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Organising the Curriculum

  ICT in the Primary School
The nature of primary practice in ICT continues to evolve. The goal for curriculum planning will be to ensure that the whole of the ICT curriculum is taught. Schemes of work such as that provided by the QCA are well-supported by additional materials from a number of publishers. Most primary schools have a well-established reservoir of ICT activities developed by particular teachers over time. These need to be brought together to form a clear set of curriculum plans which cover the whole curriculum and which can be delivered by all teachers to all their year groups.

The simplest way to deliver the ICT programme of study and apply ICT in other subjects is to timetable a period of ICT. This implies that an ICT suite will be available for the whole class, but it is not impossible to timetable ICT in a situation with only one or two machines in the classroom. In this case part of the period could be used for demonstration to the class (or part of the class) and then pupils could undertake set tasks throughout the week. Splitting the class into 3 groups would enable differentiation. Also, working with a small group of pupils will ensure they will not have to wait too long to practice their skills. A similar way to spread this experience is to timetable ICT into a 30 minute slot but twice a week. Primary schools are increasingly finding creative ways to schedule ICT work in time that was initially fully devoted to literacy and numeracy.

Although ICT needs to be a subject taught in its own right, it is often more effectively delivered when the ICT is serving learning in other areas. Good links between ICT and other subjects are important. For example, ICT skills in "developing and refining ideas by bringing together, organising and reorganising text, tables and images" could be developed to support work in Comprehension and Composition in literacy. ICT skills acquired in an ICT lesson could subsequently support an activity in English. This could enhance the learning that takes place in English and consolidate and develop the ICT skills through their application. 

The planning of an ICT scheme of work should ensure that the ICT covers the full programme of study and allow pupils to attain at the appropriate levels with each ICT strand. Pupil's ICT work should be planned to allow them to attain at the same levels  within the ICT statement of attainment as they are capable of achieving in other subjects, such as maths and English. Sometimes, when ICT is to be the medium for studying a subject, pupils may be working at lower ICT levels than they have previously attained. Although this is perfectly acceptable, the opportunity exists to plan such lessons so that pupils will be working at their level of capability in both the subject and in ICT.

Curriculum planning should seek to achieve a balance between developing pupils' ICT skills and applying them to the learning that takes place in subjects. Many schools do not get this balance right.  Logically, the purpose of developing a capability in ICT must be to apply that capability. Yet it is common for ICT skills to be taught in isolation, with few planned opportunities for them to be applied to learning in subjects. A measure of a well planned ICT curriculum will be evidence that ICT skills learnt in ICT lessons are having an impact on the quality of content and presentation of pupils' work in subjects.

ICT offers a rich learning medium. The use of Integrated Learning Systems, simulations, the Internet and CD ROMs for research are there to be used to improve learning for particular pupils. Such activities should be part of pupils' entitlement to a rich and varied learning experience. In addition, regular opportunities to use ICT at home for school work should be offered where pupils have access to ICT resources. A target in every school's ICT development plan should be the facility for all learners in the community to access the school's ICT learning resources outside of school hours. The use of ICT at home and during the extended day will become more commonplace with further developments in broadband access and e-learning.

  ICT in the Secondary School
The same principles apply to ICT in the secondary school. In fact, it is important that schools view the development of ICT capability as a continuum from the early years to post-16.  Ensuring progression has been a problem with National Curriculum ICT up to this point in time, but the National Key Stage 3 Strategy is likely to provide practical solutions to this problem.

There are different ways to organise the curriculum to ICT Capability. The most straightforward way to do this is to identify and teach ICT lessons in each pupil's timetable. In addition to pupils having an entitlement to develop ICT Capability there are also statutory requirements for pupils to use ICT to study aspects of other subjects programmes of study. With coordination, skills and techniques acquired in one term from ICT lessons could subsequently be used to enhance learning in another subject area.  For example:

In order to address ICT in the National Key Stage 3 Strategy most
secondary schools are likely to consider timetabling ICT lessons through the whole of Key Stage 3. 
Pressure on curriculum time may mean that some schools will schedule a mixture of taught ICT lessons and ICT developed and applied through subjects.  If such a choice is to be made then a priority might be to ensure that pupils have ICT lessons when they start at the school. This should give them a good grounding in the schools' ICT facilities such as its network structure, establish or confirm the levels each pupil is currently working at, and provide a solid set of ICT skills for them to build upon at an early stage. 

