Questions for schools

Any school that is providing an education fit for our connected world should be able to answer Yes to all these questions. If your children' school, or the school you work in cannot answer Yes to all, it is time for you to personally take some action to cause change.

1) Do all staff have and use a laptop or tablet in school? If they don’t it indicates that the school is still circulating information on paper, not online, and is not using digital systems to make the operation of the school and teachers' work more effective and time-efficient. Just purely from the monetary point of view the school could save probably £20,000 a year just on paper. But it is the huge time savings and more effective working for all staff, made possible by good online systems, that really matters.

2) Do all the teachers make use of the school's online platform regularly? This of course assumes the school has and uses an online platform, not just a corporate website updated by others. At the very least parents and children should be able to check what daily homework is set by logging into the school’s online platform. The teachers should also be putting up links and resources to help pupils with homework. If the school does not have effective, easy to update and use, online systems used by all staff and pupils they just haven’t started on the radical improvements in education that can be achieved. Not to mention that the school is not ready to cope with a pandemic or even days when the school is closed due to snow.

3) Can your children use their mobile phones or their own laptop or tablet in lessons? The school will have an acceptable use policy which will probably state that the teachers will tell the pupils whether they can or cannot use these in a particular lesson, but with the expectation that whenever sensible use of personal phones and other devices will be permitted. Schools that are operating with a digital mindset actively encourage pupils to use their own devices, because they are so powerful in aiding learning and organisation of learning. They have also ensured the whole school is covered by a fast wireless network. Primary schools will provide lots of mobile devices in school for the younger pupils and there are plenty of examples of schools that arrange for the older pupils to have their own netbook or tablet that they take home. Any secondary school that has not yet started to ensure all the pupils have their own computer device and home connection is completely failing its pupils.

4) Does the school network allow access to YouTube? Many school networks are ‘locked down’ stopping teachers and pupils accessing many very powerful educational resources, because the technicians are controlling what happens online instead of the school leadership team. This is despite Ofsted’s Lead Inspector for ICT having publicly stated that school networks should not be locked down. Access will be filtered and managed but should not prohibit access to good educational resources and systems. Youtube is a major educational resources and is the preferred search engine for young people. Asking about Youtube access is the 'litmus test' question that will reveal if the school is unreasonably constraining how teachers and pupils can use online resources.

5) Is there a group of teachers leading development of the use of digital resources and systems? Education is going through a radical change because of the immense educational opportunities of digital resources and the Internet. If there isn’t a group of teachers actively leading how the school responds to these opportunities it indicates the school is not helping the teachers develop their professional skills. It is also likely to mean that the school's digital systems are being dictated by the technical team in the school or by an external authority. All schools are different and need to tailor their approaches to digital to suit their pupils and community, and this needs to be controlled by the educators in the school.

6) Are there groups of pupils who take responsibility for helping teachers and other pupils use digital resources and systems? Many schools involve pupils in managing e-safety, helping teachers with technical issues, training pupils to use the schools systems when they first arrive, and updating the school’s website and online platform. This has huge benefits for both the pupils involved and everyone else in the school. It changes the digital environment from an imposed system to one that young people can feel ownership of.