School management

9th February 2001 at 00:00


A good long-term target for any school is that ICT should be an everyday classroom tool, chosen (or not) as each task demands. Reaching this point would mean also that basic ICT skills had ceased to be an issue - everyone would simply be so familiar with the computer that anything new coming along would be quickly understood and absorbed. An ambitious aim, perhaps, and yet it's true to say that this level of ICT competence is a common characteristic of the schools which were successful in this year's School Management (Primary) section of the Becta ICT in Practice Awards.

It's important to say, too, that in other ways these are ordinary schools which have got to where they are by routes that are generally available. A requirement of the awards programme, in fact, is that good practice should be replicable in other places.

The winner of this category is Jenny Noel-Storr of the 227-pupil Redhill Primary in Telford. With her leadership the school has reached the point where, for example, when the judges visited in October, they saw an electronic whiteboard presentation by a six-year-old pupil, and extensive use of Microsoft Publisher and maths learning games by five-year-olds in reception.

The real story at Redhill, though, as perceived by the judges, goes well beyond any impressive demonstration, and is to do with the way that ICT is, in their words, "fully embedded in the school".

Jenny Noel-Storr saw the possibilities of ICT very early: "When BBCs were introduced into schools," she says, "I was a classroom teacher with three small children at home. We bought a computer to use at home, and the first thing that impressed me was how my then six-year-old son rapidly got to grips with LOGO and, after a day, knew more about angles than many of my 10- and 11-year-olds in class.

"That's really where my belief in the power of ICT first started, and by the time I left that school to go into advisory work, I was already very much aware of the way that the computer would influence children's learning."

Importantly, the focus of her attention is not so much on the ICT itself as on the possibilities it opens up both for children's learning and as a time-saver for teachers. In this respect, she believes children and teachers should be learners together.

"I've always seen schools as learning communities," she says. "All the staff see themselves as learners. Children don't think it at all strange if the teachers don't know something, and teachers don't mind being in that position."

Teachers at Redhill (most of whom came to the school with relatively little ICT experience) now use ICT fluently for planning, recording, and for Internet access to resources such as QCA schemes of work, which are edited and incorporated into their own planning. That all of this work can be done electronically makes for flexibility, efficiency and, above all, the saving of time.

What is encouraging is that, with the exception of a pilot project which supported the school's first electronic whiteboard, ICT at Redhill has been developed using generally available funds, particularly NGFL.

The school is not awash with computers either - the ratio is one to ten pupils, and all of the machines are in the class bases, rather than in a compter suite, in line with Jenny Noel-Storr's belief in the computer as a classroom tool.

"My theory," she says, "Is that you need three in a class base, so that you can plan and manage their use."

* Learn ICT on a need-to-know basis

* Look at prospective staff in their present schools

* Explore the national curriculum for ICT opportunities

* The quality of documentation has to be first rate

* Use ICT to reduce the administrative burden on staff



Jeremy Griffiths is head of Ysgol Frongoch, a 240 pupil Primary School in Denbighshire.

In common with many who are showing leadership in the use of ICT in schools, he became personally fascinated with computers when they first became generally available in the Eighties.

"I was a bit of a fanatic," he says. "I did a lot of research about what was available, and climbed a steep learning curve."

Now in his fifth year as head at Frongoch (having been a class teacher there for a time earlier in his career), he has concentrated on reaping the benefits that ICT can bring for managing administration and the curriculum. "I had visions of being able to track pupil progress, increasing the awareness of the needs of pupils with SEN and being able to monitor them closely," he says. "I knew exactly what I wanted to do and, with ICT and with the help of various people, I have been able to come up with answers."

One of his aims has been to build a set of data that would help to build up a picture of an individual pupil progressing through the school. As others have realised, it's not been easy to find admin software that deals with long-term tracking of individual pupils, and Griffiths devised his own system based on Microsoft Excel. Commercial solutions are now appearing, and he's looking into them.

"The school has a history of doing standardised tests," he says, "And I went back to 1994 to to build up a full set of pupil records. It enables me to look at year groups and set targets."

For attendance, reporting to parents, and other admin tasks, the the school makes full use of SIMS and teachers have developed a comprehensive bank of report comments. Although the school admin officer is the acknowledged leader in the use of SIMS, all other staff are conversant with it and use the modules they need.

The whole adds up to a very ICT-rich working environment - a ratio of one computer to six pupils is well above average - but as the judges point out, it's partly explained by the policy of making all computers, including older ones, work for their living.

Jeremy Griffiths describes the school's progress as from "have-nots and can't" to "haves and can".

"In our school the graph goes steeply up," he says. "We've invested, begged and borrowed. The staff have had not just the NOF training, but basic skills training too. The confidence of the staff has been the major thing - the idea that they can do it."

* The headteacher must be at the heart

* Use all computers at your disposal - keep supposedly out-dated machines in action

* Use admin ICT to reduce the burden on staff

* Question the appropriateness of computer suites at primary level

* Constantly search for sources of sponsorship and funding

Gerald Haigh

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