In 2003, Le Rocquier school had no ICT strategy, no ICT replacement programme, no staff ICT training programme… but by 2007 that had all changed, and ICT is now integral to teaching and learning throughout the school, writes John McGuinness
If we were investing our own money in a high-interest account, we would want to know on a regular basis how this investment was doing, be advised and take the appropriate action to ensure a profitable return. Parents likewise invest in schools via their child and need a return for their investment. One such return is the development of excellent ICT skills that will ensure young people can confidently take their place in an everchanging and technological world. To this end, I strive to create and foster partnerships where we question what we do, how we do it and empower and encourage risktakers to do things differently. This ‘What if’ approach is just one reason why Le Rocquier School is so successful today. The strategic development of ICT embodies the ‘What if?’ culture and what can be achieved in a relatively short timescale. It has helped us to move from rhetoric into reality our goal of creating and acting on a shared vision for ICT to ensure school improvement. As I reflect on the last three-and-a-half years I have taught at the school, I feel very privileged to have worked with so many ‘can do staff’ and ‘risktakers’.
Le Rocquier is a state comprehensive 11–16 secondary school in Jersey, Channel Islands. Students follow the national curriculum and GCSE courses as in the UK. The school intake reflects the full ability range at Key Stage 3, while some of the more able students transfer to a local 14+ school at the end of Year 9. Between 2001 and 2003, the school had seen three headteachers come and go before Richard Rolfe took over as head in June 2003. At this time, staff morale was low and there was a very high staff turnover. It is true to say that in 2003, Le Rocquier had ‘lost its way’ and had a poor reputation in the local community. Strategic leadership and a clear direction were needed. Richard Rolfe established a new leadership team and I joined in January 2004 to take responsibility for the strategic development of key initiatives such as ICT. Le Rocquier School is now heavily over subscribed, staffing is stable, academic success is high and improves year on year, and the school now enjoys a good reputation in the community and across Jersey. In February 2006, the whole school moved into a new ‘state of the art’ school building. Jersey operates a 14+ transfer system, and at Le Rocquier we tend to lose the top 10% of our students to the 14–18 school. Last year, 50% of our students achieved five or more A*–C GCSE grades.
Poles apart: 2003 to 2007
In 2003, the school had no ICT strategy, no ICT replacement programme, no staff ICT training programme, four full suites of aging computers and two half suites providing a ratio of 1:5 computers to student, three multimedia projectors and no interactive whiteboards (IWBs). Expectations from staff and students regarding the use of ICT were very low.
This is in complete contrast to September 2007, where expectations are very high. The school now has:
- 14 ICT suites (one per department) providing a ratio of computers to students of 1: 2.7
- ceiling mounted multimedia projectors in every classroom
- 18 well-used interactive whiteboards
- two sets of interactive voting pads
- a high-tech ICT language lab
- a videoconferencing suite
- two digital photography suites
- optional European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) for all KS4 students
- access to four media channels streamed live across the school network (two variable Sky channels — staff can choose from a menu of channels to transmit at particular times of the day, so for example, in the morning one of the two channels transmitted is likely to be a news one — and two language channels, which transmit live French, German or Spanish programmes).
To support this, we have a comprehensive ICT staff development programme, training allowances, and a planned investment in ICT software (a ringfenced element and entitlement within the school development plan). All of these ICT developments form part of the bigger picture, mission statement and ICT strategy. ICT has moved from being a blurred fuzzy image in the minds of staff into a clearly focused picture full of the necessary fine detail.
Dream it and do it
We began by developing the bigger picture of what we wanted and expected ICT to deliver for staff and students. We realised that it was vital to share this vision with staff so that they became active stakeholders in achieving this bigger picture. Below are the top 10 pointers to our recent success at Le Rocquier.
Key factors for success
1 Create a shared vision, and see the bigger picture 2 Be a leader and develop a ‘can do culture’ 3 Carry out strategic planning 4 Invest in staff 5 Action plan: make it happen 6 Hold people accountable 7 Recognise individuals’ strengths and areas for improvement 8 Be open and honest 9 Seek out and learn from the best practice 10 Network and take managed risks When I joined Le Rocquier in January 2004, the newly appointed headteacher Richard Rolfe had taken part in the strategic leadership of ICT (SLICT) programme. The senior leadership team (SLT) immediately brainstormed ideas of what we wanted and soon came to a consensus agreement on our ICT strategy. It was clear we had a lot of catching up to do in terms of ICT and that Le Rocquier must change, quickly, and that the associated investment in ICT must drive school improvement, impacting positively on teaching and learning. It was one of my jobs to make this happen. So here is how we developed each of those key 10 factors.
