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Outrage over rebate bungle

AT LEAST three teachers have had their personal financial details sent to complete strangers because of an administrative mix-up by the Government's Computers for Teachers initiative.

Katie Rowberry, a Worcestershire primary teacher, said she was horrified to discover that her bank address, account number and sorting code had been sent to another teacher based in Wakefield, writes Karen Thornton.

And a fourth teacher, Julian Mott, from Burton-on-Trent, said he had been asked to send in another application form and invoice after a DFEE official rang to say his financial details had been lost. He made his original application back in February.

Mrs Rowberry only found out when the teacher in Wakefield, Marjorie Garside, rang to see if she had her paperwork.

Mrs Rowberry then checked the documentation she had received, and found she had the financial details of a third teacher - a Margaret Ingram from Atherstone, Warwickshire.

"I feel it's against the Data Protection Act," said Mrs Rowberry.

"They are circulating all my financial details to acomplete stranger. I can't believe it."

Mrs Rowberry has been waiting for the pound;500 payment towards her new computer for three months. The administrative mix-up was compounded by problems getting through to the various Computers for Teachers' helpline numbers.

The pound;20 million Government initiative is offering subsidies of up to pound;500 for teachers who buy laptops or computers for school work. But many teachers have faced massive delays in getting their cash. The DFEE has admitted to having been overwhelmed by demand, and offered pound;15 compensation payments to those waiting more than a month for their rebates.

The TES has been campaigning for every teacher in the UK to have a laptop.

The confusion over Mrs Rowberry and Mrs Garside's financial details seems to be because their reference numbers are only one digit apart.

A DFEE spokeswoman said it had not received any other complaints about financial details being mixed up. She said new forms would be issued to the affected teachers.

The Computers for Teachers helpline is 0870 000 2288

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