More than pound;1 billion spent on ICT in education and what is there to show for it? Precious little, says Jack Kenny, who went along on a teamSLICT pilot course to find out how headteachers and senior staff can get involved in using ICT to transform their schools
There is no doubt that SLICT (Strategic Leadership in ICT), or something very like it, is absolutely necessary. Because this is the problem we face: the Government has spent more than pound;1 billion on ICT in education but has precious little to show for it.
An Ofsted national survey reported that ICT is an area for development in 80 per cent of schools. ICT has not even begun to transform the majority of our schools. The snappily named free training project, ESTUICT (Enhancing Subject Teaching Using ICT) has underwhelmed most schools and they showed their interest by almost completely ignoring it.
One of the many failings of the New Opportunities Fund training scheme run by the Teacher Training Agency, and certainly the most glaring, was that headteachers were excluded from the scheme. This was strange, because it is widely believed that a key factor for success in embedding ICT in a school is the active, wholehearted participation of the headteacher and the senior management team.
To deal with that omission, SLICT training was created by the National College for School Leadership (NCLSL) and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta). The scheme has been successful and now it is being extended to secondary teachers under the title of teamSLICT, and the Specialist Schools Trust has joined the original partners.
The purpose is to give leadership teams the means to embed ICT throughout schools and to show the importance of clear strategies for implementing ICT. A series of courses will be run across the country. I attended one that was part of the pilot; 30 teachers from eight schools arrived at the splendid but sprawling training centre in Milton Keynes for the two-day course. Not all had senior positions; one school sent along a newly qualified teacher.
At the start, Tony Parkin, of the Specialist Schools Trust, relayed a comment he had heard: "ICT makes your life easier - except in teaching." At the end of the two days that view had not been dented but participants could see more clearly the changes required in their schools and how they could start making ICT easier to use.
Initially they were asked for their aspirations and these were posted around the room: financing future developments; embedding ICT across the whole school; how to simulate innovation in teaching and learning; finding out more about self-paced learning with ICT as the motivator. One group wanted to see examples of innovative practice "that will make us go 'Wow!'"
Most of the first day was taken up with teachers assessing ICT developments in their school and identifying areas of strength and weakness. They were invited to consider the strategy for the future of their schools and to discuss what barriers are already there and what is there to enable it to happen. Some of the most stimulating discussions took place in groups from different schools where teachers could share experiences.
"What does good ICT look like?" was the question for the second day. For most people the first part of day two was the highlight. Two Milton Keynes schools, Walton High and Shenley Brook End, hosted 15 teachers each. For the teachers it was an opportunity to compare the school's progress with their own school, to probe the school's strategy for ICT and to see what it looked like in the classrooms. Neither school claimed to be leading edge, but everyone on the course appreciated the opportunity to visit lessons and hear the school's ideas. After the visits, the discussions, both formal and informal, were probably the liveliest and most meaningful of the course.
"The main thing about the course was being able to sit and brainstorm with my colleagues without worrying about time," said one teacher. Most agreed with that and also valued the opportunity to talk with people from other schools and swap ideas.
Criticisms, and there were only a few, were that the course was too abstract and that some would prefer to see some real examples of practice that has moved forward. "What does personalisation look like?" "How do you enthuse all staff?"
The questions were not left hanging, because the course didn't finish in Milton Keynes. Everyone who took part is plugged in to the NCSL communities so that the talking can continue on line. Eventually they will all meet at NCSL in Nottingham to report on their successes and experiences and what they have managed to achieve. Hopefully some will be able to see how they can make their staff and, more importantly, their students, go "Wow".
* The NCSL Learning Gateway provides access to the online parts of NCSL programmes, including the Leadership Programmes
* Talk2Learn is NCSL's online environment for school leaders, open to all members
* Cost: the pilot programme is substantially subsidised and the participant contribution is pound;1,000 per school team of three or four members. Schools can opt to use Standards Fund 31a or their Leadership Incentive Grant to fund participation in this pilot programme. The full cost of the pilot programme is pound;1,000 per person for non-state-funded schools.
* The teamSLICT programme will be released nationally.
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