The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s welcome review of ICT as a subject “will have a massive impact on the way ICT is taught and thought about in schools over the next decade”, according to Futurelab’s Keri Facer who urges interested parties to respond to the QCA consultation. The QCA is reviewing GCSE ICT along with English and maths, as are the corresponding curriculum bodies in Northern Ireland and Wales.

By Maureen McTaggart

Eton tails

Independent schools have been playing catch-up with state schools in the ICT stakes according to a report from the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa). It reveals that independent schools are recognising the need to invest in ICT with a third of senior schools believing that ICT infrastructure and peripherals are a priority in 2008 compared to 27 per cent of state secondary schools. In preparatory schools the figure is 38 per cent compared to 31 per cent in state primaries.

Hugh John tunes in to Magix Music Maker 15

Music Maker 15What is it with the European software and music technology programs? Reason, Ableton, Cubase. .. and, of course, Berlin-based Magix. All of them companies that have made significant contributions to sound editing, sequencing and recording and all of them, to a greater or lesser degree, overshadowed by software programs from the big US software houses such as Microsoft, Adobe and Apple.

Music Maker 15 is the latest music software package from Magix and at just under £50 offers tremendous value for money. New features in this incarnation include Infobox (program functions explained in detail), Sound Vision (instant visual representation of sound samples being used) and Easy Mode (the most important elements of the program at a glance). Magix has also made it a snip for any aspiring musician or band to publish to the world wide audience also known as the Web. One click will upload music files to the web, specifically, if desired, to that paradise for unpublished bands, YouTube. Additionally you’ll find more than 200 pre-defined instrumental presets and more than 100 sound effect templates that can be introduced into tracks.

A new Becta report on behalf of the government is likely to prove an expensive bombshell for schools. "Good practice in information handling in schools Keeping data secure, safe and legal" is the result of the ICT agency's task to provide schools with security guidance on handling pupil and other school data in the light of serious and highly embarrassing losses of personal data by Government departments and their contractors. Another four Becta reports will follow on: impact levels and labelling; data encryption; audit logging and incident handling; secure remote access.

Allerton High, LeedsBy Maureen McTaggart

What is it about ICT and education? UK businesses like Tesco have transformed themselves through the intelligent use of information and communications technology (ICT). But the latest survey of English schools and their ICT shows that despite the billions of pounds invested, transformation of schools in England is still beyond the horizon.

Despite more ICT going into schools, teachers are still not using new technologies to its full potential, according to an annual survey carried out for the Government’s ICT agency Becta by the National Foundation for Educational Research. And many pupils continue to lose out because they do not have internet access at home.

The "Harnessing Technology Schools 2008 survey", which questioned three target groups (school leaders, ICT co-ordinators and subject teachers), revealed that the average secondary school has 38 interactive whiteboards compared to 22 in 2007 and desktop computer to pupil ratio has risen to 1:4.3.

The take-up for learning platforms by secondary schools has increased by 14 per cent in 2008. And more than half of secondary schools, just over a quarter of primaries and about one third of special schools who haven’t already adopted them, say using learning platforms will be a priority over the coming year. But, despite the increase in the number of schools using learning platforms, the ways in which they use them didn't impress the researchers. They are being used as digital store rooms: "the most common uses for a learning platform were, firstly, as a repository for documents for learning and teaching, and, secondly, as a store for digital resources."

Disappointingly, there is very little evidence of the the widespread and popular Web 2.0 activities like blogging and podcasting finding their way into classrooms. About once a term is the norm for 11 per cent of those surveyed.

The survey also suggests that, while teachers may be slow to adopt and use new technologies they are well aware of potential benefits and the contribution to learning. A substantial majority (three fifths) admit that pupils enjoy lessons more if they use ICT and it was generally agreed across all three groups that ICT plays a positive role in engaging pupils in learning and has an impact on attainment and personalised learning.

Priorities are home-school communication and engaging ICT

The report identified two priority areas for attention - school-family communication and more engaging use of ICT for the curriculum. This is what it said:

  • "There is a need to look further at how technology can be used for developing partnerships between parents and schools. The evidence from the survey suggests that community access to schools’ ICT facilities is still somewhat limited and that, even where technological and virtual forms of communications with parents exist, these tend to be one way and not interactive. The whole area of community–parent–child–teacher–school communication is important, especially in the current context of the Children’s Plan and the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda.
  • "Secondly, there appears to be a need to support and encourage teachers and schools to use technology in ways that are more engaging for learners. Understandably, embedding new technologies takes time, and the simpler technological functions are inevitably used first, but there does seem to be evidence to suggest much potential for the more engaging use of learning platforms, school networks, and devices. Formal training sessions for school staff, greater use of mobile devices and of social software, and more active forms of assessment, for example, may help encourage better learner engagement."

Becta chief executive Stephen Crowne says, "It is clear from this survey that ICT is now firmly on the agenda and schools fully recognise its importance. However, we now need to make that next step and ensure they are using the technology available in an interactive and engaging manner.

“Some schools are using technology to engage more regularly and more effectively with parents, but we need to see all schools take advantage of the opportunities technology can provide and we have taken steps to bridge the ‘digital divide’ and close the gap between those who have and those who do not, bringing the full benefit of ICT to every child.”

More information

The Harnessing Technology Schools Survey 2008 can be downloaded from