Friday, 25 January 2013

Ofsted's subject-specific guidance for inspectors

Ofsted updated their subject-specific guidance yesterday with specific changes to English, science, history, religious education, modern languages, physical education and music guidance. We last published Ofsted guidance in 2010, but there was an update released at the beginning of 2012.  This article refers to the ICT-specific guidance.

It is important to note that this guidance is intended only to inform the judgements made by specialist inspectors carrying out subject survey visits. It is not for use on Section 5 whole-school inspections. The statements copied below refer to what is considered to be Outstanding practice. If you are interested in the other subject guidance notes click here.

Achievement of pupils in ICT

Pupils show exceptional independence and discernment in their use of ICT across all strands of the subject. They understand important concepts and are able to make connections within the subject because they have highly developed transferable knowledge, skills and understanding. They are able to think for themselves and take the initiative in, for example, asking questions, carrying out their own investigations and working constructively with others. They show significant levels of originality, imagination or creativity in their understanding and skills within the subject. Appropriate to their age and ability, they make highly effective use of a wide range of equipment and software. They are highly enthusiastic about using ICT.

The quality of teaching in ICT

Teachers of ICT communicate high expectations, enthusiasm and passion about their subject to pupils. Teaching is rooted in the development of all pupils’ understanding of important concepts and progression within the lesson and over time. It enables pupils to make connections between topics and see the ‘big picture’. Teachers have a high level of competence and expertise, both in terms of their specialist knowledge and technical skills and in their understanding of effective learning in ICT. Their responses to pupils’ questions are accurate and effective at stimulating further thought. They plan lessons specifically to address possible errors and misconceptions. Teachers use a very wide range of innovative and imaginative resources and teaching strategies to stimulate pupils’ active participation in their learning and secure outstanding progress across all aspects of the subject.

The curriculum in ICT

The imaginative and stimulating ICT curriculum is very skilfully designed to match to the full range of pupils’ needs and to ensure highly effective continuity and progression in their learning. All strands of the statutory ICT National Curriculum are covered extremely well for all pupils, in ICT lessons or across the school curriculum. Pupils are able to use their ICT knowledge, skills and understanding in realistic and challenging situations. The contexts in which ICT is taught are both relevant to pupils’ lives and also reflect current ICT from the world of industry. Excellent links are forged with other agencies and the wider community to provide a wide range of enrichment activities to promote pupils’ learning and engagement with the subject. These include ICT-based clubs and visits to sites where ICT is at the heart of activities. Students in KS4 and KS5 have access to a wide range of appropriate ICT qualifications, including academic and vocational options. Their knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe when using new technologies is extremely comprehensive.

Quality of leadership and management of ICT

Leadership is informed by a high level of subject expertise and vision which has a clear impact on the performance and practice of members of the department. There is a strong track record of innovation in ICT. Subject reviews, self-evaluation and improvement planning are well-informed by current best practice in the subject. Subject leadership inspires confidence and whole-hearted commitment from pupils and colleagues. There are effective strategies to delegate subject responsibilities where appropriate and to share good practice and secure high quality professional development in the subject. Continuing professional development is well-targeted its impact on the quality of provision and achievement evaluated thoroughly. The subject has a very high profile in the life of the school and is at the cutting edge of initiatives within the school. Access to ICT equipment is outstanding, and the school is likely to have promoted the use of mobile technologies. The ICT infrastructure enables pupils and staff to have very good access to their work and to the school’s learning resources at all times, and contributes to pupils’ achievement.

The overall effectiveness of ICT

Practice in the subject consistently reflects the highest aspirations for pupils and expectations of staff. Best practice is spread effectively in a drive for continuous improvement. Teaching in the subject is likely to be outstanding and together with a rich curriculum, which is highly relevant to pupils’ needs, it contributes to outstanding learning and achievement or, in exceptional circumstances, achievement that is good and rapidly improving. Thoughtful and wide-ranging promotion of the pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in the subject enables them to thrive. Consequently, pupils and groups of pupils have excellent experiences in the subject, ensuring they are very well equipped for the next stage of their education, training or employment.

The last subject specific survey by Ofsted was related to ICT in schools (2008-2011) but we are waiting with interest for Ofsted's Virtual Learning Environments report that is due out before the end of the month.
Alex Rees, @alxr1

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