Developing effective leadership
The Becta Review 2005 (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, Becta) notes that the overall effectiveness of schools’ ICT management and leadership, as judged by Ofsted inspectors, (Office for Standards in Education) has improved considerably over the last few years. In 2003, it was judged good or better in two-thirds of schools. However, there is variability in the quality of school leadership of ICT. Becta’s analysis informs us that institutional choices and decisions are key mediators of the experience of ICT in learning and teaching. Therefore, it is critical to support headteachers in developing their capability and capacity in understanding how ICT can be implemented effectively and sustainably in both learning and teaching and institutional management.
Becta’s analysis of national performance data against inspection data
has identified five key consistent enablers of effective ICT use ('effective' defined in terms of attainment outcomes), namely: ICT resources; school leadership; ICT leadership; general teaching; and ICT teaching. In terms of the leadership qualities required, Ofsted (2004) notes in its most recent report that good ICT leadership is characterised by: pragmatism; clear educational principles to inform ICT developments; and an ethos that encourages innovation and risk-taking.
The rate of change in the use of technology for learning and teaching is unprecedented and headteachers need to be right on top of it. Effective use of ICT can dramatically improve the experience pupils have in, and beyond, the school. It has the ability to bring subjects alive in the classroom as well as helping headteachers ensure they function more efficiently in the way they lead and manage. However headteachers just ’doing’ ICT or leaving it to others is no longer enough, it is not a sustainable model.
Headteachers, and all school leaders, are a vital part of the equation. They not only start the development journey but also make sure it keeps moving in the right direction by developing and leading a whole school strategy for the effective use of ICT. Of course this is no small job and unquestionably many heads need appropriate support to take up the gauntlet with confidence. Throughout England there is a cohesive package being put in place aimed at system wide support for school leaders.
Developing effective school self evaluation and review
Research by Becta and others (Becta Review 2005) identifies the importance of whole-school issues in determining whether a school's investment in new technologies leads to improvements in learning. These include the overall quality of teaching, management and leadership alongside more ICT-specific issues such as how effectively the resource is deployed and managed. The message from other business sectors is clear - the effective use of ICT requires organisations to rethink their key structures, processes and boundaries. If ICT is genuinely to support personalising learning, these whole school challenges must be addressed systematically. So what can schools and their leaders, keen to embrace the challenge of personalising learning, learn from other sectors about harnessing ICT's potential effectively across the school?
Becta, with its partners, is developing the ICT Route Map to support institutions' development and their effective use of ICT. Based on clear evidence and research it will build on the principles of supported self and peer review; develop leadership capability and capacity and have a sound support network in place.
Over the past several years many organisations have developed 'maturity models' designed to support improvement in processes, products and delivery in areas such as systems engineering. The five levels of maturity identified are:
• localised use
• internal coordination
• process redesign
• network redesign and embedding
• redefinition and innovative use
As with maturity models in other sectors, these levels do not of themselves define the next steps in a school's development. The levels help schools set the strategic 'direction of travel' without prescribing specific actions.
The Chief Inspector of Schools made reference to self-evaluation at the UK Commons Education Select Committee in March 2005, identifying “… it will put a very penetrative light on leadership and management”. This has been exemplified by the pilot of the Common Evaluation Framework developed by Ofsted, responsible for the inspection of all schools in England, with partner organisations
Becta and its partners subscribe to this view and have jointly developed tools and a range of approaches that enable schools, teams and individual staff to undertake an analysis of their known development, to look at routes of improvement and identify examples and approaches that have worked elsewhere.
Online matrix tools are now in place to support this review process, including a range of topics; focus areas; resources; links to other schools’ experiences and action planning facilities. Based around a matrix approach, these tools are also used extensively within leadership and support.
Developing leadership capability and capacity
Professional support to develop leaders and other senior staff ICT leadership capability and capacity is available in England. The core programme in place for headteachers is the Strategic Leadership of ICT (Slict) Programme. SLICT is a programme developed specifically for headteachers by headteachers. It has been developed in partnership between Becta and National College for School Leaders (NCSL) and works with headteachers to review their leadership and the possibilities that ICT can bring to extend and enhance learning in schools. The programme focuses specifically on their strategic role in leading ICT in their schools not in implementing ICT. It offers heads an opportunity to build their own knowledge, skills and understanding of the key issues and impact of leading ICT. This is not a skills based course, but an opportunity to facilitate the undeniable potential that technology has to enhance and extend learning in and out of schools.
This programme is about heads moving beyond the technical focus ICT appears to demand and ensuring that it remains clearly linked to the aims, ethos and intentions of the school, namely pupil learning opportunities and experiences. It is about strategic planning and leadership – essential if a school is to maximise the benefits ICT can bring, ensure that levels of investment are correct, that value for money is achieved and perhaps most crucially that both investment and the use of ICT is sustainable.
