate than in any other subject during the past two years, but starting from "a very low base", according to an OFSTED report into the impact of Labour's mammoth ICT drive since 1997.
The document says Government initiatives have contributed to improvements in pupils' ICT capabilities, although overall standards remain lower than in other subjects and "vary widely from school to school". It also says there is an emerging link between high standards across the curriculum and good ICT provision, but that ICT's contribution to the raising of standards in other subjects is variable.
Despite this, new technology has motivated pupils, and computer suites in primaries have led to improvements in some aspects of teaching and in pupils' capabilities.
Areas of significant weakness include insufficient early assessment of pupils' skills. Teachers in special schools "continue to have problems identifying ICT resources to match the range of pupils' capabilities and needs" while their computer suites are often in an "inappropriate location", so "restricting their effectiveness".
The report also criticises school development plans, which often fail o link intended curriculum improvements to the resources and training needed to implement them. While short-term managing and planning of ICT developments are "sound", long-term planning is "not good enough" at middle and senior management levels.
The report's biggest blow concerns New Opportunities Fund training which, despite pound;230 million in lottery money, has failed to make a significant impact. Only about half of all teachers have enrolled, and only a minority of those have completed it. The report says that too much flexibility and choice between competing providers, coupled with a lack of information for heads about what approved trainers were offering, was partly to blame for low take-up. The report adds that the fragmented nature of ICT training was "in stark contrast with the more uniform approach of the National Numeracy and National Literacy Strategies".
Recommendations include clarifying the intended outcomes of NOF training, in-service training for heads in managing ICT developments; and enhancing the role of ICT in the literacy and numeracy strategies.
ICT in Schools: The Impact of Government Initiatives, An interim report is available from www.ofsted. gov.ukpublicdocs01ictreport.pdf