Ofsted Press Release on young people not being sufficiently challenged in ICT lessons

December 14, 2011

“A report published today by Ofsted has found that achievement in information, communication and technology (ICT) was inadequate in almost a fifth of the secondary schools visited. Inspectors found that how well pupils did in secondary schools was adversely affected by the lack of challenge for more able students and poor coverage of key aspects of the ICT curriculum.

The report, ICT in schools 2008-11, found that although ICT was good or outstanding in over two thirds of primary schools visited, the position was less positive for secondary schools with just over a third of the secondary schools in the survey judged good or outstanding.

The report draws on evidence from the inspection of ICT in 167 primary, secondary and special schools between 2008 and 2011. The ICT curriculum and qualification routes provided by nearly half of the secondary schools surveyed were not meeting the needs of all students, which reinforces concerns raised in Ofsted’s previous ICT report.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Miriam Rosen, said:

“In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, young people need to be given the opportunity to learn ICT skills in an interesting, challenging and relevant way.

“Schools should provide a range of ICT courses that are suitably matched to students’ needs, support them with their learning and prepare them for higher education and for skilled work in a technological age.”

In 30 of the 74 secondary schools visited, nearly half of students reached the age of 16 without adequate foundation for further study or training in ICT and related subjects.

The numbers studying GCSE ICT have dropped since 2007. This year 31,800 students attempted the examination compared with 81,100 in 2007 – a reduction of 64 per cent. There has also been a reduction in the number of entries at A level ICT.

In contrast, there has been a considerable increase in the number of student completing vocational awards in ICT – 212,900 students completed OCR Nationals, a popular suite of vocational qualifications, compared with 58,900 in 2008.

Despite the fact girls perform better than boys in ICT, fewer girls chose to study the subject in Key Stage 4 and beyond. The report recommends that schools encourage girls to continue studying ICT beyond the ages of 14 and 16 by engaging with local IT businesses to bring the subject alive and provide a fuller understanding of ICT-related career options.

The teaching of ICT was outstanding in three of the secondary schools visited and good in 32, but it was no better than satisfactory in just over half. Where teaching was no better than satisfactory, the use of assessment to track pupils’ progress was poor, which led to teachers and pupils lacking an understanding of current performance and what was needed to improve. It also meant that sometimes students repeated work from previous years.

In both primary and secondary schools there were weaknesses in teaching more demanding topics such as databases and programming, highlighting the need for schools to provide subject-specific support and professional development to improve teachers’ confidence and expertise.

When teaching was good or outstanding, lessons were well planned with a variety of activities that were differentiated to meet individual students’ needs, and students were clear about their own current level and what they needed to do to improve.”

Notes to editors

  1. The report ICT in schools 2008-11 can be found on the Ofsted website at www.ofsted.gov.uk
  2. The previous ICT report ‘The importance of ICT: information and communication technology in primary and secondary schools, 2005/2008, can be found at the following link: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/importance-of-ict-information-and-communication-technology-primary-and-secondary-schools-20052008
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection. 


Action research for teachers measuring the impact of ICT

May 5, 2011

This paper is based on the guidelines available from the Becta site (www.becta.org.uk). It provides an extremely useful tool for people about to undertake Action Research. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a basic framework for reflection on classroom practice, most especially to enable study of the impact of ICT on teaching and learning. The guidelines are intended to support teachers at the planning stages of action research in the classroom. Using a structured format can enable research outcomes and findings to be shared, and can provide a research basis for subsequent planned change.

