An interesting letter was submitted to Chris Woodhead, former Chief Inspector of Schools, in this weekend’s Sunday Times. A worried parent asked Mr Woodhead if there was any evidence that the Department for Children, Schools and Families massive £1.65 billion IT budget was benefitting children in a way that truly matches the sum of money. Chris Woodhead replied with a firm ‘no’, and went on to describe the reliance on ‘white elephant gadgetry’ as a misguided use of funds.
Teaching IT is increasingly vital to ensure that children are well equipped to compete in a modern working environment. But the letter itself is an indictment of the overly centralised and bureaucratic education system. The fact that this parent felt compelled to send such a letter shows how little a role a worried parent can play in their own child’s school.
Most aspects of a school’s decision making process involve a quango of some description. A recent CPS report highlighted 11, at a cost of over £1 billion. When it comes to IT, Becta are the body responsible for ensuring that IT is used ‘effectively’ and ‘efficiently’. Mr Woodhead doesn’t seem to think that this is currently happening, as his reponse to the letter forcefully and candidly outlined. It’s another classic case case of conflating commitment with investment.
Schools having true control over their own budgets and operating without the ‘guidance’ of exepnsive bureaucratic bodies is the best way of ensuring that IT is used effectively and efficiently. Teachers should decide whether IT plays a role in their lesson plans, beyond the teaching of IT itself. This would allow schools to become accountable to parents, meaning that the teachers themselves would be the first port of call for worried parents, not the letters section of the Sunday Times News Review.