Skip to main content

Laptops for all is the key

Chris Johnston examines the implications of a new ICTin schools paper

Every teacher will need a laptop computer to ensure the vision of e-learning set out in a new document looking at how the future of ICT in schools is achieved.

Transforming The Way We Learn, launched by education secretary Estelle Morris at last month's BETT educational technology exhibition, depicts schools having managed learning environments and access to online resources through initiatives such as Curriculum Online.

Steve Bacon, general secretary of computer advisers' association NAACE, agreed that every teacher would need their own laptop if this scenario was to become real.

He said the pound;100 million two-year scheme to provide teachers with portable computers announced by Ms Morris last month would "go a long way" to reaching that goal. Mr Bacon was confident that the Government would provide more money in the future to help those who miss out this time.

The Laptops for Teachers scheme is the first time the Government will provide computers free of charge to teachers. Past schemes have required teachers to cover half the cost of a machine from their own pocket.

The laptops will be owned by schools, rather than individuals. Although NAACE had urged the Department for Education and Skills (DFES) to devise a scheme based on personal ownership by teachers, Mr Bacon said it was "entirely supportive" of the initiative because it would reach far more people.

However, he warned that the DFES must ensure that schools allow teachers exclusive use of a laptop and not loan them on a temporary basis. Schools will also have to decide which staff members will receive a laptop and the task will fall to heads in many cases.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association for Head Teachers, said heads could be forced to make some difficult decisions, but said the benefits of the scheme far outweighed those concerns.

Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton Community High School in Whitley Bay, said he expected to give computers to teachers who would use them in class in ways likely to raise pupil achievement.

He called on the Government to allow schools to use funding from other sources, such as the new electronic learning credits in Curriculum Online, to let them buy more laptops.

Mr Kelley, who has been a DFES adviser, also criticised the pound;400 million spent on the "disastrous" NOF training scheme and said the money would have been better used to buy computers for teachers.

David Triggs, head of Greensward technology college in Hockley, Essex, believes the DFES should have adopted a leasing, rather than purchasing, model for laptops. He said the pound;100 million could have provided a laptop for almost every teacher if it had been used to fund a leasing scheme.

His school spent pound;18,000 a year on leasing a laptop for every teacher, using funding from the South East England Virtual Education Action Zone of which it was a member.

It was an acceptable cost, because most businesses gave their workers a computer to use and teachers were no different, Mr Triggs said. If extra funding was withdrawn, the cost would still have to be met because he said staff could not do their jobs without laptops.

Ms Morris told TES Online that she expected teachers to react favourably to the laptops scheme and this appears to have been the case, according to comments posted on the TES website. Many, however, believed all teachers and not just some should be given one. About 100,000 are expected to benefit from the scheme.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you