What exactly is the purpose of a school Web site? Well, if it is to be little more than a prospectus in cyberspace - with over-exposed pictures, a list of departments, a few poems by students and barely a hundred hits a month - then most school home pages are achieving their purpose. But surely we should be aiming higher?
Dull Web pages and stale content may be worse than no Internet presence at all. But if we're going to do it, let's make it a continuing learning experience for pupils and staff, and a place readers will want to return to.
The school Web site is a perfect place for a school newspaper, produced by the pupils and updated monthly at the very least.
Every letter sent home to the children can also be made accessible through the Web site. The uploading and updating of the master page only takes a few minutes once you know how to do it, and outdated or older letters should be regularly culled. Basic information such as term dates and a calendar of events should be obtainable at the site. Urgent updates on school openings and last-minute information should be made available, too, as well as home pages for as many of the pupils who would like to produce them. And after-school or lunch-time clubs can be organised for those pupils who don't have access to a PC at home.
As well as the basic information and the on-line newspaper, some schools are developing pages in specific areas of the curriculum to be used as resources for other schools. School field trips are an obvious example of activities suitable for Web presentation, with illustrations and photographs from the trip itself and links to other sites with extension information. On a more sophisticated level, there is scope for comments and messages to be left interactively at the Web site using forms and scripts.
Each class can be encouraged to have its own space on the server, to be updated as often as possible, with details on which topics that particular class is to cover during the term, and with examples of work and art scanned in.
The school home pages as a method of communication can be extremely useful for pupils who have to be absent for any length of time. Not only can they keep in contact with the school via the Web site, but they can be provided with necessary topic work and resources from anywhere around the world. During the long school vacation, project work and linked resources can be made available for all pupils.
Our school Web sites can and should be so much more than a prospectus in cyberspace. If you don't believe me try these sites:
* Brakenhale School: http: www.brakenhale.berks.sch.uk
* Manor School, Long Hanborough: http:www.rmplc.
* Sutton-On-Sea Primary School: http:www.sutton. lincs.sch.uk
* Welford Wickham Primary School: http:www.
* Ward Freman School: http:members.aol.comwardfreman
Stephanie Davies is a former secondary teacher at a school in Maidstone, Kent
The TES Web site offers links to "Cool Schools" sites on www.tes.co.ukIf you have a strong opinion on a curriculum issue, write to Brendan O'Malley, secondary curriculum editor, TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY