Ofsted lambasts school ICT as youth unemployment hits record high

A report published by Ofsted, ‘ICT in schools 2008-11’ has found that achievement in information, communication and technology (ICT) was inadequate in almost a fifth of the secondary schools visited. They drew attention to the low...

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A report published by Ofsted, ‘ICT in schools 2008-11’ has found that achievement in information, communication and technology (ICT) was inadequate in almost a fifth of the secondary schools visited.

They drew attention to the low skill levels of many ICT teachers particularly in the ability to code and the low levels of challenge for ICT students. Ofsted said a curriculum change was needed and should be in place by 2014.

We all knew this to be the case of course. One of the reasons I suspect that Edugeek’s members get so cross with me (apart from the fact I can be an arse) is that so often in their schools the ICT teacher who gets paid more than them is a technical ignoramus.

Many indeed do not regard them as being computer literate at all ... and they would be right. If we want ICT taught properly I suspect the only way is if the technicians (who do know a bit about ICT), step into the breach. So there you go Edugeek, your jobs are saved if you boot out the useless teachers and employ your technical skills educating the young.

However, to put school ICT into context let’s look at the root cause of its present state. The BETT show. BETT is the showcase trade-show for British Schools’ ICT and will be at Olympia as usual in January. Entrance is free and over 600 exhibitors will be there. BETT more than anything else introduced the world of education to Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Let’s see what is selling in 2012.

Using BETT’s search engine and typing in the following (using various combinations and inverted commas): open source, epub, e books, coding, programming. I found only two suppliers of Open Source software (one of which is Moodle), five that had programming for robotics, one that promoted e-books and none that had products designed to introduce children to coding.

On the other hand searching for say ‘projectors and interactive whiteboards’ I got 32 returns and for MIS ( Management Information System), tracking and recording I got 98 returns. So getting carried away, I tried ‘Cloud’, ‘SaaS’, ‘VLE’, ‘LP’ (virtual learning environments) and got 24 for Cloud/SaaS, and 88 for VLE/LP. I carried on for, oh at least ten minutes, and here’s what I found.

In descending order:

  • MIS Administration Database software 16%.
  • VLE/LP software 15%
  • Assessment Software 8.7%
  • E-learning/exams 6%
  • IWBs (Interactive Whiteboards) hardware and software 5.3%
  • Cloud services 4%
  • E-books ( e-readers and publications) 1.6%
  • Robotics 0.8%,
  • Free Software 0.33%,
  • Coding 0%

Make of the list what you will.

Of course, this is a trade show and there is a clue in the name, vendors go there to sell stuff to education at a profit. I have been three times myself as a vendor and nearly once made a profit.

It is then obvious that the goods and services that are profitable will dominate the stalls. You can see from the list that bureaucratic ‘tools’ dominate ... so no surprise there then.

Things that might benefit the education of our children ( according to Oftsted ) such as E-book ( epub?), Free Software and Coding barely get a look in for the obvious reason that there is no money in it.

But hang on a minute.

The overwhelming proportion of money spent at a BETT show is from state-funded schools. It’s therefore public money and as such the public has a right to expect it to be spent in the interests of their children. Only it’s not, if the vendors who have voted with their expensive stands are to be believed, 45%, by far the largest proportion is spent on administration and assessment ...the very things we could do with less of.

So Ofsted, Mr Gove et al ... if you want to improve ICT education and change what happens in schools... put the techies into the classroom, get shot of the ICT teachers whose only pride is how to add a signature to Outlook and ban the lot from going to trade shows with our money.

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