14th March 2003 at 00:00
When Heidi Fawcett talks about managing a school, two themes emerge: how ICT relates to learning and teaching; and how she relates to the technology and those around her. The headteacher at St Mary's Primary School, Glasgow, displays the sort of flexible thinking and willingness to find merit in differing views not always associated with strong leadership.

Both themes are well illustrated when Heidi talks about staff recruitment and development: "Perhaps we should positively recruit staff with ICT skills - not just teachers, but also support staff and maybe even janitors..."

She pauses for thought.

"Mind you, I think people bring attributes and qualities that are even more important - with the right attitude you can do anything and that includes acquiring the necessary ICT skills. One of our classroom assistants is now a fantastic support to children and staff, but she joined us four years ago with a willingness to learn but no ICT skills at all.

"You have to create the time to develop your staff in ICT. And 'create' is the right word - people say there's never enough time, but you can always find half an hour to provide a wee opportunity for somebody. It pays for itself many times over in goodwill and staff initiative."

Heidi first included ICT in the school development plan six years ago and it can hardly be coincidence that pupil attainment in all tested areas has increased dramatically since then, more than doubling in the last four years. ICT is already embedded at the heart of the school's management and curriculum practice and Heidi intends to extend its benefits to assessment.

"The teacher will have a tablet PC, which she'll use wirelessly as she walks around the classroom to record her assessment of pupils," she says.

"We'll still have summative assessment at set times, but recording formative assessment and sharing it with management will become continuous and less burdensome. We can't do this yet because we only have one full-size electronic tablet, but by this time next year I hope we'll have one in all classes."

This comment highlights a remarkable feature of Heidi's headship - her confidence that she can keep acquiring new technology. In the last few years, St Mary's has pioneered the use of handheld computers (which senior pupils now use routinely in school and at home), experimented with electronic writing slates in collaboration with Glasgow University and introduced the city's first wireless school network. And now she is confident she'll obtain a set of fully-functional electronic tablets for staff and pupils.

Perhaps this goal is not so remarkable. When a school's use of technology is seen to continually benefit pupil attainment and staff commitment, proposals to acquire new items of technology will be regarded more favourably.

Twenty years of using and evaluating ICT in education have given Heidi a clear vision of its role and potential: "In the end, it is not about technology, it's about learning and teaching. But ICT changes the nature of these so they both become much more enjoyable.

"I am very clear about one thing, however - it is not a matter of pupils wandering off into the backwoods. All of them have to be overtaking the learning targets that are set by the teacher."

Tips for teachers - Heidi

* Have fun - play with the technology

* ICT must be on the development plan permanently - it moves too fast not to

* Create development time for staff and particularly for your ICT co-ordinator

* Remember to communicate. Without communication you won't get innovation

* Make mistakes. Everyone's a learner and it's OK to make mistakes Tips for teachers - Stephen

* Make ICT a key objective in the school development plan for at least three years with a major share of time and budget

* Invest in staff development training

* Technology is an ideal way to support pupils who disengage from learning

* ICT can restore creativity throughout the curriculum - try digital video in PE

* Use a limited number of programs but make sure you explore them fully RUNNER-UP


Andy Tromans is headteacher at Ocker Hill Junior School, Tipton, West Midlands

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