What do I need to consider to undertake action research?
Action research follows a cyclical process, and only the first cycle can be planned in advance. Thereafter, the next action research cycles depend on the evaluation phase at the end of previous cycles. Action research is often collaborative, involving planning with a colleague or colleagues. Action researchers may have a `critical friend’ or research facilitator working with them. Below is a suggested structure to help you plan and organise your research.
Keep a research journal
It is a good idea to keep a research journal, in which you can accumulate information about the progress of your work. Your journal should contain contextual information, field notes, ideas, dates, and any seemingly minor details which you feel are best recorded. They may well turn out to be important, and it is often hard to recall these things after time has elapsed.
Plan your research
Before you undertake your research, consider the following structure for planning the various stages of your research.
Title of the research project.
Outline of the study in 100 words.
Clarify the start and completion dates for the study and specify milestones in the research. Meeting times and dates can also be recorded. The timeline may well be altered as the research progresses, with the archived timelines acting as part
of your research journal data.
Contacts list
Ensure that contact details of everyone involved in the study are accessible to all. Each person on the contact list, including administrators, should have a paper copy of this document, and one person should have responsibility for updating it regularly. A `Who has Responsibility’ section can help to ensure that everyone is aware of their own role and those of other colleagues.

Research and learning
Specify how the research links into the curriculum and record some of the pre- conditions of the study. This stage of the planning records information about the `value added’ expected of the ICT employed in the research. Include a brief
description of the nature of the activity to be undertaken by teachers and learners, its intended outcomes and any anticipated difficulties.

Field notes record sheet
Standardise the recording of contextual events as the study progresses. Completed sheets can become part of the research journal and provide a basis for discussion at meetings.
Establish the purpose of the research
Key questions to ask are:
1. What is the principal aim of the research?
2. What do you envisage as the potential benefits of the research? – for teaching and learning, – for individual pupils, –
3. for your own professional development, – for the school?
4. How might the research contribute to our general understanding about the process of teaching and learning?
Formulate questions for your proposed research
It is a good idea to summarise your proposed research as a question or a short set of questions. Your research question or questions should be well focused, for example to reflect a particular issue which has arisen as part of teaching and
learning in your classroom. You might wish to research the effects of change using new hardware, software, or classroom management. Whatever the topic, formulate it as one or more questions requiring answers.
Specify the background to the project
Provide an understanding of the cultural context of the study school(s) and partner organisations. Include any conditions which you consider may affect the outcomes of change. Background information can cover:
1. the whole-school context – type of school – number of pupils on roll – number of staff – ICT provision – other relevant information.
2. the classroom context – physical characteristics of the classroom (including ICT provision) – class profile, including:
– age range – number – strengths – pupils on SEN register – other relevant information – classroom support.
3. the personal context – How did you become involved in the research project? – Why is this research important to you at this point in your career?
4. other factors.
Have you obtained consent to undertake research? Record the response of your discussion of the research with the headteacher, senior management, governors, other colleagues and pupils.
Can you ensure that confidentiality is protected, if required? How?
Some ethical rules for school-based research:
1. Ensure that the research you propose is viable, that adequate research design has been established, and that appropriate data-collection techniques are chosen.
2. Explain as clearly as possible the aims, objectives, and methods of the research to everyone involved.
3. If using confidential documents, ensure that anonymity is maintained by eliminating any kind of material or information that could lead others to identify the subject or subjects. Pupils’ identities should not be revealed in web material published as a result of the research.
4. Ensure that you have permission from all involved before publication of any or part of the research.
5. You should be aware of the possible uses of the research findings.
6. Research should not ultimately disadvantage any group of pupils.
7. Data should be stored securely and destroyed within 18 months of the end of the study.
8. If there is joint or collaborative research, all researchers must adhere to the same set of ethical principles.
(Adapted from Hitchcock, G and Hughes, D 1989. Research and the Teacher . London: Routledge. p 201)

Setting up the research: some decisions
Before undertaking research, decide on the method of data collection, and why.
1. What data will you collect?
2. Who will you collect data from?
3. In what form will data be collected?
4. How will recording of data take place? Consider the suitability (or otherwise) of a range of research methods.
For example:
• qualitative data – case study – interview – questionnaire – documentary evidence – observation journal
• quantitative data – What will be measured? – How will data be collected? * analysis – How will data be analysed? –
At what points will analysis be undertaken?

