Pupils not being sufficiently challenged in ICT lessons


A new report published 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 is based on 74 visits to secondary schools and focused on the achievement, the teaching and learning, the quality of the curriculum and leadership and management.

 The inspectorate said the key components of good or outstanding teaching included key terminology being introduced in lessons and questioning being used to deepen understanding rather than just to check knowledge.

 The report said the number of students studying the subject at key stage 4 has fallen by more than 60 per cent in four years. In 2011, 31,800 students attempted the GCSE in ICT, but in 2007, 81,100 had done so.

 Despite this a higher percentage of students are achieving at least a C grade – 78 per cent did so this year, an increase of 14 per cent from 2007.

 However the report said achievement in 6th forms is highly variable and some vocational courses do not prepare students for advanced study.

 The report said: “Achievement in the 6th forms was highly variable, with students in a small number of schools achieving outstanding results in AS and A level but many other students underachieving against their targets and the A-level grades required for entry to university courses in IT and in computing.

“The steep gradient from the requirements of particular vocational qualifications in key stage 4 to the demands of advanced study was often cited by staff and students as a contributory factor to disappointing achievement.”
Ofsted also said where achievement was weaker there was too much whole-class teaching targeting the “average student’s pace and capacity”.

The subject is compulsory for all students to study until they are 16 and education secretary, Michael Gove, has previously said the subject is crucial to increasing standards.

 However, Ofsted said in schools where achievement in ICT was judged as inadequate, as many as half of the students were not receiving lessons in key stage 4.

 Miriam Rosen, chief inspector, 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.”

Shadow education minister, Stephen Twigg, said the subject is often “little more than a glorified typing course” in some schools.

He added: “The fact that the overall effectiveness of ICT teaching is only satisfactory or poor in nearly two thirds of all secondary schools in England is not good enough. We need far more rigour in ICT teaching, with higher quality training, higher standards and continual assessment of what pupils are being taught.”

Schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: “Too many young people are not being equipped with the skills and knowledge they need for further study and the workplace. It’s clear that ICT teaching is far too patchy – with outstanding work in some areas but real weaknesses in the quality of courses, curriculum and teacher training in others.”

Liz Wilkins, Senior Marketing Manager for Adobe Education UK, said: " This Ofsted report highlights the knock on effect that lack of investment in teacher training in the use of digital tools at secondary level will have on the employability of our teenagers in the years to come.

"With University fees set to increase, more students may choose to go straight into employment after completing their secondary education. But there is a question mark over how many of them will have the necessary skills to meet the demands of the workplace. The pressure is on for schools to equip students with skills that will give them the edge over other job seekers."

Adobe’s own research reveals that more than a third (35%) of teachers feel they need more training and support in order to be able to use technology effectively in their classes.

The Ofsted report recommends that schools should:

  • improve the use of assessment of pupils’ progress in ICT, ensuring that pupils know how well they are doing and what they should do to move on to the next level.
  • ensure that pupils receive their complete entitlement to all areas of the ICT curriculum and that the ICT curriculum is engaging and relevant to pupils’ needs within and beyond the classroom.
  • provide subject-specific support and professional development to improve teachers’ confidence and expertise, enabling them to teach ICT more effectively.
  • evaluate the costs and benefits of establishing collaborative specialist services for ICT commissioning and procurement
  • continue to make e-safety a priority in the curriculum, in staff training and in support for parents.
  • provide a range of ICT courses in Key Stage 4 that are suitably matched to students’ needs and relevant to a life of continuing education, training or employment in a technological age.
  • build into Key Stage 4 programmes opportunities for students to engage with IT use in business.
  • ensure that girls are encouraged to continue studying ICT beyond the ages of 14 and 16.
  • ensure that all students are able to benefit from the use of appropriate ICT
    tools and applications across all subjects.
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