Reversing the rot;Publications;Books

13th March 1998 at 00:00
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN ENGLISH SCHOOLS (A commentary on inspection findings 1995-6). pound;3.95. BECTA 01203 416994.

RM REPORT ON THE INTERNET IN SECONDARY SCHOOL Education. Free; Research Machines 01235 826868.

ICT is not meeting schools' needs and rectifying this will be thechallenge, writes Jack Kenny

The Stevenson Report reminded us that although we might be ahead of many countries in the use of ICT in education it was like being in front after 500 metres of a marathon. Two recent reports show us how well we are running.

BECTA has published HMI Gabriel Goldstein's Information Technology in English Schools (A commentary on inspection findings 1995-6). Research Machines has brought out the RM Report on the Internet in Secondary School Education. Both reports give us a baseline assessment.

Strip away the pleasantries and the Gabriel Goldstein report outlines a bleak situation. "Despite some excellent work in some schools, inspections shows that, in most respects, ICT is the least well-taught of the subjects of our national curriculum." Training needs in secondary and primary are emphasised.

The delegation of funds to schools and the decline of central services have created a situation where most training is done in-house with ICT co-ordinators who do not have enough time for their colleagues or for their own professional development. The report states that this has "impoverished the quality of provision and achievement in many schools." In primary schools, the report points out that only half of those schools inspected met the ICT requirements of the national curriculum. There was a scarcity of work involving control and modelling. Teacher confidence seemed directly related to the age of the equipment in the school. It was also noted that ICT co-ordinators have no time during the school day to assist other staff members.

The report does not find a better situation at secondary level. It was noted that there was an increase in the proportion of schools where pupils' achievement was poor. The pernicious effects of the lack of an assessment order at key stage 4 were noted. In many schools there has been a reduction in their commitment to ICT. The superficiality of some of the work that was done, particularly with CD-Rom, was remarked on as was the poor quality of interrogation and the unstructured use.

The second report was the result of an inquiry into the use of Internet in secondary schools. The conclusions reveal the truth behind the often quoted statistic that 6,000 schools are connected to the Internet. In the survey half of the schools had only one computer connected to the Internet, only 13 per cent had network access.

The use of the Internet as a curriculum tool was not much in evidence. Between a quarter and a third of schools said that their subject teachers never used the Internet. It was particularly interesting to see that English teachers were low on the graph of users, in spite of the fact that the Internet is a world of words. The main concern expressed by teachers was that the Internet was "too unreliable and too time consuming" to use in school. The majority of teachers were concerned about students gaining access to undesirable websites.

Undoubtedly the cheerless picture painted by the reports is a mirror of the reality of the situation. We are not running well, many are sitting on the pavement at the side waiting for refreshment. To reverse all this is going to be the biggest challenge that ICT in education has ever faced.

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