Creating a shared vision, the bigger picture
We needed to create a vision for ICT development: a simple statement of intent that created a picture in the minds of others of what is possible. The box below gives the vision statement that we developed. This was created through discussion with the senior leadership team. The head was influenced by his experiences within the SLICT programme. I prepared a consultation document on ICT and invited staff to discuss and comment on this. From this, evolved an initial ICT strategy for the school. This included setting out our priorities for ICT development — see below. At this stage, our aims revolved around auditing where we were at and identifying areas for development.
Whole-school ICT priorities
- Enhance teaching and learning experiences by providing a coherent and consistent and relevant learning experience in ICT
- Improve students’ literacy and ICT skills so that they can fulfil their potential at KS3–KS4
- Develop effective ICT teaching strategies to make lessons both engaging and motivating for the learner — this will in turn result in fewer behaviour problems
- Provide professional development to improve staff skills and capacity in ICT
- Develop effective management and leadership practices
- Achieve effective use of ICT in data analysis, administration and in beating bureaucracy
A key part of our strategy was to invest in ICT leaders. So the ‘ICT leaders programme’ was set up. This involved giving eight staff, who came forward as having an interest in ICT development, a year of support and resources to develop their ICT skills, self-confidence and craft of using ICT in the classroom. During this first year, we reflected on our hopes and aspirations and refined our ICT strategy into a more detailed three-year plan of intent (2005–08).
Developing a ‘can do culture’
Developing an ICT leaders’ programme in 2004–05 was the first piece of a large jigsaw. The aim of identifying eight ICT leaders that met on a regular basis was to empower staff to develop ICT in their own teaching, to promote ICT across the curriculum and invest in those staff that wanted to develop ICT. These staff were provided with training, a new laptop and multimedia projector and encouraged to visit schools leading in good practice in the UK. I arranged for the eight ICT leaders to fly to London to attend the BETT ICT exhibition in 2005 to see the latest in software and hardware. The team of ICT leaders then planned an equivalent Channel Islands BETT exhibition and hosted this at Le Rocquier School inviting teachers from Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. In direct response to those that say things would never change, we used BETT as a launchpad via the ICT leaders to attract the best 40 market leaders in curriculum software to come and exhibit at Le Rocquier School in April 2005. It was an ambitious undertaking, a managed risk and it proved a great success. It showed the staff, local community and other schools across Jersey our statement of intent and that we were taking ICT seriously. ICT leaders felt empowered. In doing so, we had raised the ICT stakes to such a high profile everyone now believed the ICT strategy was indeed a statement of intent. Also, through this, we raised the equivalent of £10,000 in deals and complementary software and equipment that we were given.
In the process of setting up the Channel Island’s BETT exhibition, we established special partnerships with ICT producers Promethean, who specialise in interactive learning technologies, including IWBs (see: www.promethean world.com), and Sanako, who specialise in virtual and digital learning tools, including language labs (see: www.sanako.com).
The ICT strategic plan was launched in September 2005 following consultation with all staff, both teaching and support, who were all given a hard copy. ‘The ICT strategic plan 2005-08 is one of the most important planning documents in the school’. This was how I announced the plan at its launch at the Inset event for all staff. The plan contained a very precise and detailed evaluation of need and a three-year programme of training in ICT, investment in hardware and software. It provided clarity of purpose for all to see. The costs were incorporated and linked explicitly to the school development plan (SDP) and professional development, and staff came to understand that the ICT strategic plan was a blueprint for action. The ICT strategy is a working document that is constantly referred to so that planned developments are implemented and evaluated fully against the agreed success criteria — the plan sets out targets for development for each year.
Investing in staff
Following a successful year of working with eight committed ICT leaders in developing aspects of ICT within their subject area, it was clear that three particular areas needed more direct support. So we identified three separate staff allowances, initially for one year, pending a formal evaluation of impact on teaching and learning:
- interactive whiteboard technology in the classroom
- media- and videostreaming in lessons
- the development of an e-learning portal — a school virtual learning environment (VLE).
To support these three new ICT leaders, we had pre-planned funding within the SDP to provide the necessary additional ICT resources and time to create and train three teams of staff. In all, 24 staff were actively involved in this latest initiative. Every third Tuesday, Le Rocquier traditionally held a ‘Super Tuesday’, a professional development programme (PDP) in which staff trained other staff, shared best practice and developed curriculum initiatives. This ran from 3.30 to 4.45pm. We dedicated part of this programme in 2006–07 around the new ICT leaders and their respective teams of staff to ensure that they had professional development time for this work.
The four guiding principles behind the PDP and SDP were to:
- invest in people
- develop leaders
- invest in the future
- ensure success.
