As we await the framework for ICT assessment and qualifications, and therefore clarification about whether ICT will be more fully integrated, or have greater stand-alone status as a subject, we consider how to assess the current role of ICT in your curriculum

Are you taking a bold line in the great ICT debate ahead of pending government decisions on qualifications? Some schools, because of their vision, foundation or status, take their own strong view of how new technologies should contribute to the curriculum and be accredited.

The framework for ICT assessment and qualifications has yet to be announced: whether ICT will be more fully integrated, or have greater stand-alone status as a subject, awaits clarification.

What many schools and centres seem to want is, on the one hand, continued and even enhanced opportunities for students to learn and achieve in ICT through cross-curricular and vocational courses (BTEC, diplomas…), and, on the other hand, opportunities for students simultaneously or separately to gain grades in ICT at GCSE (eg. a double award, perhaps for the majority of Year 11 students).

The ways schools and centres are held to public account are not yet sophisticated enough to reflect value to individuals or the success they have in the institutions or training to which they graduate. The fullest account of a school’s or centre’s quality is given in terms of the Every Child Matters agenda (DCSF, 2003).

The most recent report from Becta (Understanding the Impact of Technology: Learner and School level factors: go to shows that successful learning depends on how engaged learners are, which in turn depends on how personalised their challenges are. Becta illustrates this through its case studies on using technology to promote learning in art, design, English, French, history, PE, science, and across the curriculum.

Building Schools for the Future (BSF: go to has a commitment to ‘ensure that new environments deploy innovative thinking, delivering personalised learning; and … technology is integral to teaching and learning and not treated just as an add-on’.

There is much to be said for being pragmatic, because no one position on ICT is likely to serve your students well in a world which wants electronic technology as much as literacy and numeracy skills, but which cannot give up its adherence to subject-specific, apparently academic qualifications.

Given uncertainty from government and high-sounding rhetoric from non-statutory bodies, you may be wondering what line to take. Recent Ofsted inspection reports give pointers to what needs to be considered. How well do your answers to these questions match up to what Ofsted appears to look for?

  • How well do our students achieve in ICT?
  • Do we use ICT enough, and well enough?
  • How well is ICT led across the school or centre?
  • How can we improve ICT leadership, provision and achievement?

How well do our students achieve in ICT?
These indicate quality of standards in ICT:

  • Measures of students’ ICT progress and attainment in each key stage, compared with their standards on entry and with national averages in teacher assessment and certificated examinations for ICT and computing-related courses.
  • Trends in results.
  • Relative performance of groups of learners, such as those with special educational needs, high attainers, boys and girls, looked-after children, ethnic groups, and speakers of English as an additional language.
  • How well students achieve in each area of ICT: presenting, communicating and handling information, data-logging and programming.

Do we use ICT enough, and well enough?
This includes judgements about quality of teaching, resources, and ICT’s contribution to other subjects.

These indicate the quality of the ICT curriculum:

  • Students’ enjoyment and success in ICT.
  • All students being taught by an ICT specialist for sufficient time each week or over time to enable them to achieve in ICT.
  • Curricula well matched to the demands of the latest or new programmes of study at each key stage.
  • Planning which includes how ICT will enhance the students’ learning: ie not merely in terms of activities and resources, but in terms of acquiring of ICT capability.
  • Lessons which interest students and enable them to use ICT independently.
  • Variety of learning formats: eg whole-class sessions, solo, paired and small group working.
  • Provision of effective support for learning: eg online help sheets, technician assistance, safe and flexible access to hard- and software…
  • Opportunities for students to connect their own use of ICT in extra-curricular activities (such as school radio), at home, with friends and in temporary employment and voluntary work with ICT in the curriculum.
  • ICT explicitly and productively integrated with other forms of learning in discussion, making and reflection: eg students contributing to aspects of school life in a real way, such as in production of the prospectus, promotion material for events, and analysing data.
  • A range of ICT experiences across the curriculum: eg data-logging in science and geography; computer-aided design in design technology; word-processing and online diagram and image use in English and modern foreign languages; using devices such as a remote mouse palette to explain and share answers and ideas in mathematics…
  • Appropriate and sustainable resources (teaching and support personnel, hard- and software, accommodation) to deliver curriculum objectives.
  • Regular opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning.
  • Ongoing assessment and regular reviews of progress: spoken and written advice on strengths and successes in learning, allied with guidance on how to improve.
  • Assessment and assessment recording processes which reflect learning and achievement in ICT across a range of curriculum areas.
  • Access to accreditation in ICT for public examinations and other awards relevant to students’ needs, aspirations and destinations.

How well is ICT led across the school or centre?
These indicate the quality of leadership for ICT:

  • Clear vision and evident commitment to students becoming confident users of ICT.
  • Staff members’ evident focus on high and/or rising standards of achievement for all students.
  • Increasingly effective reviewing of students’ performance and provision in ICT.
  • Productive links with other educators and organisations in order to share experience and expertise: eg local and leading schools, FilmsforLearning (go to …
  • Effective action to improve: eg collection of students’ and others’ perceptions about ICT learning and results; training in the use of new equipment and software; guidance and support to strengthen weaker aspects of ICT provision …

How can we improve ICT leadership, provision and achievement?
Strengths can be identified, shared and built on. Weaknesses and inconsistencies in performance can be addressed through systematic development.

Common focuses for development include:

  • giving equal emphasis to all aspects of ICT in the national curriculum and other programmes
  • increasing students’ curriculum choices in ICT, eg for specific groups
  • improving the mapping, coordinating and assessing of students’ use of ICT in other subjects: eg by making learning objectives and assessments more explicitly and progressively related to ICT; by introducing or increasing collaborations between colleagues and subjects.


This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2010

About the author: Dr John Blanchard is an independent consultant and author of Teaching, Learning and Assessment (Open University press, 2009)