Running the study
This checklist can help to ensure that the study is well organised before you pilot or run the research. Have you:
• obtained consent for the study?
• booked computers / ICT / computer suite?
• checked that electrical / ICT equipment is in working order?
• obtained supplies of consumables (for example, tapes)?
• checked that you are familiar with any software or hardware?
• checked that you can obtain technical support if necessary?
• produced and tested your data-collection instruments?
• kept a record of the contextual conditions existing before the study?
• checked that your study is integrated into the school’s planning?
• checked that your pupils understand your aims for the research?
• checked your own and your pupils’ aims for their learning?
• organised classroom support if necessary?
• checked that everyone involved has a timetable for the study?
• checked that everyone involved has contact details for one another?
• ensured that there is a clear storage and retrieval system for data collected?
• built time for analysis, reflection and discussion into the research timetable?
• organised a definite start and end point for data collection?
• decided who will write up the study?
• decided who will read and comment on drafts of findings?
• found a way to disseminate your findings?
• started a research journal which must be continually updated?
• set up a way to record questions which arise during the study?

Reporting your findings
The structure, content, word length and style of presentation of your findings will depend on your intended audience. For example, papers for journals or articles for magazines will be presented in a different format from book chapters or a research report. It is important to look carefully at existing publications of the kind you are trying to write, to gauge such features as the style, length, and format for your writing. The following structure outlines the presentation of a research study and its findings. The abstract may well be the last section to be written. Material for sections 2 to 6 and 10 to 12 can be collected throughout the study. For information on good practice in educational research writing see:


structure for a research report
1. Abstract
2. Background / introduction / context for the research
3. Review of relevant literature
4. Research methods
5. Findings
6. Analysis
7. Discussion
8. Conclusions
9. Summary and new directions
10. References
11. Glossary
12. Appendix

Finding the relevant literature
What existing work, including articles on research methods, relates to, or informs your study?
Compile an annotated biography of books, book chapters, articles and papers, with quotations, including page numbers.
Compile an annotated list of relevant web addresses with dates. Links provided here can help you to find relevant work:
• BUBL http://bubl.ac.uk/link/ contains a thorough list of links to journals and research for specific subjects.
• Educati on-line http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/ has a directory of papers and research.
• Educational Action Research http://www.triangle.co.uk/ a publication on action research.
• PINAKES http://www.hw.ac.uk/libWWW/irn/pinakes/pinakes.html a portal to subject-specific academic research directories.
• Social Sciences Information Gateway http://www.sosig.ac.uk/education/ .
• Teachernet http://www.teachernet.gov.uk – the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) portal for teacher information.
• T for T: Action Research by Teachers for Teachers .
• TTA: Teacher Training Agency Research pages http://www.canteach.gov.uk/research/ .
• UK Higher Education & Research Libraries http://www.ex.ac.uk/library/uklibs.html .

Other sources of information
• Becta Becta Research Area http://www.becta.org.uk/research contains information on Becta’s research activities,
• Teacher Resource Exchange http://contribute.bit10.net/ teachers can submit their ideas for ICT use, and develop ideas to become full resources for use in classrooms.
• Teachers Online Project http://top.ngfl.gov.uk/ a discussion forum, where teachers can exchange views and join in collaborative projects. There is a monthly newsletter on ICT in education.
• Virtual Teacher Centre (VTC) http://vtc.ngfl.gov.uk/ links to ICT in practice across the curriculum, as well as news and updates for teachers.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

February 18, 2011

So, if the ICT world is being turned upside down with the demise of Becta and mass local authority redundancies in the area of ICT support, then where does this leave us? Stephen Heppell has spoken of a new, bottom-up world where innovation and change will increase at a local level. This may be just an evolutionary reflection of the digital technological world itself. We are seeing the demise of over-inflated, top-down, bloated operating systems and applications and instead an increasing appetite for connectivity, bandwidth, browser-based applications, mobility, personalisation and multimedia. So, if we are moving towards a more democratised, chaotic, imperfect, connected and edgy world of ICT in education, then who will be the gatekeepers? The local authorities? Teachers? Heads? The ICT industry? The children?

