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