Teachers’ International Professional Development programme
26 - 31 October 2003
Local Education Authority Southend on Sea
LEA Visit Leader Michael Imms
Reference and Title of Visit Productive Use of ICT
Provider The British Council
Country/ Region Visited Finland: Helsinki, Vantaa
Types of schools visited General Upper Secondary
Age of students observed 6 Years to 19 Years
Language/s used English
Key Educational Purpose of Visit Investigate best practice in the productive
use of ICT in Teaching and Learning.
Schedule of Visits:
Board of Education: Finnish Education System, ICT Strategy in Education
Media Centre: TV and Sound Studios, Web-based learning, Math Wonderland
Finnish Science Centre Heureka
Primary, Secondary and Upper Secondary schools
The aim of the visit was:
To investigate best practice in the productive use of ICT in Teaching and Learning.
Our Objectives were
1. Identify good practice in ICT that can be transferred, adapted and used to enhance
teaching and learning in Southend.
2. Observe examples of how the effective, integrated, use of ICT has contributed to
raising pupils' achievement and engagement in learning, across the curriculum and
across phase (primary/secondary/post 16) if possible.
3. Investigate Local Authority/district level support mechanisms for the development of
ICT use in teaching and learning.
4. Forge links and develop working partnerships with other schools, particularly schools
Each teacher, with a colleague in their school, completed a SWOT analysis of ICT in their
schools. LEA representatives’ ultilised a SWOT analysis that had been completed for an LEA
Inspection at the beginning of 2003. This provided the focus for discussion at a series of pre-
visit meetings to identify specific issues to be explored while in Finland. These were
referenced to our objectives. The outcomes of these discussions were summarised in a
recording document that each member used to collect evidence and were completed during
the visit. The recording document was also used as reference at daily debriefings while in
The Key Areas of Focus for the collection of evidence were:
1. Using ICT to Support Children with Special Needs/Inclusion.
2. Assessment using ICT.
3. Assessment of ICT.
4. Using ICT to support Teaching and Learning.
5. Teaching ICT.
6. Management of ICT.
7. ICT Resources.
8. Professional Development.
9. National/ Local Authority Leadership and Support for the development of ICT.
The breadth of experience and professional responsibilities of the group (1 Infant Teacher
(ICT Co-ordinator), 2 Secondary Teachers (Head of ICT and AST ICT), 3 Junior School
Teachers (ICT Co-ordinator, Deputy Headteacher, Assessment Co-ordinator, LEA Adviser for
ICT, LEA Assistant Director), enabled open objective discussion and analysis of observations
made during the visit.
The expected outcome of the visit was to experience and share best practice in the
productive use of ICT in Teaching and Learning. This included seeing a significant number of
examples of innovative and imaginative practice in the use of ICT that could be shared with
colleagues on our return. This expectation was particularly high following the publication of
the article ‘Heaven and Helsinki’ (Guardian Education, 16.9.2003) which described the
success of the Finnish Education system. The group were particularly interested how ICT is
taught and assessed at each stage of compulsory education as well as how ICT is used to
support teaching and learning of all students across the curriculum. The secondary members
of the team were particularly interested in exploring the specialised teaching of ICT and
vocational ICT teaching programmes and how they prepared students for further/higher
education or work. At an LEA level we hoped to find innovative examples of leading
development and supporting schools in the use of ICT to raise standards. We also hoped that
the visit would provide and opportunity to establish international links between schools to
promote teaching and learning using ICT driven communication, e.g. Video conferencing. It
was also expected that the visit would provide an opportunity to reflect on professional
Finnish Education System
Finland heads the rankings on Education Performance of countries in the industrialised world
(OECD, September 2003) and came top of the world’s literacy rankings (Programme for
International Student Assessment, OECD/UNESCO, July 2003).
Our visit to a wide range of schools providing education to pupils aged 7-19, in the Helsinki
and Vantaa areas of Finland enabled us to begin to identify the similarities and differences
between the English and Finnish education systems. Both systems involve compulsory
education and provide for progression from early years through to university and work. In the
general shape of the provision, the Finnish system makes a clear distinction between the two
strands of provision at 16+, the vocational strand provided by Vocational Institutions and
General Education provided by Upper Secondary Schools, giving access to Polytechnics and
Universities respectively. Vocational Education and apprenticeship training is far more
developed than in the England. General Education path at 16+ is the path that most pupils
aspire to. Unfortunately we were not able to visit a Vocational Institution to investigate
Vocational Education and ICT based programmes. In Finland the percentage of students
pursuing education beyond the compulsory school age is very high (56% in General
Education and 35% in Vocational Education and approximately 7% delay moving to Upper
In all schools visited the following characteristics were noticed or directly referred to by
Headteachers or Staff:
1. The high level of independence of pupils’ right from a very early age.
2. The expectation that pupils will take responsibility for their own learning and complete
3. The calmness and quietness of the working environment.
4. The level of trust in the professionalism of teachers.
5. The trust placed in teachers to assess pupil’s achievement and attainment without
6. No inspection of schools.
7. No formal National Examinations until the age of 19.
8. Free school meals for all pupils up to the age of 19, school nurses, social workers
and child psychologists’ work together to provide a holistic welfare service which
supports the concept of education as personal development.
