Lewisham was one of the few authorities to come out of the report unscathed. And it has its ICT strategist Gill Deadman to thank for that
To be highlighted in an Ofsted report is quite an achievement. And Gill Deadman, responsible for ICT and National Grid For Learning (NGFL) strategy in the south London borough of Lewisham, is clear about the reasons for success. Softly spoken, Gill is not likely to antagonise anyone - that is probably as much a reason for her success as her modesty and persistence.
She stresses the holistic approach, the corporate strategy. "We have a mayor who is positive about ICT," she says. "We had an assistant director, Lela Kogbara, who led on the strategy and she brought together all the elements: libraries, community, corporate IT. The strategy was written by Belle Associates, who didn't just bring in a pre-written document they talked to everyone. The eventual document, now on our website, was based on everyone's understanding."
Deadman was responsible for project managing 94 schools; 13 secondary, 72 primary and nine specials. Her approach grew out of partnership with schools, letting them make decisions about purchasing. The rollout of NGFL was 25 per cent of schools per year over four years. A range of technical providers was evaluated but schools made the decision about which to buy into. "We didn't use a Window Box (a PC ready-loaded with programs)," she said, "as we wanted people to know how software gets on to a machine and how you manage it. We wanted them to do it themselves in future."
Schools were encouraged to have an IT assistant who would focus on managing ICT in schools. Now 90 per cent of technicalproblems are dealt with by assistants or IT technicians. This allows the ICT co-ordinator to focus on teaching and the curriculum.
The creation of materials had been identified as a priority and two terms teachers were seconded for two days a week to develop ICT curriculum materials. There is also a publishing team of teachers who create curriculum materials about integrating ICT; every teacher in the borough receives a copy. There is also a website to help with development and regular newsletters.
A five-day course for ICT co-ordinators was also a success. "Because it is crucial the co-ordinator has the support of the head, we tie the heads in to work with their co-ordinators for a day. The course is all about planning, managing and evaluating the national grid project in their school."
A similar course for classroom assistants. has been running for four years.
Ofsted said schools should trust the LEA and this is aided by open communication. Deadman says: "No funding is allocated unless there is a rationale for it and everyone can see how and why it's being done. The borough has a committee of headteachers who oversee things like the Standards Fund."
An unusual aspect of Lewisham is its role as a training provider, called Talent, because of "concern that schools would not get value for money or that training would not be meaningful. We wanted to create something that would have a longer term impact."
With most LEAs taking flak over their lack of ICT support, Deadman and her policies stand out as a model of good practice. Here's hoping more LEAs follow her example.