When Steve Snowball was promoted to the headship of Baldwins Hill Primary in West Sussex in 1996, he took over a small village school with "decrepit accommodation and poor resources". A county boundary change had shifted Baldwins Hill from Surrey to West Sussex and it had suffered a serious lack of investment.
Among what Stephen describes as the "educational archaeology" he inherited were a couple of semi-workable PCs and some broken printers assigned for curriculum use. However, in 1997 West Sussex LEA began a major refurbishment and rebuild programme and the governors were persuaded to release funds for "the curriculum entitlement of the children and to invest in the future".
Six years on, the social and educational demographics at Baldwins Hill are largely unchanged - a significant number of children with special needs, more than 25 per cent entitled to free school meals, higher than the national average with statements of educational needs - but the investment in ICT coupled with Stephen's enthusiasm, commitment, planning and provision of comprehensive staff training has transformed the school.
The figures speak for themselves. Since his arrival SATs have improved hugely; from 32 per cent to 91 per cent in English, from 27 per cent to 91 per cent in maths. But Stephen is not driven simply by results: "I argue for creativity in the curriculum. The daily diet of literacy and numeracy must be sensibly balanced. Primary school is about acquiring and learning from a wide range of experiences."
The school now has a pupilcomputer ratio of 3:1 and PCs and Macs are in all classrooms; the Macs are mainly used for digital video editing although they also have AppleWorks. The pupils show an easy familiarity with computers and switch between the two platforms with confidence. For example, in reception class, Max, a pupil for four weeks, uses RM Window Box without supervision.
ICT is totally integrated into all school activities, both educationally and administratively. As well as literacy and numeracy, which Stephen insists will remain the thrust of the school's efforts, it has been incorporated into PE, special educational needs and music, in which children will soon be using sequencing software coupled to an electronic keyboard.
The school has broadband internet access, networked through the main site and beamed to the reception classrooms using wireless technology, and email links have been established with schools in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Italy.
In Year 6 all students have access to laptops, which they can take home; children are expected to return the machines fully charged and with all temporary internet files wiped at the start of the day.
West Sussex ICT adviser Helen Logan, who nominated Stephen for the award, says that on leaving Baldwins Hill, pupils are "well prepared for the next stage of education: they take with them a can-do attitude and a maturity and perseverance that is very positive".
Among the many improvements at the school, Helen salutes the improvement in literacy, particularly in writing among boys, wide-ranging training for all staff and comprehensive provision of ICT throughout the school, from the network of PCs for key stage 1 to the laptops for all in Year 6. "This means staff and pupils have become natural ICT users and they love it. It's a great place to learn."
The infusion of ICT throughout school life has resulted in staff having more time for the core activity of teaching. "ICT has been embedded right across the school," says deputy head Jacqueline Sinkins. "All staff have their own laptops, which makes short and medium-term planning far easier.
We also use ICT to help with some of our summative assessments and to write reports for children each year. We find that quite time saving."
Stephen firmly believes "the use of ICT, as well as effective teaching, has been instrumental in raising standards and pupil attainment at Baldwins Hill". The figures bear him out, but more importantly, so does the testimony of a progressive, successful and happy school.
Tips for teachers
* ICT has to be taught within a real context. Those which allow the greatest scope for creativity, such as music and design, currently provide the greatest opportunity
* Independent learning must not come to mean "alone" or even "self-supported". ICT works best as a collaborative tool
* Don't be wooed by presentation. Technical skill is no substitute for understanding
* Take time to formulate your own vision of how the student of 2020 will learn, then ensure all planning moves towards this
* Digital video is hugely powerful in the hands of the internet generation.
Experiment and let students see teachers are lifelong learners too
Adeline Dinsmore is headteacher at Ashfield Girls' High School, Belfast
David Walmsley is headteacher at Jeff Joseph Sale Moor Technology College, Sale, Manchester