Investing in People (IiP) should be one of the highest priorities in bringing about school improvement. It is one of the main contributing factors to the ongoing successes at Le Rocquier School. In a recent Investors in People assessment, Le Rocquier was graded at profile level 2 and 3 in leadership throughout the school (for details, see: www.investorsin people.co.uk). This placed the school in a small elite of only 18 schools across the UK that had surpassed the basic criteria for IiP status. To surpass the basic IiP criteria by 85% is a testament to our working in partnerships, sharing ideas and training staff. Creating these three ICT allowances and PDP time and resources gave the new ICT leaders status, a budget and time to plan and deliver the support staff required. Two of the three teams of staff involved in IWB technology in the classroom, and media- and videostreaming in lessons were very successful, with the majority of agreed success criteria met in year one and now extended into a second year. The school VLE was not continued due to an Island VLE becoming established later this year.
Crucial to all the ICT developments has been the necessary clarity in action planning and a shared understanding of expectations and outcomes. Without both, school improvement initiatives will flounder. Staff had been trained and given individual professional development in the art of good action planning, an indicator of how important this is. All of the eight ICT leaders in 2004–05 created an individual action plan that was discussed, agreed, and provided sufficient detail to evaluate impact on teaching and learning. In 2006, the three new ICT leaders also had inhouse training in action planning to best support them in developing a clear timeline for action with measurable success criteria. Their action plan was evaluated on a termly basis and formally via an end-of-year report to the SLT. The action planning stage was crucial. If we had got this wrong, then our efforts would have soon lost direction and momentum. By paying attention to action planning early on, we ensured we had clarity of purpose, and clear understanding of the how, who, what and when. In doing so, staff became naturally accountable.
Holding people accountable
Many things can change in schools that positively or negatively impact on planned school improvement. We take these driving or restraining forces into account when discussing progress with individual action plans. At Le Rocquier School, I openly shared with the whole school how successful the SDP has been each year via dialogue with individual colleagues, grading whole-school action plans on the Ofsted 1–4 scale for all to see. Schools need to be accountable and this spans all levels of leadership and management within the school community.
Recognising individuals’ strengths and areas for improvement
All staff will bring something special to the group or team. A good leader will capitalise on their enthusiasm, experience, skills and confidence so that the group benefits. At Le Rocquier, we identified whole-school areas for improvement following open and honest discussion with all staff individually. This required tact and diplomacy and at times the moral courage to ask the right questions, sometimes difficult ones of the curriculum leaders when they had not met their agreed targets. Staff value the open, honest and supportive leader. We were then able to identify the professional development and support needed to boost staff self-confidence and overcome some of the potential barriers perceived to be hindering progress (such as time management and getting in place the right culture and attitude for working well together).
Being open and honest
There is little value in working with partners if you cannot be professional, open and honest. A school, like most organisations, is a complex community of relationships, an intricate and interconnected web of hopes, aspirations and feelings. Creating the climate for ‘open and honest’ dialogue starts at the top and should be actively encouraged to keep school improvement on task and deal with issues for staff and on behalf of staff. For example, we shared with all staff exactly where ICT money was being spent and how, what the priorities for development were and why, and gave them an opportunity to comment. Keeping all staff informed meant there were no surprises for them along the way.
Searching out and learning from the best
You need to find examples of best practice to help benchmark and secure your understanding of what can be achieved. To this end, at Le Rocquier we send staff on a regular basis to the UK to look at specialist schools and use local authority advice to target and gain support from like-minded, forward-thinking and progressive schools. One good example of the ‘search, find and discover’ approach can be found in our modern foreign languages (MFL) department. We wanted to invest in a state of the art MFL lab to boost the confidence of students to listen and speak in a second language. So we sent our MFL curriculum leader to the UK and communicated with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) to examine the best ICT resources and service available. Having done this, we then invited the two short-listed manufacturers to come to Jersey to run Inset with the whole MFL department and SLT to allow us to contrast each system and make an informed decision on which would best meet our needs. This not only strengthened our bargaining tool when agreeing a price for support, but enabled first-hand contacts to be made with the manufacturer, improved business relationships and provided better opportunities for staff training.
Networking and taking managed risks
Never underestimate the importance of personal contacts — informal networking as well as the more formal network meetings that are often planned locally. Knowing first names and contacts, including additional phone numbers, attending specialist briefings and network meetings is important. Without this regular contact beyond the school community you could easily become blinkered and disengaged from the wider world and developments in ICT. Sending teams of staff to the BETT ICT exhibition from Jersey is time consuming and expensive. However, the net return for this investment is that staff feel valued, respected and come back enthused and reassured and with more ideas. Some of these primary ideas will in time germinate and grow into full-blown proposals and subsequent action plans. For example, this has led to the school developing a suite of ICT activities within the school’s extensive programme for gifted and talented students. At Le Rocquier School, we have invested in staff that want to take their ideas forward and helped them to turn their ideas from rhetoric into reality — bringing benefits to the whole school.
