Schools must 'tap into networking'

11th April 2008 at 01:00

Too many pupils are downloading pornography and violent images online, according to a major report on the use of ICT in Wales's schools.

It says there needs to be national guidance on net safety, as well as school-led mentoring and awareness sessions for young people and their families, to combat cyber-abuse.

But the overwhelming verdict of strategists is that schools must tap into the rise of social networking sites, such as Bebo and MySpace, to improve teaching and engage the disaffected.

The report calls for ICT to become a core subject, with more investment. It says about pound;60,000 is needed initially to progress towards nationally recognised standards.

Examples of teachers who set up their own chatrooms were outlined as emerging good practice in the report, Transforming Schools with ICT. It also praised a school that used text messaging to encourage boys into creative writing.

A working group of heads, teachers and officials investigated the use of ICT in schools over the past 18 months. It concluded that current provision varies too greatly.

More than half of secondary schools have video-conferencing capability, and interactive whiteboards are widely available. But only a minority are actively using virtual learning environments, according to the findings.

The group says the Assembly government needs to issue clearer national guidance on e-safety for schools as children fall prey to cyber-bullying and disturbing encounters in chatrooms. And all teachers should be able to respond to pupils' thirst for new technology, with focus on their initial training.

The report makes 28 far-reaching recommendations. Every pupil in Wales should share one computer between five. At present, pupils in primaries share one between eight.

It says by 2012, a national strategy should be in place, 85 per cent of pupils at key stage 3 should achieve level 5 or higher in ICT, and schools should report on attainment at ages seven, 11, 14 and 16.

Hugh Knight, chair of the schools ICT strategy working group, said: "Our task was to identify how to realise the ideal of an e-confident school and learner."

A government spokesperson said: "We are working closely with the e-safety Wales Network; Wisekids, who highlight the importance of safe internet use in Wales; with the schools technology agency Becta; and with the CEOP child protection initiative on its ThinkUKnow project, which is to be delivered in all schools in Wales."

Red carpet awaits the inspired

TES Cymru is proud to announce it is the lead sponsor of the 2008 New Directions Education Inspirational Teacher Awards.

It is the fourth year that excellent headteachers, teachers and support staff will be recognised for their sterling work in schools and classrooms, courtesy of Wales's leading recruitment agency and the charity Help a South Wales Child.

This year the event promises to be even bigger and better, with nominations welcomed from across Wales, more categories and added prestige. The ceremony will move from its usual lunchtime slot to become an evening black-tie bash at Cardiff's Holland House Hotel on July 4.

Do you know a colleague who deserves to take a walk up the red carpet? For nomination forms, see www.tes.co.ukinspire

Pictured above is Peter Philips, last year's inspirational secondary headteacher award-winner.

Photograph: Roger Donovan.

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