The curriculum in Lower and Upper Secondary Schools was constructed around a
compulsory core units plus optional units. For 7 to 12 year olds all pupils follow the same
curriculum with a very strong emphasis on language development. One interesting aspect of
the provision for all ages is the importance of Craft skills (textiles, wood work, metal work,
electronics, cooking) where the emphasis appears to be on the development of craft skills and
the production of a quality product rather than focusing on the design process. Pupils
observed in these lessons seemed very content and happy.
No special provision appears to be made in Finnish schools for Gifted and Talented pupils,
apart from some schools attracting musicians. It was indicated by a representative at the
Finnish Science Centre that they were beginning to consider the issue of provision for Gifted
and Talented pupils. Provision for pupils with special needs is made in the classroom. Two
schools visited had special provision for a class of pupils with severe learning difficulties.
There were a few Headteachers who acknowledge that some pupils were difficult but felt that
behaviour was not an issue in the context of the whole school.
ICT is not a compulsory subject within the Finnish curriculum. ICT does appear as an option
in some lower secondary schools and Upper schools. Provision and use of ICT is dependent
on school and teachers within the school.
The National and local (Helsinki) ICT strategies has resulted in all schools having ICT
resources which include ICT suites. The quality of ICT resources in Finnish schools as in
English schools is variable with on average comparable computer to pupil ratios to those in
England All schools had access to the internet but not necessarily broadband access at 2MB.
All schools visited were standardising teacher presentational tools such as projectors and
document readers. In some schools this had been extended to quite a sophisticated teacher
centre with ICT presentational tools at hand for whole class teaching and input. This
standardisation was being promoted by the municipal authorities. Technical support was
provided by the municipal authority with each school receiving 2 to 3 days support per week.
In Helsinki this provision is based at the Media Centre. Differences in funding of schools in
England and Finland means that Finnish school do not pay for this provision. Most schools
indicated that technical support was an issue and in some schools additional technical
support was provided by a teacher.
The Media Centre in Helsinki is the municipal hub of educational ICT development. It provides
technical support and training for teachers and is responsible for major ICT projects. The
centre also provides quality resources with technical support that can be booked by teachers
to use with pupils e.g. Sound and Video recording studio, ICT training and teaching rooms,
Graphics studio. A major part of the centres work is currently focused on the assessment of
VLEs with the view of making an authority wide provision for schools.
The range of ICT based activities observed in schools was limited and in most cases used
Microsoft WORD or access to the internet for research. A greater variety of programmes were
used with younger pupils to support language development and keyboard skills. The use of a
transparent keyboard divider was observed which promoted the development of keyboard
skills. Some programmes were used to support the teaching of science; these provided visual
stimulation in the form of simple simulations that could be linked to experiment and theory. No
teaching of ICT was observed. Teachers regarded ICT as a learning and research tool. This
fits with the Finnish approach to education which is centred on teaching pupils independent
learning skills so that they are able to acquire knowledge. Many of the ICT based learning
activities ended with the carrot of testing pupils’ new learning in a game. Most pupils had
computers at home, this combined with the use of computers at school promoted pupil
Examples of the use of ICT in practical subjects were observed. Basic music software was
used by a class to compose music, there was some evidence of the use of ICT to make
measurements in science and although not operational one example of a computer controlled
A key feature of all the upper secondary schools was the use of a web-based, virtual learning
environment to promote mind-mapping and collaborative learning strategies. A National
website has been developed to enable pupils living in remote communities to access distance
Most schools used ICT to support Language teaching allowing access to the target language
through the internet. E-mail was also used to support the learning of languages Teachers are
given considerable freedom in relation to how they pursue both the core curriculum (60%) and
the optional curriculum. In each school particular teachers who had developed a personal
interest in ICT were the leading ICT teachers and pursued a variety of strategies for its use.
Teachers are positively encouraged to be creative in their approaches to teaching and
supported in experimental and innovative methodology. Several examples were presented to
us through the National Board of Education ‘Snowball Project’.