How will SLICT help English Headteachers?
Although headteachers may be aware of the liberating effects technology can have within a school, until now the learning opportunities available to them have been few and far between.
During the programme, delegates engage in peer to peer learning to develop and implement ICT vision for learning in their school through developing informed professional judgement in their role as headteacher. The value of running peer programmes for fellow headteachers lies in the discussion, the asides, the sharing of experience and ideas. How many opportunities are there for direct discussion and observation with other school leaders and to share and contrast different developmental approaches?
After registering for the programme headteachers are invited to review and reflect on their understanding of where ICT is in their school. Where is it being successfully utilised to support learning and teaching and what are the areas for development. It is a thought-provoking leadership programme which provides an opportunity to work with up to 40 other headteachers to consider the key strategic issue, evaluate solutions and unlock the potential of ICT. SLICT will help develop knowledge and understanding, whilst providing the time and space to consider vision for the future of learning in school. As part of the 2½ day programme there is the opportunity to visit two schools where ICT leadership is a key feature. Delegates also participate in a dedicated online community.
Already, 3000 headteachers have experienced and benefited from SLICT through pilot and extended pilot programmes. The national roll out, which will involve 10,000 training places, began in October 2003. Programmes will then run through to March 2006.
Further, a programme for extending management engagement has also been developed – teamSLICT is aimed at including senior managers as change agents within the school and equip them for strategic implementation of ICT.
Developing coherent support
If schools are to build on this development of strategic vision support for this is crucial. Partnerships are central to ensuring effective support and advice for schools. Developing the Maturity and ICT Route Map models will be in association with UK national strategies, agencies and partner organisations including support and choice for local educational authorities and regional bodies.
LEAs are also critical to this activity and Becta will continue to work alongside LEAs to support them in meeting national frameworks and standards. This will be by providing advice and support for LEAs and working in partnership with the DfES, Ofsted and local authority associations to ensure that all LEAs have the necessary knowledge and understanding of how best to support schools in their use of ICT at a local level. We will work closely with LEAs to help them increase their capacity to provide support.
Such is the commitment to developing leaders in the UK that The National College for School Leadership (NCSL) was established in 2000 to provide career-long learning and development opportunities, professional and practical support for England’s existing and aspiring school leaders. Their goal is to ensure that school leaders have the skills, recognition, capacity and ambition to transform the school education system.
Developing effective use of ICT to support school management
The five year strategy for children and learners, published by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), sets out the government’s plan to reshape the education system. Under this strategy, schools will gain greater freedom with a guaranteed 3 year budget and reduced bureaucracy at local and national levels. Schools will also be encouraged to plan and manage themselves better using self evaluation tools and processes in the development of a whole school plan.
As well as supporting learning and teaching in the classroom, Becta believes that ICT will increasingly support the school in its communication, organisational and management processes. To support these changes, the school will need reliable, coherent ICT. Perhaps even more importantly, it will need a workforce; leaders, teachers and support staff, who use ICT well. This means not only integrating ICT with their work but also using learning information effectively – being confident and competent to use ICT to analyse pupils’ progress and using it to communicate with pupils, parents, and other professionals. The school will also use ICT to support professional development opportunities for its entire staff, providing access to online support, resources and communities to share ideas at school and at home. To achieve this, the school will need to take a long term view of ICT and develop it as a sustainable and integral part of its strategic planning.
Strategic financial planning for ICT
Becta has developed a model that will help institutions understand their investment over time, plan for sustainability within budgets and develop the appropriate infrastructure for their needs. It is based on the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – calculating the true cost of ICT infrastructure by looking beyond the initial cost of hardware and software alone. In order to plan spending strategically it is essential that institutions understand the total cost of ownership of their ICT services.
By undertaking a review, an institution can obtain valuable information that will aid its strategic planning. The data collected can be used to improve decision-making about further ICT investment and deployment. It can identify the most significant costs and point the way to reducing initial or ongoing costs.
School leaders need to have a clear overview of the ICT provision throughout their school. They need to understand what good provision looks like and where in relation to this they are. After this self review period setting a vision of where you then want to go is crucial to the strategic development of ICT. School leaders must take a strategic role in leading ICT in their schools not in implementing ICT. It’s the strategy, vision setting and review that has been central to the UK leadership focus for ICT. It’s this focus that has helped many headteachers develop their understanding of a leader’s role in ICT development within their school:
I needed a vision for ICT and how it could transform learning. My school has moved forward considerably ….. I feel inspired and my staff have caught up on this and are driving the change too.
Debbie Grimsey, Spurcroft Primary School, Milton Keynes
Keywords: United Kingdom, information and communications technology, school management
Last changed: Friday, 16 September 2005