9th June 2000 at 01:00
Is your school tooled up with the latest ICT to meet the requirements of the National Grid for Learning? Jacquie Disney asks why pupils should be the only ones who benefit.

Most schools are now kitted up with National Grid for Learning (NGFL) equipment and Internet access. As such they have the ideal resource to attract parents' attention. They have a wonderful opportunity to show parents the positive side of the Net and illustrate how it can support learning. At a minimum, an event would let parents see what their children are using the Internet for and ask questions about it. Ideally, it would be good if parents could have a go themselves.

The scope of any initiative will depend on the equipment, expertise and confidence in using information and communications technology (ICT) in the school. You might consider one of these forms: an open day for a year group or key stage which focuses on the Internet; or something like a programme, such as a series of Internet sessions for first-time users. Alternatively, combine the two - an open day is a great launch pad for a rolling initiative to develop links with parents and the profile of computers within the school.

If you are considering an event, here are some practical pointers which might help.

Running an open day * Work out a clear and manageable plan which tells a straightforward story about the way the Internet is being used in your school.

* Have lots of children demonstrating to visitors - this will bring in their families so you are guaranteed an audience.

* Hang wall displays showing work that stemmed from the Internet use.

* Investigate and invite support for parents from other sources, such as libraries, colleges or community centres.

* Stress fun and excitement when wording invitations and publicity, plus the opportunity to try new things out on the day.

* Have a clear purpose for the day and outline of what's on offer.

* Organise refreshments and provide a cr`eche for young chidren so that parents can give their full attention to the events.

Internet workshops for parents First-step workshops for parents should show how computers can be used to support learning and give them the confidence to take up opportunities provided by local community education.

Schools run such provision in many ways. Some provide tuition from staff working with a parent or classroom assistant. Others recruit a governor or parent with ICT skills who is able to run sessions for parents. Either way, you must consider where best to start: with beginners to build your confidence or with more confident users to recruit parents to help with beginner courses in the future.

When recruiting, be clear about your target group and make clear who the support is for. This can be done by listing the likely outcomes of the support - "By the end of these workshops you should be able to..." People with all of that will then know not to apply. And don't forget to extend courses to grandparents - they often have more time. If the session is for first-time users you could consider training some of the children to help out during sessions.

Events like this take time and planning but can start the year on a positive and progressive note, encouraging parents to be more involved in their children's learning and more supportive of what the school is trying to achieve. Also, don't forget they can be a major public relations opportunity for the school, which can not only raise its profile but promote its work with parents.

Jacquie Disney worked as a teacher and ICT advisory teacher. She is the director of PIN (Parents Information Network) which has its database of educational CD-Rom reviews on the Learnfree website Case-studies are published on the PIN website, demonstrating what some schools are doing, exploring the extent to which closer home-school partnerships in ICT can make a difference to raising achievement.

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