You've seen the lottery advert, big finger looming out of the sky: "It could be you." Well, the New Opportunities Fund and the Teacher Training Agency, which are behind the huge teacher training programme for information and communications technology (ICT), need their own advert: a gigantic finger saying: "It is you."
The biggest training initiative ever in education is about to take place and few of those people that it applies to have realised that it is going to happen. It is going to happen, and it is going to happen to you.
Each school has been allocated around pound;450 per teacher to ensure they are trained in ICT. And each has been sent a big red folder from NOF explaining the scheme along with CD-Roms to help them assess their needs.
Schools will be given an opportunity to assess their own level of skill and, once that is complete, teachers have to decide who will help them learn.
This is a vast scheme and there are many training organisations competing for schools' money. Even more will be announced in November. Schools should try to ensure they consider as many trainers as possible.
The original intention was that the schools were to make their own decisions. The scheme was not built around local authorities except for those which were approved as providers, but a great many LEAs have formed alliances with training providers. Some providers are offering the training in a local context and are recruiting the help of LEAs to achieve this. LEAs are paid for this support by the training provider and the LEA spends this on hiring extra advisory staff to support the scheme in their schools.
Problems arise when an LEA recommends training providers to schools. Most LEAs which have arrangements with providers will make this clear when advising schools.
However, it is as well to ensure that the advice you are getting is being given is unbiased and objective. In the final analysis, the decision is yours and your schools. And there's anecdotal evidence that schools are making decisions without being fully aware of all the options. Training does not have to be completed until 2002, so the wise schools will spend the first year listening to the experiences of those who decided to start early.
Tips for you.
Take ownership of the scheme. Avoid viewing this initiative as an imposition. See this selfishly as a professional development for you. Ask for help, decide where you are now and where you wish to be in 2002. Will you need basic training before you can profit from the course? What kind of training do you need? Distance learning? Face to face? Make sure that you are accredited for the learning that you do. Ask around, there are local providers, national providers and subject providers. Listen to recommendations from as many sources as possible, not just your LEA.
For the department.
Take ownership of the scheme. Discuss the scheme with the department. Try to reach a consensus. See if there is a provider specialising in your curriculum area. Decide on the style of learning that the department needs. Some trainers are using "distance learning" some "face to face", some a mixture of both. Don't be railroaded into using a provider you are not happy with. Remember that a school can use a number of providers. Find out how much of the training will be done in the teacher's own time. Find out how the LEA will support you.
For the senior management team.
Take ownership of the scheme. Discuss the scheme with the staff. Try to avoid staff feeling that they are being pressurised by LEA decisions or SMT decisions. Make sure you have enough equipment to satisfy staff demand. Listen carefully to all advice but remember the choice is yours. Will any extra school money need to be spent? Make sure you have explored all the possible providers.
It is unlikely that one provider will satisfy the needs of all teachers and all departments. Remember that you can use a number of providers. Explain the scheme to parents. Harmonise the needs of the school with the needs of individual members of staff. Let staff decide when and where the training takes place. Try to ensure that your staff are accredited for the learning they do.
Explain the economics of the scheme to staff. Ensure that curriculum developments take place that will use the new skills acquired by staff. Begin to plan what happens after the training is done: how will the school keep those new skills honed? Make a wish list of where you would like to be by 2002. Try to avoid staff feeling that the training is being done to them.