Thursday, April 14, 2011

James Review on schools broadband and ICT procurement

It was good to see the James Review, published this week, referring to the need for more effective policy on ICT in schools. As The Guardian reported on Tuesday:
"The report ...says the education department needs to ensure a "clear menu" of core and additional regional broadband services for schools, so that schools select and pay only for the services they need. It calls for a strategy to get best value from existing public sector broadband networks, which would include establishing a minimum bandwidth standard of 10Mbps for primary schools and 100Mbps for secondary schools.

"On procurement, the education department should set up a central framework for schools management information systems and the exisiting ICT services framework, or similar approaches, should be used for all large scale ICT purchasing.

"It also says that a web based price comparison catalogue should be developed to help schools to get the best price for equipment."
The report recommends the creation of what it calls a "Central Body" to have responsibility for these areas.  Something which will include some of the functions previously undertaken by Becta, presumably. However, looking forward rather than backwards this does raise some serious challenges for the Department for Education, schools, and those providing services for schools. Sebastian James himself, in his letter to the Secretary of State, says "Putting my recommendations into practice will be a major challenge".

Monday, April 04, 2011

Mobile phones and portable devices in schools

It has been reported over the last two days that mobile phones are to be banned in classrooms in England from September 2011, by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.  Yesterday's News of the World and today's Telegraph both contain references to this ban, linking it to new documents on behaviour and discipline that have been published today by the Department of Education.  The DfE website quotes Mr Gove as saying to the News of the World:
"I'll also give teachers the right to remove disruptive children from the classroom without fear of legal action. They will be able to search pupils for weapons, and items like iPods and mobile phones, and confiscate them".
Firstly let me say that I am against the idea of a complete ban on mobile phones in schools.  Used appropriately, smartphones and other student owned devices such as iPod Touches and Playstation portables can be used as very powerful aids to learning, and there are many schools who are making good use of these.  Here's just one example from Notre Dame High School in Sheffield, who say
"The use of Mobile Devices has led to students being able to be more independent learners. Organisation has improved and homework quality has been of a good to high standard."