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High hopes for hi-tech;Digest

As if the literacy and numeracy hours were not enough to deal with, all teachers are now expected to get up to speed with using information and communications technology in the classroom, writes Chris Johnston.

However, you are not expected to do it alone - an ambitious nationwide training programme funded by the National Lottery's New Opportunities Fund (NOF) is getting underway to help teachers become confident and competent users of ICT in their lessons.

There are a range of providers, which include university schools of education, local education authorities, commercial consortiums and subject associations. Schools in England and Wales can choose their own; education authorities will make the decision in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

NOF is working with the Teacher Training Agency and has produced a CD-Rom to help teachers assess their training needs. The idea is that schools collate the results so they can decide which provider's training programme is best suited to each of their teachers' specific needs.

The disc for primary teachers covers English, mathematics and science. There have been complaints that the CD demands a certain level of knowledge about ICT to use it, so those unfamiliar with computers may need some help.

The TTA has conceded that many teachers will need help in basic computer skills, but says this must be integrated into the curriculum training.

Training will be provided using distance-learning materials (a mix of paper-based, CD-Rom and Web resources) by most providers, although there may be some face-to-face training. No funding is available for supply cover, so training will have to be done after the school day's end. Office for Standards in Education inspectors will assess training to monitor quality.

The NOF scheme is one of the largest training programmes ever attempted and - although its aims will be difficult to achieve - it has to succeed if practising teachers are to make effective use of ICT in the classroom.

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