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Heads up for training

For some time, a significant number of teachers have been missing out on ICT training. Jack Kenny looks at plans to help them

"The sooner the teaching profession gets the same quality of training as those private sector professions that regard on-going learning as the absolute norm, the sooner a more sustainable model of training and learning will find itself being developed." Those were the words of Lord David Puttnam from his TES keynote lecture two years ago. His message appears to be bearing fruit.

Three major training initiatives that should affect every school in England kick off this year. One will target headteachers. According to Tony Richardson, online learning director with the National College for School Leadership (NCSL), "ICT will not work in a school if senior management are not actively involved." That ICT chant is one of the 10 commandments of effective schools. In spite of that, for some bizarre reason, NOF training did not involve head teachers. The NCSL hopes to remedy that.

Tony Richardson believes one of NCSL's main objectives must be to equip school leaders with the knowledge they need to make the best use of ICT resources.

Working with the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (Becta), NCSL ran a pilot programme entitled Strategic Leadership of ICT (SLICT). It proved successful and is now being rolled out to 10,000 headteachers.

The first part of the course is residential, where participants consider the heads' role in making judgements about ICT. A variety of study methods are used, including self-review, workshop sessions, presentations from experts in the field and visits to schools.

At the end of the residential course, participants produce a strategic plan to implement in their schools. During the next 8-10 weeks they continue to discuss issues with fellow participants and tutors via an online community - an experience which in itself shows them the potential of new technology in promoting learning. They then return for a final face-to-face session to discuss the changes they have made and to refine their plans for the future.

Brenda Bigland, head of Lent Rise School in Slough, took part in the pilot and she says it has revolutionised the way ICT is used in her school. "The course allowed us to talk as professionals. It opened up to us the people at Becta, Ultralab and the NCSL. We could see the options and which were the best. We could analyse where we were in ICT terms."

Classroom teachers will not be left out because education secretary Charles Clarke has made it quite clear that he expects ICT to be used across the curriculum. A new training initiative will play a part in achieving that goal. In 2002, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) ran a pilot to test the model of training through subject areas, and as a result of that new training materials have been commissioned.

Schools, teachers and LEAs can now sign up with the contractors and start their training. Standards funding for continuous professional development (CPD) is available, and teachers may choose to use part of the professional bursaries that are available in their fourth and fifth year of teaching.

Unlike the NOF scheme, however, this training is not be free. Schools have to pay the cost of approximately pound;350 per teacher.

Indigo Visions played a major part in the pilot last year and the staff of one school in Cheshire that took part compared it very favourably with their NOF experience.

The Indigo model is to appoint an in-school evangelist to drive the scheme, identify teachers' skills levels, improve them, get teachers to then use those skills, reflect on the outcomes and consider what to do next and also where those new skills can be used. Teachers will be allocated a tutormentor who will stay with them and be accessible.

The contractors and the DfES are anxious to point out that this is not an unco-ordinated strategy. The literacy, numeracy and ICT strategies have all been involved in approving the materials that will be used in the training.

The third scheme, Teach and, created by the Open University and BBC Worldwide, is now due for launch. The scheme is backed by people like Ted Wragg, Estelle Morris MP and Tim Brighouse and is not just about ICT, but about the whole curriculum. Designed for everyone in education, the varied, media-rich courses and resources can be used for individual study and accreditation towards Open University higher-level qualifications (masters level).

After the problems of the past it is no exaggeration to say the success of the initiatives will be crucial for the future of UK education.

Questions to ask

* Is there an understanding of CPD as career-long?

* Is it one-off or on-going?

* Has there been an audit of staff training needs?

* Is CPD open to all staff?

* Is support for subject teaching integrated into support for the whole school?

* Is there evidence that your CPD provider is effective?

* Will the training be accredited by a national body?

* Is there a feedback channel for praise and criticism?

Case studies Educationists at Canterbury Christ Church University College have been collating case studies of NOF training success stories on behalf of the National Council for School Leadership and the British Educational Communication and Technology Agency. These have been built into a website and can be seen at: Contacts

* National Council for School Leadership (NCSL)

* British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (Becta)

* (OU and BBC)

* 3T Productions (Indigo visions)

* New Media (Science Consortium)

* SfE

* MPowerNet

* Lewisham Professional Development Centre Tel: 020 8314 9341

* ICAA Ltd.

Tel: 01962 735 801

* The IT Learning Exchange Tel: 020 7753 5092

* Inclusive Consultancy and Training Syndicate Tel: 01457 819790

* Granada Learning Professional Development Tel: 020 8996 6020

* The Advisory Unit Tel: 01707 266714 The back-to-school issue of Online (Sept 10) will feature Scotland's Masterclass staff development ICT programme.

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