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National Curriculum

Planning and assessment in KS4 ICT


Planning across the key stage

The revision of the key stage 4 programme of study provides an opportunity to review and refresh your sequences of work. When reviewing planning across the key stage, developing new sequences of work or revising existing ones, you should consider the following.

Where are the opportunities to develop students’ experience of the key concepts?

The key concepts should underpin all study of ICT. Students need opportunities to explore and develop understanding of these ideas as they study the subject. Your planning should support the integration of the key concepts into teaching and learning across the key stage. When you review your planning you may find that the opportunities to develop ICT capability are achieved mainly through the production of ICT solutions to meet the needs of an audience or user. The key concepts can be developed through the key processes.

How can planning ensure that students make progress in the key processes?

The key processes described in the programme of study are the essential and interrelated skills that students need to learn to make progress in ICT. Your planning should provide for increased demand and expectation to ensure that students make progress in the key areas. For example, students will need opportunities to work with increasing independence, to collaborate with others, and to improve their problem-solving skills. They will also need to be given tasks that allow them to become more self-directed and self-reliant when developing ideas. Students should be encouraged to constantly evaluate their own and others’ work, and should be able to respond, where appropriate, to constructive criticism.

How can the curriculum opportunities in the programme of study be built into teaching and learning?

Students should be given opportunities to experience the range and content described in the programme of study. As students develop their understanding of the key concepts and key processes, they will become more competent users of ICT tools. Students will need to apply their knowledge, skills and understanding to new and unfamiliar contexts.

ICT teachers should consider all available opportunities for working with other areas of learning to provide flexible approaches to teaching. Students should be encouraged to develop solutions to real-world situations. These situations could include case studies based on or drawn from examples outside the school environment, for example information systems used in the local community.

Students should be taught to identify, assess and make choices between alternative techniques, tools and approaches when formulating ICT solutions for specific tasks. Similarly, students should be encouraged to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of their proposed solutions.

Continuity across the key stages

To make good progress students need continuity and opportunities for development across the key stages. To achieve this, curriculum planning at key stage 4 needs to:

  • build on and extend students’ achievements and experiences at key stage 3
  • provide students with a clear sense of how teaching and learning is helping them develop their knowledge, skills and understanding, and of what they are aiming to achieve by the end of the key stage
  • prepare students for the demands of further study in the subject or the world of work.

Key stage 3

At key stage 3 students become increasingly independent users of ICT tools and information sources; and they access, use and combine increasing amounts of information. Students think about the quality and reliability of information, can evaluate it critically, and are able to identify bias. When communicating electronically, students develop more awareness and understanding of the need to ensure their own safety and to respect others. They develop their ability to judge when and how to use ICT and where it has limitations. Students become more focused, efficient and rigorous in their use of ICT, and carry out increasingly complex tasks.

By the end of key stage 3, most students are able to combine the use of ICT tools within the overall structure of an ICT solution. Most students can reflect critically, evaluate the fitness-for-purpose of their work as it progresses, and use such evaluation to inform their future work. Most bring into consideration an increasing range of quantitative and qualitative information for use in increasingly complex tasks. Most students recognise the need to be safe and act responsibly when using digital communications. Most students begin to use ICT to help their work in other areas of study and develop their ability to judge when and how to use it.

Key stage 4

During key stage 4 students become more responsible for choosing and using ICT tools and information sources. Students make use of a wide range of ICT applications confidently and effectively, and they work independently much of the time. They choose and design ICT systems to suit particular needs and may design and implement systems for other people to use. Students continue to collaborate with others to carry out and to evaluate their work.

By the end of key stage 4, most students are able to identify needs and opportunities for using ICT, show knowledge and understanding of the range and scope of ICT applications, and demonstrate increased integration and efficiency in their use of ICT tools. Most students are able to plan and design ICT solutions to meet specific purposes for different audiences, and can scope the information flow required to develop an ICT solution. Most students are able to develop and refine their work to enhance its quality using a greater complexity and range of information. Most students further develop their ability to evaluate the benefits and limitations of ICT tools, information sources and their own work, and they use their assessment more effectively to improve their work. Most students can take part in informed discussions about the use of ICT tools and the impact of ICT on society.

