Innovative IT use helping teachers

The use of IT in schools is no longer just helping teaching; new systems are being introduced to reduce bullying and truancy

It's not just kids that are taught how to use technology in schools — teachers and education authorities are learning that IT can help them with their jobs too.

According to Becta, the government agency charged with helping schools use IT to improve teaching, schools and colleges now have more than 1.2 million desktop computers. And that figure is likely to rise to more than two million next year.

Many schools and all colleges are now connected to the Internet by broadband and the numbers of interactive whiteboards in use continues to rise.

But as well as using IT to improve the teaching process, increasingly schools are finding innovative ways of using technology to improve their own processes.

Some schools are using handheld devices to take registers in order to keep better tabs on which students are turning up while one authority in Rotherham is trialling a database it hopes will cut bullying.

Rotherham Local Education Authority (LEA) is testing a centralised database of bullying incidents in order to offer an early-warning system for teachers.

Ann Clegg, acting head of Inclusion Support Services at the LEA, explained: "If you ask young people what they are most worried about bullying comes out very high on the list. We are planning to run a pilot with 20 schools in the first instance."

The LEA is using software from Vantage Technologies in a pilot scheme. The system will allow staff to report incidents into a central database, Clegg said. "It's a tool which should help schools and local authorities — it will enable them to record all their incidents of bulling."

The system will record details such as the location or time of the incident so schools can target their intervention better, she said. "We can pick up patterns across the authority and see what interventions schools are using."

The LEA already has a system to report incidents of racist abuse but this will replace it. Rotherham also wants to bring youth clubs into the scheme in order to get the full picture.

The software can help identify bullying hotspots and repeat offenders, according to its developers. It can also flag patterns in behaviour, which could act as an early warning mechanism to help schools proactively address instances of bullying.

Rotherham LEA plans to run the pilot for one academic year, until July 2006.

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