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Heads' web service to be 'geek-free'

A NEW Internet scheme for headteachers, which promises to be a "geek-free zone", has been launched by the National College for School Leadership, writes Chris Johnston.

Talking Heads, the virtual arm of the college, will initially be available to 1,200 new heads, who have been offered a free laptop. In return, they have been asked to log on to the pilot service at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes.

The service's website, available from any computer with Internet access, will allow new heads to communicate with each other, as well as participate in discussions with civil servants and ministers.

The Department for Education and Employment is employing 13 full-time moderators for Talking Heads, which is based on powerful and very user friendly software from computer firm Oracle.

Professor Stephen Heppell, of Anglia Polytechnic University's Ultralab, who played a key role in creating the service, described it as a"geek-free zone" that users will find practical and enjoyable. Heads will receive training on the website and the use of their laptops when they are delivered.

The service will also be used to keep new heads up to date with DFEE information.

All heads could be allowed to use the service if the initial response is positive, and in time the scheme may be extended to classroom teachers. The General Teaching Council has expressed interest in the scheme.

Meanwhile, thousands of headteachers in small primary and special schools in England will get a free laptop computer, The TES can reveal.

The Department For Education and Employment has allocated pound;3 million, to be distributed to local education authorities based on the number of primary teachers in each.

The computers will be bought by authorities and schools, which will be able to reclaim the VAT. As each laptop costs about pound;1,000, at least 3,000 heads will get one.

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