The genie is out of the bottle and there is no going back. The gatekeepers have gone. It is now all down to educating the children, the teachers and the parents. But isn’t that what schools are all about? And this time, we are all going to have to learn together. It could be the worst of times and the best of times.


Googling through the Research

January 23, 2011

I had the privilege for the past two days of running a seminar on educational research for our Master’s level teacher leader programme at Sheffield Hallam University. During the seminar we talked about the eclectic methodologies one can use when evaluating data. The discussion inevitably turned towards the tension that sometimes exists between qualitative and quantitative methodologies and the unhelpful binary that this sometimes creates. We also examined some of the free tools that are available to both the professional and the occasional researcher, and between us we uncovered a rich mine of easily accessible tools. Without meaning to sound like a Google zealot, the Google suite offers a range of helpful applications in this field. Google Scholar is a great alternative to the sometimes unwieldy online university library resources, offering access to many online journal articles. Narrow you search by include the metatag ‘pdf’ in the search criteria. Google Docs has a powerful spreadsheet that offers the facility to create simple aggregated statistics. For the analysis of qualitative data, free applications such as Weft QDA (Qualitative Data Analysis) can help with thematic analysis of text based data and the mighty and majestic Wordle.net creates word clouds based on text files that not only analyse but present data in an attractive and readable form. For online surveys and questionnaires, both zoomerang and survey monkey are good applications that allow data to be collected quickly and efficiently online. I wish I was doing my Master’s now. Back in 1984 I used a manual typewriter and spent an eye-watering amount of money on a scientific calculator that proved to be totally counter-intuitive and ill-suited to the purpose for which I bought it. The tools available now offer huge affordances to the teacher researcher. I can hardly wait to read the research reports from the people doing our teacher leader programme.

“Daddy, what’s a laptop?”

December 31, 2010

By accidental stealth, our house has become infiltrated by technology produced by that vegetative symbol for original sin.  Almost without us realising it, the i-listen, i-natter, i-browse and i-fiddle have grafted themselves onto our lives. This is not to imply that we owe an allgegiance to the fruity purveyors  of these devices. We do not walk around wearing wholesome black and white t-shirts tucked into Harry Highpants faux casual designer jeans and sporting goofy, white, Stepford smiles. We do also possess the more suburban, double-glazed metaphors of everyday computing.

Like most of you, I have possessed an i-listen for years. Ubiquitously, I am plugged in to avoid bordeom/thinking/talking/socialising/working. I am a bit like that. The i-natter I “need” for my employment (as if no other, cheaper device would suffice). The i-fiddle was a present for my wife so that she could more conveniently feed her addiction to FarmTown, and the i-browse was a freebie for a conference I have no intention of attending. Auntie also has an i-fiddle to replace  her recently deceased PDA that has given her faithful service since 1853.

On Boxing Day, our 4-year old twins discovered FaceWasteoftime and spent some hilarious moments using the devices as walkie talkies until they were standing so close, the bouncing echoes made them sound like early Radiohead. Something interesting happens when a little person picks up an i-thing. The kinaesthetic connection of the child to the device is arguably the most natural interface I have ever seen between a human and ICT.

Double-glazed technology is only tolerated by them because of the Cbabies website’s reliance on Phlash. Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 infinitely prefer the liquid elegance of the handheld devices lending themselves far more to independent and collaborative learning. It is the grown-ups and their modernist institutions who see the technology as being rooted in the architecture and fabric of buildings rather than being connected to the inquisitiveness and creativity of individuals.

I’m afraid that our educational ICT taxonomies need a radical makeover. Thing 1 and Thing 2 see the digital world through different lenses.

Happy Christmas

December 22, 2010

Happy Christmas, bloggers.  In January 2011 I am speaking at the IC4E conference in Mumbai, the BETT show in London and  the IAPS conference in Surbiton as well as helping deliver the ICT module of the MA in Educational Leadership and Innovation at Warwick University and the Teacher Leader programme at Sheffield Hallam University. If the snow doesn’t slow us down I might catch some of you around the traps.

All the best for 2011.

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