To illustrate how this whole process worked in practice, the box below shows how we planned development of whole-school use of IWBs, initially involving 12 staff across four curriculum areas. This job description was the revised version, following consultation with the ICT leader with responsibility for interactive whiteboard technology.
Leading whole-school development of interactive whiteboard technology in teaching and learning
Allowance +1 (March 2006 — February 2007) In 2006, the school will have 13 Promethean interactive whiteboards and one SMART board
- To lead and manage the effective use of interactive whiteboards in teaching and learning
- To share good practice by demonstrating through lead lessons and peer observation, good practice in IWBs in teaching and learning
- To plan and begin to establish a curriculum support package based on resources developed for the use with IWBs
- To plan and deliver a comprehensive training package for non-specialists in the use of IWBs, including the use of voting pads and wireless tablets
- To report termly to SLT with developments in IWB technology
- To produce a short DVD to reflect good practice of IWB technology in teaching and learning
- To plan and deliver Inset to an island-wide training afternoon in the summer term for teachers across the Channel Islands, on the use and application of IWB technology in teaching and learning
- To collate the very best examples of resources for use with IWB technology for subjects in advance of whiteboard purchases
- To prepare in consultation with the line manager, an action research bid for £5,000 to support the purchase of additional IWB applications including voting pads and wireless tablets
- To evaluate the impact of IWB technology on the quality of teaching and learning in 2006 within science and three additional subject areas
- To advise the SLT on the strategic development of IWB technology in 2007 through the school development planning cycle
- To attend ICT leaders meetings to keep up-to-date with ICT developments across the curriculum
Annual targets: reviewed termly; to form the basis of a renewed allowance in 2007
- Successfully train 12 new teachers in the use of IWB technology and gain positive feedback from Inset
- Organise and deliver an effective island-wide IWB training afternoon in the summer term 2007 and gain positive feedback from staff attending
- Produce a three-four minute DVD reflecting the very best practice of IWB technology in teaching and learning in four different curriculum areas (science, maths, humanities, and English)
- Plan and deliver Inset as part of the professional development programme 2006–07 (five sessions)
- Effectively deliver six demonstration lessons in the autumn and spring terms 2006–07
- Observe 12 teachers using an IWB and provide constructive feedback
- Develop and collate a curriculum package (bundle) of IWB resources for teachers
- Attend ICT leaders meetings contributing to the wider discussion of whole-school ICT
- Submit a brief termly report on progress with the main responsibilities noted listed above
Leading this work on developing the ICT strategic plan as a deputy head, and not as an ICT specialist, meant that my people management skills were core to taking the programme forward, illustrating that you don’t have to be an ICT whiz to move forward an ICT strategy. However, be aware that if you invest too heavily in an individual, such as a sole ICT coordinator, it can be restrictive. So rather than focusing on just one core member of staff, we developed a team of ICT leaders who could then focus on developing ICT use within their departments. This also helped to ensure that rather than focus on developing ICT as a subject area, we looked at how it could best enhance teaching and learning across the curriculum. One of the biggest constraints, as with many strategic developments, was time — to be successful, you need to be creative with your time management and plan up to three years ahead. But the benefits have made all the time investment worthwhile. Now, when you talk to students they don’t see ICT as just a separate subject, but part of everyday teaching and learning, helping them to see how it can be used as a tool for enhancing everyday life. Thanks to our ICT strategy, when students leave Le Rocquier, they will be confident and competent ICT users, with the necessary skills that are vital to success in future life.
Mission statement for ICT at Le Rocquier School
ICT offers innovation, creativity, efficiency and exciting personal challenges. We believe in an exciting education fit for the 21st century where every student and member of staff has an entitlement to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of ICT. We believe that ICT will enhance the exciting learning opportunities that we offer young people, equipping them for the technological advanced world of work in which we live. An investment in ICT is an investment in our future.
John McGuinness. Deputy Headteacher, Strategic Developments, Le Rocquier School, Jersey
John McGuinness has 22 years’ teaching experience. Most recently, he has spent two years as an LA science adviser for Portsmouth, and four years as a deputy headteacher at Le Rocquier. He takes over the headship of Sturminster Newton High School, Dorset, a specialist school in ICT and maths, from September 2007.