The schools visited were not in a position to use Video-conferencing to support language
development and there was no indication that they would be developing this activity.
No formal procedures were in place for the formative or summative assessment of ICT
skill/capability development. Where ICT provision was made as part of an optional course
there was an end of course assessment based on completion of activities within the course.
The best example of assessment in ICT was where pupils worked towards the ECDL award.
Teacher assessments are given at grade 9 (16yrs) and, depending upon these, either attend
upper secondary (academic) school or vocational school, or remain for one further year to try
and improve teacher-derived grade averages. Some schools participated in nationally
provided and externally marked tests for grade 9 pupils. However, the results of the tests
were not published or fed back to the students. Teachers who used these tests did so to
confirm their own teacher assessments. However, these tests are not available for ICT only
National and Local ICT strategies support the training of teachers. Primarily this utilises the
EDCL as the vehicle for development. The focus through the ECDL being on using basic
Office applications. Helsinki authorities have encouraged teachers to complete this training by
giving teachers a laptop on successful completion. The Helsinki authorities also provide more
advanced courses that are based on the use of ICT in the classroom and also to develop the
skills of lead ICT teachers.
The Education System in Finland is markedly different to that in the UK especially the
teaching of ICT. The central focus for the use of ICT in Finnish Schools is as a research and
communication tool. ICT is not taught to any great depth and is limited to basic applications
such as Word Processing and Web Browsers and there use as a research tool. This use of
ICT encouraged the development of pupils as independent learners; it also encouraged
collaborative learning and literacy skills. The use of ICT in this way combined with the Portal
and VLE developments will be an important component of using ICT across the curriculum in
Parents and Authorities have high expectations, which are supported by high levels of
professional trust of teachers to teach to the ‘required’ standards with little external reference.
This seemed to permeate all aspects of school life resulting in a clam purposeful environment
in which pupils can learn. This element of school life prompted much discussion and reflection
especially in reflection to pupil development of independent learning skills and levels of
There is no framework for the teaching or assessment of ICT in Finland comparable to the
National Curriculum. More in depth teaching of ICT e.g. Programming is dependent on
teachers own personal interest.
Finland’s National and Municipal Strategies primarily focus on access to ICT resources e.g.
Computer to pupil ratios and high quality internet links rather than the use of ICT to support
Teaching and Learning. There is no National Strategy comparable to the ICT strand within the
UK’s Key Stage 3 Strategy or Primary Strategy.
The centralised non-delegated funding of ICT in Finland has resulted in standardised
resources in Schools e.g. computer suites and teacher consoles but this provision does not
seem to be linked to educational need. Centralised technical support is provided to all schools
but as in the UK more support is required to maintain the performance of school ICT systems.
Centralised funding has enabled the development of a media centre which allows schools to
access a wide range of supported multimedia resources. The media centre also provides
professional development in ICT for teachers, mostly focusing on the ECDL.
The general view of the group was that schools did not generally make best use of the ICT
resources that were available to support teaching and learning. However, where ICT was
used by pupils they were motivated and engaged and taking responsibility for their own
Dissemination of findings
Participants will provide a report to senior managers and staff in there schools. Reports will
also be given at EAZ ICT group meetings and LEA ICT Strategy Management group
meetings. Written reports will be posted on the Schools Document Site for all to read.
Future developments and continuing links
Our findings have reinforced the need to develop and use an Educational Portal in Southend.
This development will build on the provision made, to member authorities in the UK, by the
East of England Broadband Consortium and is a priority within the LEA ICT Strategy.
Teachers were impressed with the standardised class teaching resources in classroom
teaching consoles especially the use of document readers. These resources allow for high
quality whole class presentations. Recommendations will be made to all schools relating to a
minimum standard of classroom ICT equipment.
Primary teachers are in the process of establishing e-mail contact with Finnish Schools.
Secondary teachers are planning to establish e-mail contact between pupils in the UK and
Finland using a second language e.g. French.
Primary and Secondary teachers have experimented with the use of ‘rotating stories’
observed in one school that was visited.
General advice for other visitors
The Education provision in Finland is from 7 years to 19 years and from 16 to 19 years is split
into 2 strands (General Education and Vocational Education). It is important that schools in
both post 16 strands are visited to get a clear picture of the total provision in whatever field is
Ensure that the itinerary includes time to relax and reflect on what has been observed and
that there are opportunities to absorb the local culture.
Visit with an open mind. Professional development, learning and outcomes may not be what
was expected or directly linked to the objectives of the visit.