Pupils are not filling their learning space

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
Schools miss target to provide children with personal online areas to store and assess work

Schools miss target to provide children with personal online areas to store and assess work

Fewer than one in 10 teachers are making full use of electronic databases that were meant to transform the way lesson plans and pupils' work are stored.

Ministers see "learning platforms" as crucial to their drive towards personalised learning. They allocated more than pound;40 million to ensure every pupil would have their own online personal learning space by September 2007.

But research published by the British Educational Suppliers Association suggests that the Government is a long way from meeting this target, and that even where schools do have access to learning platforms, few teachers are using them to their full potential.

A sample of 518 secondaries was asked about their key stage 3 resources. The researchers found that teachers in 27 per cent still did not have access to learning platforms. Of the schools that did have access, only 12 per cent said that teachers were making extensive use of the technology.

Learning platforms should give teachers, pupils and, in some cases, parents access to curriculum resources and provide a secure place online where they can discuss, submit and assess work.

One in six schools said that, although they had access to the platforms, their KS3 teachers made no use of them at all.

Tim Stirrup, development manager of London Grid for Learning - a consortium of local authorities that has provided all state schools in the capital with access to the technology - said the key to ensuring the platforms were used was to provide teachers with support, so they were not just left to work out how to use them in isolation.

"It's not about buying a product," he said. "It's about buying a service. Schools need extra training, and to be shown how the technology can help them meet their unique needs.

"My advice has always been to contact your local authority and see what they are offering because, if you work in a group, you can share experience and best practice."

The research, carried out last month, revealed wide variations in the use of learning platforms between different subject specialists.

Of the schools asked, 18 per cent said science teachers made extensive use of the platforms, compared with just 4 per cent for those specialising in design and technology, history and geography.

Mr Stirrup said teacher training colleges had a mixed record on learning platforms, and called on them to embed lessons on the technology in their courses.

But he was confident that the situation was changing, and that there was a growing appetite for the technology among teachers.

The survey backs him up, revealing that 30 per cent of schools expected their KS3 teachers to use the platforms extensively next year.

Peter Codling is overseeing the introduction of learning platforms at Raynes Park High School in Merton, London. The assistant head is aware that take-up by teachers may be a problem but believes he has a strategy that will avoid it.

"It is about the way the school introduces the technology," he said. "We are going to put the essentials on it first, such as cover details that teachers will have to access, and then gradually build up the contents with our heads of department.

"If teachers are into independent learning and bringing the school into the home then this is the only way forward."

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