The National Strategy will focus schools sharply on meeting National Targets for ICT levels by the end of Key Stage 3.  Timetabling ICT lessons in year 9 would provide greater assurance that pupils will have experienced the depth of study and the coverage of the ICT units necessary to achieve this. 

At Key Stage 4 the picture of how ICT is organised is more varied. Rather than recommend particular approaches it is easier to report on the variety of approaches found. Many, but not all schools offer an examination course to pupils in ICT. This is most often GCSE ICT but it may also be a GNVQ.  Applied GCSEs look likely to offer further opportunities to use ICT at this Key Stage. ICT Key Skills are also offered in many schools and a number now make this a compulsory element of the curriculum at Key Stage 4.  In some schools pupils start Key Skills in year 9 and complete it in year 10, thus freeing up time for ICT to support other subjects in year 11. The National Grid for Learning (NGfL) target of ensuring all school leavers have a meaningful qualification in ICT is coming closer to reality as time progresses. 

In a number of subjects teachers are making increased use of ICT and this can provide a context for applying and developing pupils' ICT Capability. For example, assignments, course work, or projects in a particular subject can be developed so they also offer the opportunity to be accredited for their contribution to Key Skills. Such opportunities are 'signposted' in subject syllabi.

  Working with and supporting colleagues
One of the key characteristics of a good ICT coordinator is the ability to motivate and manage colleagues. Whether in a primary or secondary school they will have the opportunity to work across the whole curriculum. As the notes on planning indicate, delivering an ICT entitlement to all pupils is complex. It can be achieved in a much wider variety of ways than for most subjects yet requires a strong input from many people.

The need for an ICT Coordinator to work with and support other teachers is an important part of the role. At the beginning, most staff will have little previous experience of using ICT in their work and limited technical skill. The NOF ICT training has served to build expectations and teacher's confidence but support for teaching with ICT will need to continue at school level if this national scheme is to have real impact. Good interpersonal skills and a supportive, solutions-orientated approach will be key qualities of the successful ICT Coordinator.

  Working with teacher colleagues will cover a range of needs……
  Helping them plan ICT lessons and sometimes simply providing lesson plans
  Helping colleagues from other subjects incorporate ICT in their lesson plans and schemes of work
  Ensuring that these lessons are part of a coherent scheme of work for ICT which they understand and can internalise
  Ensuring they can access and deliver the ICT elements of lessons by providing support and training
  Chairing ICT user groups - such as representatives from departments or year groups - such groups will plan and ensure the delivery of ICT based activities
  Ensuring appropriate resources are available for all ICT activities - both by managing resources, managing access to resources (e.g. booking systems for ICT rooms) and by ensuring no activates are timetabled which cannot be resourced
  Working with school senior managers to manage and help deliver in-service opportunities
  Acting as an effective interface between senior managers and staff with regard to ICT

As well as teachers ICT coordinators will probably need to work with other colleagues. These include learning support assistants and technicians.

Working with learning support assistants (LSAs) has many of the same support requirements as working with teachers. In addition, there are a number of different roles for LSAs which could require additional input. For example, they could be supporting pupils with particular special needs. In any case there may be a need to help LSAs….

  deal with specialist equipment
  help them manage the use of equipment in different lessons or other circumstances
  help them work with teachers in lessons
  work with small groups of pupils who are using ICT
  prepare ICT resources and equipment for use by pupils

Working with technicians also requires many of the same skills as working with teachers. In addition there are a number of other areas…..

  Managing their workload and work schedule
  Monitoring their work and ensuring they are fully occupied and their work is of high quality
  Negotiating and writing job descriptions 
  Ensure they can support teachers by ensuring all the resources are available and working in their lessons
  Helping them identify areas where they need to work proactively - for example identifying future lesson resource requirements


Useful Links

  National Curriculum Online web site - ICT
The Key Stage 3 strategy web site (DfES)

The new Key Stage 3 Framework (DfES)
Sample teaching units for ICT year 7(DfES)
Schemes of work for primary and secondary ICT (DfES)
Key Stage 3 ICT resources (DfES)

Downloadable files  
  Key Stage 3 ICT strand home page (DfES)