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Ministers offer free trips for teachers

An escape route has been opened up should any British teachers fancy a study trip abroad. Warwick Mansell reports

WHAT would you say to the chance to travel overseas at the Government's expense - without having to become a spy?

Teachers are being urged to seize the chance of a study visit to a country of their choice, with all accommodation and travel costs met by the taxpayer. Hundreds of free trips have still not been allocated.

The trips - of up to two weeks - are being offered under the Department for Education and Employment's international professional development scheme.

The programme funds study visits to partner schools overseas. Those going might, for example, examine how the overseas school uses computers to support the curriculum, or the way it assesses pupil performance.

Staff wanting to take part can apply to their head, who should then assemble groups of between two to four colleagues for the visit.

The British school must already have links with its proposed ovrseas partner to qualify. The visits would last for one week if the school is in Europe, two if the destination is further afield. Travellers would have to prepare a report on their return.

So far, only 33 teachers have applied for a total of 500 places. As all visits must be completed by next April, the organisers say that applications received in the next few weeks will "never have a better chance of success".

However, teacher unions have claimed that one reason for the poor take-up may be the fact that the Government is not paying for supply cover, so most trips will be in the holidays.

Anthony Howick, of the Central Bureau for International Education and Training said: "This is an opportunity for teachers to look at practice in a new, international setting - to take a fresh look at what they are doing in their classrooms."

Those interested in expanding their horizons should call Julie Stimpson at the Central Bureau, on 020 7389 4826, or visit www.centralbureau.org.uktipd

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