After an 18-month hiatus, ICT is back up the agenda and school leaders are already on the move
The end to the post-election silence on ICT for learning and teaching in English schools, signalled by education secretary Michael Gove’s speech at London’s BETT Show in January, is being followed by the first green shoots of fresh ICT leadership on the post-Becta landscape.
Teaching schools, a key element in government education policy, today (March 2) get their own support organisation for ICT, the New Technologies Advisory Board (NTAB).
The NTAB’s inaugural meeting is being hosted by one of the first teaching schools, Sheffield’s Notre Dame High, at the National College headquarters in Nottingham. Educators from teaching schools and government agencies, are getting together with industry players and other interested parties to develop the role of the NTAB.
Representatives from the Department for Education, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (the Teaching Agency from April), the Vital teacher professional development programme, higher education and the headteacher unions support this new teaching schools pressure group that will report to the Government on how teaching schools can improve the teaching of ICT from basic digital literacy to high-level computer science. The National College is a supporter along with the advisers’ organisation NAACE, the British Computer Society and the technology industry (including Google, Intel, Microsoft and Toshiba) is also on board, along with Lord Jim Knight, the former Labour schools minister who is also a consultant for Apple.
'We hope to give wings to new ideas'
A driving force behind the scheme is Paul Haigh, the dynamic teacher and technology expert who is director of the Hallam Teaching Schools Alliance which is based at Notre Dame High. Describing his role as “voluntary instigator and strategist” for the NTAB, Paul Haigh said the work done so far has been largely informal – his teaching school is a lead for ICT – but the nascent organisation is prepared to build a formal offering along with extended capacity as and when required.
“We hope to bring together advice and support that is already out there but give simple and easy access to it by sharing it through the growing teaching school network,” he explained. “And we hope to give wings to new ideas around supporting schools with new technology and step in where other agencies have left a void after they have contracted or been shut down – everything from national support like Becta and local support like local authorities shrinking in an academy system.”
Priorities for the new body are two fold: helping schools implement computing across the curriculum; helping them make better use of technology in all aspects of a successful 21st century school, be that technology in the classroom, helping students work out of school or the efficient and innovative running of schools as organisations.
There are several key markets for support:
- trainee teachers acquiring the skills to become 21st century teachers;
- CPD to help the existing workforce develop;
- leadership development to help headteachers understand how new technology should have changed the schools they are leading and how they can make this happen;
- supporting schools with advice on what good technical support in schools should look like;
- helping schools come together in ‘families’ to share strategy such as on managing ICT, CPD and purchasing.
'Best use of up-to-date technologies for teaching and learning'
The inaugural session of the NTAB will be chaired by Bob Harrison, a National College veteran and education adviser for Toshiba. He said that key themes for discussion would be supporting teaching schools in making sure the new generation of teachers make the best use of up-to-date technologies for teaching and learning and school effectiveness, and how they can provide learners transparent access to:
- appropriate technology-enhanced learning right across the curriculum;
- a rounded understanding of digital literacy;
- clear, sensible routes to more applied uses of technology if required, especially for technical skills needed by technicians in the technology industry, and computer science courses for those wanting to go into industry as programmers and designers.
"Teaching schools are a really exciting opportunity to ensure that our next generation of teachers will have the right capabilities and confidence to ensure pupils learn effectively with new and emerging digital technologies,” said Bob Harrison. “My grandchildren will leave school in 2028 so I am delighted to have been invited by the teaching schools involved to chair the first meeting of the New Technologies Advisory Board to provide advice and support to teaching schools who will educate and train their teachers.
“Teaching schools are a fantastic opportunity to prepare teachers to use technology to improve learning, but it is not just about creating computer scientists as some recent press coverage suggests. It is about supporting all pupils in all curriculum areas as well as ensuring they are "digitally literate" and have transparent and stimulating routes to qualifications that will earn them key roles in the industry, whether they are experts in ICT support and provision or whether they want to be programmers and software engineers.”
Paul Haigh, already well known for his purposeful and creative management of ICT at Notre Dame High (it was the only school allowed to opt out of an ICT managed service under the Building Schools for the Future programme), is buoyant about the potential. “It is a very exciting time for new technology in schools,” he said.
“Michael Gove has offered schools the freedom to make much better use of new technology and develop a new curriculum in a way that suits each individual school. We want to ensure schools don’t find this freedom daunting and can capitalise on it to improve themselves by aligning it to the new support teaching schools are offering the system, and through harnessing the support the IT industry wants to offer schools."
Hallam Teaching School Alliance
Paul Haigh’s blog
Paul Haigh’s Guardian article about becoming a teaching school
British Computer Society
Training and Development Agency for Schools
Michael Gove’s BETT speech