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Fast-track recruits get free laptops

HIGH-FLYING recruits to the Government's new fast-track scheme for young teachers will receive a free laptop computer with Internet access, the Department for Education and Employment confirmed this week.

The news that new teachers on fast track, which will offer recruits pound;5,000 bursaries and double annual pay rises from next year, will not have to pay for their machine will infuriate teachers not on the scheme.

The Government is currently offering non-fast track teachers up to 50 per cent off the price of a new computer. Only 10 per cent of the profession are expected to benefit.

The TES is campaigning for all teachers to receive a free machine.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This is a bit sick. Every teacher ought to have a computer for his or her work. It is not right that fast-track people should be singled out for preferential treatment."

A DFEE spokeswoman said: "A lot of the fast-track course has to be accessed by IT. It is also absolutely vital to give teachers a good grounding in IT."

The fast-track scheme, which was greeted with caution by the School Teachers' Review Body, starts next year and will recruit up to 1,000 teachers a year among undergraduates, those undertaking teacher trining, serving teachers and other professions.

They will be expected to work extra hours for their benefits, including undergoing extensive out-of-hours training. However, most teachers not on the scheme are having to attend computer courses in their own time before they can apply for the 50 per cent laptop subsidy.

Bill Gates, the head of Microsoft, has backed The TES's campaign to give every teacher a laptop computer.

He said in London this week that British teachers "absolutely" needed their own portable machine.

Here to launch the software giant's Anywhere Anytime Learning programme - promoting a laptop for every student - Mr Gates said teachers should be given a machine after training. "Then you put laptops in the hands of teachers who are really excited about the technology," he said.

The 45-year-old multi-billionaire said he expected the Government to cover the funding, but doubted it could support the entire cost. Corporate and personal philanthropy would be important, he said. But Mr Gates did not suggest that his pound;14 billion foundation would help.

However, Microsoft has promised to donate 7 per cent of its revenue from Anywhere Anytime Learning. The money will help more than 100 schools signed up to the scheme to provide laptops for all their students.

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