Becta have just released news of the final report of 4-year study into the £34m ICT Test Bed projects, run in three deprived areas of England. The outcomes showed gains in some GCSE and primary school test scores.

The BBC news report does an excellent job of telling a story which can sometimes be passionately argued from both sides of the fence, but mainly focuses on the attainment results from the statutory tests and GCSEs. If you take a look at the ICT Test Bed Evaluation web site, a joint project between Nottingham Trent and Manchester Metropolitan Universities, you'll see that they also provide a lot of depth into the other benefits that the projects delivered.

Across three areas, there were some interesting conclusions (a further two areas are also covered in the report):

  • Learning and teaching
    • The impact of ICT on attainment levels was greater for primary schools than for secondary schools.
    • Effective use of presentation technologies led to greater interaction between teachers and learners.
    • Effective use of ICT personalised learning by enabling greater learner choice within the curriculum, improved assessment for learning and more learner-directed teaching.
    • The use of electronic registration improved attendance levels in some schools by three to four per cent.
  • Leadership and management
    • Institutions that were more e-mature improved their performance levels significantly more quickly than those which were not.
    • Managing the implementation of large amounts of ICT required a strong vision, an extended planning phase, staged investment and support throughout.
    • Schools needed to build sustainability - of both resources and pedagogic change - into their change management strategies from the start.
    • Ready access to databases, which enable better analysis of data, made assessment and planning more systematic. However, there was a need to ensure that the amount of analysis required was not over-burdensome.
    • Management information systems (MIS) enabled leaders to better identify the particular needs of their school community through improved data analysis.
  • Workforce development
    • The involvement of ICT changed the working practices of teachers and extended the roles of administrative staff and technicians.
    • Well co-ordinated and sustained professional development opportunities were important in developing ICT skills and confidence of all staff and embedding the use of ICT. Informal, on-the-job training was very effective when supported by in-school champions.
    • Where new technologies were introduced into all of a school's classrooms at the same time, a culture of sharing and mutual support developed as the whole staff faced the task of embedding the technology into their pedagogy.
    • Access to reliable technology and daily use led to rapid improvements in teachers' skills and improved management of workloads.
    • Shared server areas and virtual learning environments made it easier for teachers to find, store, share, create and reuse resources and lesson plans. This ensured long-term value from the initial high investment by the workforce.

Over quite a long period, it has often been reported that ICT improves pupil motivation and engagement with learning, and this report, after a long study, goes a lot further in identifying where this investment has helped in some of the key education 'buzzword' initiatives, like Assessment For Learning, and parental engagement. It's definitely worth a read on the ICT Test Bed Evaluation web site