Age range: 11-18
Number of pupils: 1,280
Self-review framework lead: Jon Simpson, head of ICT
Self-review framework completion: In about a term

Charles Darwin is a specialist performing arts college where ICT is used widely for learning and teaching. Headteacher Rob Higgins sees ICT as “a lynchpin of the school” and reflected the importance he placed in it by personally line managing ICT until recently. Because of the extent to which he and his colleagues believed ICT to be embedded in the curriculum, they undertook the self-review framework to see if the evidence bore out their views, and to provide some recognition for the work of staff in getting to this point.

The process was led by Jon Simpson, head of ICT. He gathered students’ views of ICT provision using regular online surveys. Jon also looked at all of the available assessment data including the school’s internal assessments, assessed levels at the end of Key Stage 3 and examinations data for ICT courses at Key Stage 4 and in the sixth form. Staff views were elicited from across a wide range of subjects and from the senior leadership team. Jon found working to the framework and guidance straightforward:

“The criteria are clear and helpful and there are exemplars which help you to come to a valid view of where your school is”.

The school operates a cross-curricular programme in Key Stage 3 which sees the four ICT teachers working in pairs with teachers of other subjects for a period of time. Rob Higgins feels that the review affirmed this approach:

“It provided due recognition for the ICT department’s very active role in promoting learning and teaching with ICT across all subjects”.

As well as highlighting curricular strengths, the review also highlighted areas for development in other aspects of the school’s ICT work. As a result, the school has now developed, for example, an ICT system which enables students to offer online comments on lessons which are then fed back to heads of faculty, thus strengthening the student voice in the school. The review also led to the school developing its ICT system for performance management and the Key Stage 2–3 transition processes in ICT, where plans have now been put in place to forge much stronger links with local primary schools.

“The use of the self-review framework was an overwhelmingly positive experience which recognised the school’s progress and achievements to date while also highlighting some important areas for development which we have since been able to act on” says Jon Simpson.

“The framework is easy to use and sets out a clear, manageable and methodical approach to gathering evidence and making judgements.”

Jon emphasises the need for good planning and preparation and advises other schools to allocate sufficient time to this. He also thinks the work should be shared out:

“While one person should be in charge, it is helpful for other colleagues to take on responsibilities – for example, one colleague here was responsible for liaising with other faculties and made important inputs to the review.”