New opportunities

The revised programme of study offers you many opportunities to refresh and renew your curriculum, making it broader and more relevant in ways that will inspire and engage learners. Some of the key themes that underpin the revisions include:

Increased flexibility

The revised programme of study at key stage 4 provides schools with the freedom to innovate as they make the importance of ICT statement come to life. Teachers now have greater flexibility to develop experiences that will challenge students and respond to their needs. The changes provide teachers with opportunities to draw on and reinforce learning from other subject areas,

A renewed emphasis on ICT capability

The curriculum at key stage 4 seeks to build on the ICT capability developed in key stage 3. It develops further students’ technical skills and techniques and their understanding of how to apply these skills in learning, everyday life and future employment.

An emphasis on exploring ideas and thinking creatively

ICT capability supports independent learning, initiative and creativity. Students are encouraged to solve problems creatively by using ICT to explore ideas, model different scenarios, test hypotheses and try out alternatives. The key stage 4 programme of study develops students’ ability to create imaginative solutions to ICT problems for others as well as themselves.

Working with others

The key concept of communication and collaboration encourage students to explore the ways in which ICT can be used to share ideas easily on a global scale, to enable people to work together in new ways, and to change the way in which knowledge can be discovered, assembled and acquired.

Encouraging critical engagement

Addressing the key concept of critical evaluation provides valuable opportunities for students to analyse and evaluate the information they find, and to review and reflect critically on their own and others’ ICT solutions.

Planning for inclusion

Planning an inclusive key stage 4 means thinking about shaping the curriculum to match the needs and interests of the full range of learners.

These include:

  • the gifted and talented

  • those with special educational needs and disabilities

  • students who have English as a second language

  • the different needs of boys and girls.

Students in the school will also bring a range of cultural perspectives and experiences, which can be reflected in the curriculum and used to further students' understanding of the importance of the issues of diversity.

An inclusive curriculum is one where:

  • different groups of students are all able to see the relevance of the curriculum to their own experiences and aspirations

  • all students, regardless of ability, have sufficient opportunities to succeed in their learning at the highest standard.

You may find that a useful starting point to planning for inclusion could be to consider your own school's Disability Action Plan, Race Equality Plan and other equality policies alongside a comprehensive overview of the data available on students from various groups. This can then be used to draw up a useful framework for curriculum review. You will also be able to identify appropriate points to involve learners themselves in some of these developments.

Support for assessment

Assessment is an essential part of normal teaching and learning in all subjects. It can take many forms and be used for a range of purposes. To be effective assessment must be ‘fit for purpose’; being clear what you want the assessment to achieve will determine the nature of the assessment and what the outcome will be.

When planning assessment opportunities consider the following:

Purpose – What is the assessment for and how will it be used?

Does it form part of ongoing assessment for learning to provide individual feedback or targets so that the student knows what to do next? Is it to provide an overall judgement about how the student is progressing against national curriculum levels? Related to this is the need to consider how the purpose of assessment affects the frequency of assessment. For example, there should be sufficient time between level-related judgements to allow a student to show progress, whereas to be effective the assessment of ongoing work should be embedded in day-to-day teaching and learning.

Evidence – What are the best ways to gather the evidence needed to support the purpose of the assessment?

Assessment shouldn’t be limited to a narrow range of evidence. Any meaningful judgement of progress or attainment should be based on a range of activities, outcomes and contexts This could include assessing the learning as it’s happening through observation, discussion or focused questioning; involving students in the process through peer or self-assessment; or sampling a range of work over a period of time. If there are areas where you don’t have sufficient evidence you could either adjust your planning or use a more focused short task or test to fill the gap. The gathering of evidence also needs to be manageable. With care, the same evidence may be used for a variety of purposes.

Outcome – What form will the assessment outcome take and how will it be used?

Depending on the purpose of the assessment the outcome could be a level judgement of progress over time or a specific and measurable improvement target for the student. Effective use of the assessment outcome results in actions such as providing an instant response or planning for the longer term. The best means of communicating assessment outcomes should be considered. For example, it might be through written feedback or discussion. The outcome may also provide you with valuable information for your future planning, by identifying areas that need to be revisited by a class or individuals to secure understanding or by revealing gaps in curriculum coverage where there is no evidence of achievement in a particular area to assess.

Further guidance on gathering evidence, integrating assessment, periodic assessment and the role of tasks and tests can be found in the assessment section of the website.

Further guidance on day-to-day assessment and peer and self-assessment can be found under the assessment section of the website.

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