Primary concerns

7th November 2003 at 00:00
The DfES is providing model lessons to help primary teachers with implementing ICT, reports Dorothy Walker

"Time - that's what I need." Without hesitation, Ljubica Gligorova explains what would most help her with the task of embedding ICT in the primary curriculum. "We have invested in great equipment," says Gligorova, who is Year 1 teacher and ICT co-ordinator at Newfield Primary School in the London Borough of Brent. "I have had wonderful help with using ICT in my own teaching, and now we just have to train my colleagues - only I don't have the time."

"We are probably ahead of many schools on the journey to embed ICT," says Newfield's head, Gareth Simons. "But we are still a long way from the finishing line." The school is by no means alone. A total of pound;1.4 billion has been invested nationally in equipment, New Opportunities Fund (NOF) training and the Curriculum Online service, but recent research by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and Ofsted found that "only 25 per cent of primary schools effectively use ICT to support teaching and learning across the curriculum".

Now, as part of the Primary Strategy, the DfES is working on a wide-ranging programme designed to help. To be launched next summer, it includes offerings such as exemplar materials, support and training.

"We have to keep this practical," says Steve Bacon, general secretary of the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE), one of the groups advising the DfES on materials and guidance. "I don't think there is resistance to ICT, but there are still lots of teachers who don't see it as a central part of their practice. They have had all the philosophy, but they are only going to be persuaded by the success of other teachers."

The exemplars are being created by the Primary Strategy team, and will cover English, maths, science, history and geography. The focus is firmly on specific examples of using ICT for a particular subject and year group, with the examples gleaned from a selection of schools where the DfES has identified good practice. Brought together on CD-Rom will be video clips of teachers in action, and clips of pupils explaining their reaction to different teaching and learning approaches. There will also be snippets of software which teachers can use to try the tools and techniques for themselves.

Helen Walker, head of promoting effective practice at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), which is co-operating closely on the development of the exemplars, says: "One barrier for teachers has been the lack of a common language to describe what we mean by 'embedding ICT'. We want to focus on the pedagogy - the teaching strategies and techniques - and show how ICT supports them."

One of the front-line sources of support for schools is being established through the 900 literacy and numeracy consultants in LEAs, who are currently being trained to demonstrate how ICT can support teaching and learning. And a budget of pound;120 million is earmarked to help establish a body of lead teachers - plans are not yet finalised, but it is likely they will be practising primary teachers, working with a group of schools in their area.

Schools also have the option of buying further training, through Enhancing Subject Teaching Using ICT, a programme for continuing professional development. Influenced by reactions to the NOF programme, it offers face-to-face and online support.

"We welcome the fact that the field force will be supporting teachers face-to-face," says Walker. "Learning alongside someone is really powerful, and a lot of research has shown that teachers learn well from each other."

Bacon concurs: "If training can be face-to-face in the classroom, it is more likely to be successful than some high-flown event.

"There is also a role for online access to learning, and for building communities of learners once teachers have begun to get up to speed. The target has to be to leave a school in a better state than it was before, and able to support itself."


"ICT isn't the only government priority," says Newfield's head, Gareth Simons. "There are lots of competing demands on school time, and at the moment we are relying on teachers' goodwill."

In the past two years, Simons has worked very successfully to equip the school and make ICT a part of everyday life - in this deprived neighbourhood, few children have computers at home.

Ljubica Gligorova took on the role of ICT co-ordinator last year, and has been spending her non-contact time - an afternoon each week - working with Chris Drage, ICT adviser support teacher with Brent EAZ. He takes a practical, one-to-one approach, helping individual teachers employ ICT to achieve specific things they want to do in their lessons. Now Drage and Gligorova are planning how they will continue the process with other staff.

Ideally, Simons would like his ICT co-ordinator to spend half of her time supporting colleagues by developing lessons and finding resources, but he cannot afford the investment.

"Finding cover for Ljubica - that means finding a high-quality teacher who is going to be with us long term - could cost up to pound;25,000, and I don't have the financial means to do that," he says.

"We saw from NOF what happened when training lacks the human touch - very few staff here finished the course. Team-teaching works really well, and that is the way we want to go. But it is wrong to think we are all going to learn this in a couple of terms. It is a long-term approach that will take a number of years."

The DfES will provide schools with a CD-Rom of exemplar software.




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