Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Young people are not being sufficiently challenged in ICT lessons

A report published today by Ofsted has found that achievement in information, communication and technology (ICT) was inadequate in almost a fifth of the secondary schools visited. Inspectors found that how well pupils did in secondary schools was adversely affected by the lack of challenge for more able students and poor coverage of key aspects of the ICT curriculum.

The report, ICT in schools 2008-11, found that although ICT was good or outstanding in over two thirds of primary schools visited, the position was less positive for secondary schools with just over a third of the secondary schools in the survey judged good or outstanding.

The report draws on evidence from the inspection of ICT in 167 primary, secondary and special schools between 2008 and 2011. The ICT curriculum and qualification routes provided by nearly half of the secondary schools surveyed were not meeting the needs of all students, which reinforces concerns raised in Ofsted’s previous ICT report.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Miriam Rosen, said:

“In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, young people need to be given the opportunity to learn ICT skills in an interesting, challenging and relevant way.

“Schools should provide a range of ICT courses that are suitably matched to students’ needs, support them with their learning and prepare them for higher education and for skilled work in a technological age.”

In 30 of the 74 secondary schools visited, nearly half of students reached the age of 16 without adequate foundation for further study or training in ICT and related subjects.

The numbers studying GCSE ICT have dropped since 2007. This year 31,800 students attempted the examination compared with 81,100 in 2007 - a reduction of 64 per cent. There has also been a reduction in the number of entries at A level ICT.

In contrast, there has been a considerable increase in the number of student completing vocational awards in ICT - 212,900 students completed OCR Nationals, a popular suite of vocational qualifications, compared with 58,900 in 2008.

Despite the fact girls perform better than boys in ICT, fewer girls chose to study the subject in Key Stage 4 and beyond. The report recommends that schools encourage girls to continue studying ICT beyond the ages of 14 and 16 by engaging with local IT businesses to bring the subject alive and provide a fuller understanding of ICT-related career options.

The teaching of ICT was outstanding in three of the secondary schools visited and good in 32, but it was no better than satisfactory in just over half. Where teaching was no better than satisfactory, the use of assessment to track pupils’ progress was poor, which led to teachers and pupils lacking an understanding of current performance and what was needed to improve. It also meant that sometimes students repeated work from previous years.

In both primary and secondary schools there were weaknesses in teaching more demanding topics such as databases and programming, highlighting the need for schools to provide subject-specific support and professional development to improve teachers’ confidence and expertise.

When teaching was good or outstanding, lessons were well planned with a variety of activities that were differentiated to meet individual students’ needs, and students were clear about their own current level and what they needed to do to improve.

Notes to editors

  1. The report ICT in schools 2008-11 can be found on the Ofsted website at
  2. The previous ICT report ‘The importance of ICT: information and communication technology in primary and secondary schools, 2005/2008, can be found at the following link:
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
  4. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6899 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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