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Ironically, when the technology became more accessible LEA ICT teams were allowed - almost encouraged - to fade away. There are some valiant exceptions and Essex is one of them. The range of work, done by the team to a very high level, is astonishing.

Although this award goes to a named individual it is the team that makes it possible, and Anthony Burdis is only too anxious to point out that what has been achieved is the result of team work.

When schools were allowed to opt out of LEA control under the grant maintained scheme - many Essex schools reacted with a speed and enthusiasm that must have dismayed many in the LEA. To have reestablished confidence in central LEA structures is a considerable achievement.

There is a high level of financial delegation to Essex schools, around 95 per cent, and the Essex team realises that it has to serve the needs of Essex schools if it is to pay its way. In a quiet, understated way Anthony has brought together a team of people who can command the confidence of schools. Practically all the schools have bought into the support offered by the team.

Convincing schools to return some of the funds to the centre is not easy. Schools which have had experience of managing their own funds are critical consumers. The only way is to convince them that they will receive value for money. Anthony and his team have managed to do that.

Each member of the team makes an important contribution in his or her own field. One team member has been concentrating on aspects of control technology in the primary school because this was an area of weakness identified in many Ofsted reports. His work will be valued in the subscribing schools.

The helpline is particularly impressive. This is not just a technical helpline and is open to any Essex teacher with an ICT query. All calls are logged and that information gives useful feedback to the ICT team, helping them to plan and isolate areas of concern. Schools too are given the feedback.

The consultancy groups set up by Anthony to include headteachers have assisted him in making some key decisions about the way that funds are allocated to schools. In an era of competitive schools, Anthony has re-ignited and increased the spirit of co-operation.

New Opportunities Fund (NOF) training has been done in conjunction with the Learning Schools Programme. An advisory team has been created - comprising expert teachers who have been recruited locally - which is developing a laptop scheme by bargaining with suppliers to get advantageous prices for Essex teachers (Sony was chosen).

The website is put together with care. There is an emphasis on not replicating materials that can be found easily on other sites. As a result, the site is made up of material that is largely produced locally.

One development that will be key to the success of the team is Flippi. Flippi is an ingenious way of helping teachers to assess. Easier to use than to describe, it is an answer to the question: how do you assess levels? The dual nature of the solution, paper and electronic, is very appealing for a number of reasons. Principally, it means that the barely ICT literate can start assessing with the paper version. The paper presentation is attractive. Sheets can be flipped over until the current level is found. The computer version is attractive to look at and to use. Although developed for ICT it is easy to see this being adapted to all the curriculum areas, not just ICT. Flippi could sweep the country.

Flippi www.e-gfl.orgflippiindex.cfm Jack Kenny

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