13th October 2000 at 01:00
Whoever said: "I find living easy, I think the hours are good" was certainly not a headteacher. Jacquie Disney assesses the comments of the harassed souls answering a PIN survey

MYDAY so far has been taken up by any number of unexpected administrative blips - the printer is playing up, I've had a problem uploading an important new Web page, I've had to squeeze in an extra meeting this afternoon (one of my colleagues needed help with a new piece of software) and, on top of all this, inspiration is needed for the "ICT and Parents" presentation I am soon to make at a national conference on home-school communication.

There are just not enough hours in a day. Sound familiar? If so, you can imagine my surprise when I started to look at the first batch of research feedback from teachers who have managed to find the time to help us with our Home-School ICT research. According to the latest data, many of the respondents seem to be very generous with their time when it comes to working with parents and ICT. This did not quite equate with the plaintive cry of "I haven't enough time" heard throughout the land from overworked, over-stressed teachers.

On closer inspection, it became clear that many of the responses were from the very people whose job it is to "deal" with parents - ie headteachers and deputies. And yet, our questions are very specifically about ICT. So is this just part of the pastoral nature of such management posts, or is there a reason why these particular people are specifically dealing with a growing percentage of ICT-related questions from parents?

What's going on?

By this time my interest was aroused. What is going on in these schools? With yet closer scrutiny things became even clearer. Of the responses we currently have, 30.5 per cent are from headteachers and 19 per cent deputy heads who have total or significant responsibility for te development of ICT in their schools. As part of this role they are therefore dealing with any parent-related ICT enquiry or initiative.

Reading through the questionnaires there is, for example, the acting headteacher who is also network manager and special needs co-ordinator, and the headteacher with 60 per cent teaching commitment who is also a special needs co-ordinator and curriculum co-ordinator for English, music and religious education. Each respondent starts to sound rather like a virtuoso performer playing a role which smacks of Sir Alec Guinness in the film Kind Hearts and Coronets. These people are already dealing with a multiplicity of functions, in addition to extending ICT support provided by the school to the wider community.

Time isn't on our side Well, are we surprised that time is a major issue? Do these people manage to get home at night?

If this is the only way parents can be supported, then we can't be surprised if the many seedlings of ideas starting to shoot will shrivel up and die when the spotlight is turned off.

In my last PINpoints I waxed on about partnership and the need to draw people in to help. If much of the development in this area of work continues to fall on the shoulders of already very overworked headteachers and deputies then I can only reiterate this very sound advice.

I've just realised that I have worked out the message for my presentation. It has to be: think laterally, for a multi-sided peg is not necessarily going to fit into an over-stressed round hole.

Jacquie Disney has an ICT background as both teacher and teacher trainer. She is the director of PIN (Parents Information Network), an independent service for parents who want to help their children learn using computers and the Internet.For a summary of the presentation referred to in this article, visit the PIN

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