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Teaching digital competence in secondary schools

ClassFlow advocate Caroline Marshall explains the importance of instilling digital literacy in schools today.

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According to the Government, digital competence is defined as a cross-curricular set of skills, knowledge and attitudes to enable the confident, creative and critical use of technologies and systems. Not to be confused with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), it is the skill set that enables a person to be a confident digital citizen.

Our ClassFlow advocate Caroline Marshall, Computer Science Head of Faculty from Kings Monkton School, has written a guest blog for ResourcEd, outlining the importance of instilling digital literacy in schools today.

September 2016 saw the launch of the Digital Competence Framework (DCF) in Wales. It is set to join the skills curriculum alongside the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF). Its aim is to develop the digital skills of young people in both primary and secondary schools across Wales.

The framework

The DCF consists of four strands, and each can be broken down further:


  • Identity, image and reputation
  • Health and well-being
  • Digital rights, licensing and ownership
  • Online behaviour and cyberbullying

Interaction and collaboration:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Storing and sharing


  • Planning, sourcing and searching
  • Creating
  • Evaluating and improving

Data and computational thinking:

  • Problem-solving and modelling
  • Data and information literacy

Schools have been reviewing the DCF over the year and exploring ways to incorporate it into their skills curriculum, in much the same way as the LNF. Unlike the LNF, the DCF strands are specifically mapped to each year group, including years 10 and 11.

The importance of implementation

As the Digital Competence Framework is new, it is set to evolve over the next couple of years. This makes it incredibly important to consider how it is implemented and practiced within our own schools.

This is particularly tricky within a secondary school; with many different faculties and pedagogies, it can be difficult to incorporate a framework consistently. You’ve also got to consider how any gaps within the framework can be filled and any interventions which need to be put into place to help support your young people.

Keeping schemes of work up-to-date

Exploring schemes of work is a great place to start; faculties can send them to you and you can map them against the DCF. However, as schemes of work develop year on year, this must be incorporated into an annual process. The maps must be updated as often as possible in order to keep them up-to-date.

Gaps in the framework map help to identify areas which need to be addressed, as they represent skills that our young people may be missing out on. However, you will need to consider how these skills can be added into the secondary curriculum. Considerations could include: is there a subject area/topic which would suit that element of the framework? Could it be delivered by form tutors? Is it something that could be delivered during assemblies?

Digital Learning for Wales (Hwb): Sign up for support

Interventions are extremely useful within the LNF to ensure no pupil is left behind and that they can progress. Strategies have been developed since 2013 that include tests and training courses to help support intervention sessions. Just as important as gaps in your framework map, pupils should be given additional opportunities to develop their digital competence. Support is likely to be released over the next academic year, via the Hwb platform. It is important to sign up and review the progress regularly.

Final thoughts

  • Estyn (the education and training inspectorate for Wales) will be looking at how the DCF has been approached by schools and it will be feeding back to inform of good practice.
  • The Welsh Government page on the Digital Competence Framework includes classroom ideas for many (soon to be most) of the strands and their subsections. In order to help faculties and students understand the requirements of each skill, it may be best practice to model those skills from tasks that are part of your own school’s schemes of work.
  • Consider how the DCF can be used within your School Improvement Plan to ensure each faculty knows its importance and role within its development.
  • Work with your school’s LNF coordinator(s) in order to learn from their experiences and ensure a consistent whole-school approach

It’s inspiring to hear that digital competence, across the entire curriculum, is being acknowledged by governments as a core skill for pupils. This ensures they get the best exposure to technologies that will form their future development. Read how interactive technology like Promethean’s ActivPanel can empower more teachers to teach basic digital literacy in their classrooms with confidence.