The following post is based on research I am working on. Education policy in the UK changes very often depending on the political climate of the day. So the details below are likely to change. In a nutshell, I'm explaining how little guidance there is on education technology policy right now. Is this a good thing? Please let me know what your thoughts and experiences are.
The limited number of policy documents on technology use in circulation is indicative of the guidance that the department of education are willing to offer. Many of the documents related to ICT use or educational technology offered by Ofsted are case study examples of best practice. One such example is of Hull College, and how they made innovative use of video, images, Virtual Learning Environments and QR codes to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Other case studies in the series feature the efforts of Child Minders, County Councils, training and other organisations all using technology in various exemplary ways to increase the effectiveness of their provision. Although, these documents are extremely useful in displaying the different ways that technology can be used, none offer specific guidelines on use.
The only specific guidelines specified by Ofsted in relation to educational technology are to be found in the School Inspection Handbook, where it states that an outstanding teacher should ensure that
“Pupils have an excellent understanding of how to stay safe online and of the dangers of inappropriate use of mobile technology and social networking sites.” (p 51)
And that good teachers ensure that students know how to “prevent misuse of technology” (p52). These two locations are the only mentions of technology use within the handbook.
Another set of guidelines that teachers are required to adhere to would be the Teaching Standards documentation. The 2007 version of the document did include specific standards relating to technology use that were required for gaining Qualified Teacher Status which were:
- Q16 Have passed the professional skills tests in numeracy, literacy and information and communications technology (ICT).
- Q17 Know how to use skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT to support their teaching and wider professional activities.
- Q23 Design opportunities for learners to develop their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills.
and one core skill that all teachers required to gain Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status
- C17 Know how to use skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT to support their teaching and wider professional activities.
The above requirements, along with the requirement to pass an ICT skills test have now been removed from the most recent version of the Teachers’ Standards.
Another related document issued by the DfE discussed the elimination of ICT and replacement with Computing as a subject of study within the national curriculum. Although this is not directly related to this study, it helps to understand the decision making that went behind the policy change and the lack of understanding not just within the department of education, but the teacher population who have now both come to the conclusion that this was not in the best interest of the student population.
The most recent document issued by the DfE discusses the benefits of cloud computing services being embedded into school ICT frameworks. It is described as a non-technical report that aims to “ help schools understand some of the key considerations to make when thinking about moving ICT to cloud-based service provision”.
It’s main points are to explore possible cost saving opportunities, to explain that whole school and staff consultation is important as a one size fits all solution is not possible, and in general inform of the potential benefits of cloud computing. These can be wide ranging but many of which are stated above as being benefits of general educational technology use within teaching and learning:
Opportunities to implement new ways of collaboration and teaching. Staff and teacher time spent printing, filing, and distributing can be better used on more educationally-directed activities that improve student attainment
Greater efficiencies as teachers and staff can easily access documentation anytime, anywhere Cost savings in terms of buying, leasing, and maintaining photocopiers and printers, ink cartridges, paper as well as operator time
Reduction of the number of servers required for hosting (less capital expenditure, lower licensing spend, reduced electricity and cooling costs)
Taking more advantage of “free” or lower-cost cloud software offered by major providers (for example Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365)
Reducing the traditional cost of supporting on-premise ICT across the school
Better provision of “anytime, anywhere, any device” access to teaching resources. (This can be a clear benefit if it results in the dissemination of information and communication becoming more efficient and productive rather than simply increasing the availability of staff to respond.)
The most important documentation put out by the Department of Education regarding ICT use is the ICT in Schools 2008-11 document, which is now 6 years old. The report drew on evidence from the inspection of information and communication technology (ICT) in 167 primary, secondary and special schools between 2008 and 2011. It concentrated more on ICT use and ICT education for students in primary and secondary schools both as a discrete subject and and across the curriculum. The extensive report, highlighted trends, practices and issues among the use of ICT. Those specific to whole school technology use in secondary schools are listed below:
Half of the secondary schools surveyed in which leadership and management of ICT were no better than satisfactory had common weaknesses that included insufficient attention given to progress in ICT across the curriculum and lack of support for staff in teaching more challenging topics.
In secondary schools, inspectors saw very few examples of any evaluation of the impact of training on the effectiveness of teaching or on pupils’ learning.
Commissioning and procuring the right equipment, infrastructure and software were becoming more challenging for the schools visited as their vision for ICT developed. Schools surveyed were engaging pupils, staff, governors and parents in helping to specify needs, but only a few had evaluated the effectiveness of previous investment or developed costed plans for rolling future investment.
All the schools visited ensured that pupils were well informed about the safe use of the internet and were able to use it in a responsible and safe way in school. However, the need for continued vigilance was emphasised by the fact that in discussions with inspectors, pupils frequently raised the issue of the under-age use of social networking sites. Staff training and support for parents need to remain a high priority for schools.
Although not strict policy, the following recommendations were put forward
The Department for Education should:
embed the report’s findings in its review of the National Curriculum
set out clearly the pivotal role of ICT in school improvement and in preparing young people for higher education and for skilled work.
review equivalences in performance measures for schools between vocational coursework-assessed qualifications and more traditional GCSEs and GCEs.
Secondary schools should:
ensure that pupils receive their complete entitlement to all areas of the ICT curriculum and that the ICT curriculum is engaging and relevant to pupils’ needs within and beyond the classroom
provide subject-specific support and professional development to improve teachers’ confidence and expertise, enabling them to teach ICT more effectively
evaluate the costs and benefits of establishing collaborative specialist services for ICT commissioning and procurement
continue to make e-safety a priority in the curriculum, in staff training and in support for parents.
ensure that all students are able to benefit from the use of appropriate ICT tools and applications across all subjects.
Many of the issues highlighted as issues within the report, such as CPD was addressed in previous government programmes. One of which was the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) programme, which ran from April 1999 to December 2003, and aimed to distribute funds from the National Lottery to health, education and environmental projects. Another was the Hands On Support (HoS) programme, which ran from 2004 which was mainly focused on delivering peer-to-peer support provided by ‘credible professionals’. David Morris states that ‘This support was not only customised to meet the needs of individual teachers, but was also tailored to be subject- or phase-specific and delivered in the classroom environment.’ As a result this programme proved to be more successful than the NOF programme. Both of these programmes were discontinued which seems to be the reason that issues arose and were highlighted in the 2011 Ofsted report.
This brings us to our current situation, where it is difficult to disagree with the title of this Blog article entitled ‘The DfE policy on ICT is there is no policy on ICT’.
Not having a policy on ICT is not, in itself, a bad thing. A specific policy being put in place when teachers are competent in their use of educational technology, could be seen as restrictive. It would be similar to educational policy defining a specific style or method of teaching, when in reality, many can be used. However, a majority of teachers are not confident with educational technology, and it would seem that some guidance or research would be needed in order for teachers to benefit fully from the investment that has already been put into their schools.