By Maureen McTaggart
The London Grid for Learning and its consortium of local authorities is one of the largest education networks in the world. But giving schools the whole gamut of digital technology services is not the complete vision, according to Brian Durrant, LGfL’s chief executive. The ultimate key for London, he says, is school leadership.
“It’s actually about us taking a step back and asking what it would take to make London the world exemplar city for the effective use of new technologies in teaching and learning,” he says. “Also what are the necessary and sufficient conditions to actually bring about the transformation of learning through ICT and a positive impact on attainment?”
While not putting aside the obvious things like first-rate training for teachers that looks at pedagogy as well as functional skills and great resources, Brian Durrant says some of the less obvious things are absolutely necessary. He is talking about the power that school leaders have and can use to bring about the transformation of learning.
So using what he describes as, “a little bit of initial funding from the DCSF”, and working with a team of “real crème de la crème professionals”, LGfL has developed a new course for school leaders – "Next Generation Learning – Digital Technology and Institutional Change". With a strong mission to ensure that school leaders really get to grips with next generation learning, the digital technology and the necessary institutional changes, it made its debut in early June.
Although the two and a half day support programme is designed to help senior leadership teams improve and develop skills to further raise standards in teaching and learning, it is not about ICT skills. It is about ICT strategy and an opportunity for staff to work together to support the implementation of the LGfL's emerging managed learning environment (MLE). It is a natural progression form the SLICT course (Strategic Leadership for ICT) that was formerly available from the National College and Becta.
“The influence of school leaders is so prevailing in each individual school that headteachers, deputy headteachers and senior management teams, have to actually be really understand what the contribution of new technology to learning is," adds Brian Durrant, "and what are the most effective ways of practically implementing that and bringing about that change.”
If leaders aren't sold on ICT, it will be 'domain of the enthusiast'
He warns that if leaders aren’t sold on that contribution, it just isn’t going to happen. Instead everything else LGFL does, such as spending millions of pounds of public funds putting ICT resources into schools, is in danger of not being fully exploited, and even marginalised.
If that happens, ICT "will be the domain of the enthusiast, the individual teachers who, of their own volition have picked up ICT teaching opportunities and put them into practice themselves in their little corner".
All schools are eligible to take part in the heavily subsidised course (£150 per delegate), which are facilitated by an experienced external consultant working with local authority ICT advisers and supported by LGFL curriculum consultants where necessary. Already 90 delegates from 50 schools have attended the programme and reports so far are positive.
According to LGfL's strategic leadership group, which is responsible for developing the programme, two years on from SLICT, which gave school leaders from different schools the opportunity to work together, current headteacher candidates were eager to update their skills. With "Next Generation Learning – Digital Technology and Institutional Change", the LGfL says their needs are being met and that the readily updated programme will "prepare for the institutional change that is needed if schools are to successfully embed ICT across the fullest range of school activities". "The main goal of this work is to further enhance the quality of teaching and learning in London schools and to encourage as many schools".
Overcoming the initial challenges of getting every school connected to broadband, building the network and making the internet safe and secure for learners has been a notable achievement for the LGfL. But a bigger challenge is the onward march - which began four years ago - to achieve the required quantum change in teaching and learning. That requires a change in school culture and this is a national issue if the UK will ultimately achieve value for money for the huge investment in schools ICT.
Contact Leeanne O'Connor at LGfL