Giving teachers their own electronic space

The latest Laptops for Teachers scheme offered by the DFES is allocating pound;100 million over two years (via the Standards Fund) to put laptops into the hands of more teachers. This year's scheme has some important differences from last year's offering. The good news is that schools will decide which teachers are allocated laptops instead of the DFES stipulating a subject area (last year it was maths). Teachers don't have to register to be considered for a laptop, nor do they have to pay anything towards the cost of the machine.

But on the downside, all laptops are purchased from approved suppliers by the school's LEA, so teachers have little say in the type of computers they get. However, Becta, which is managing the scheme on behalf of the DFES, has drawn up a list of approved suppliers and a minimum specification, so the laptops are likely to be well specified with good after-sales support.

Another important difference is that the laptops remain the property of the school and not the teacher. If a teacher moves school or leaves the teaching profession, the laptop is handed back to the school. It remains to be seen how this will affect the mindset of those teachers using laptops on a long-term loan basis.

Local education authorities will be allocated laptops according to the number of teachers they have, and the LEAs in turn will decide how many computers schools get by looking at their existing ICT provision and the number of teachers that have received computers under earlier government schemes.

Headteachers will decide which teachers get a laptop, although those who have received one via a previous scheme will be last in the queue this time. The DFES says laptops should be loaned to designated teachers and not be shared by staff. LEAs will begin purchasing laptops from this summer.

* There are around 25 approved suppliers for the Laptops for Teachers initiative and all must provide computers with a minimum specification. This includes a 900Mz or faster processor chip (500 MHz if using a PowerPC chip), 256 megabytes of RAM, a 20-gigabyte hard drive, 14.1 inch LCD screen, full-sized keyboard, CD-Rom or DVD-Rom drive, floppy disk drive, 56K modem, web browser and Windows 2000 or later or Mac OS9 or later. The laptops should also have office software (such as a word processor and spreadsheet), virus protection software, one RAM memory expansion slot (for upgrading the PC) and a carry case. Suppliers must offer a three-year warranty and a three-year telephone helpline charged at local rates. There are also a couple of optional extras: an internet access service and a demonstration service to help teachers set up and use their laptops. Full details can be found at:

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