When Mike White produced a CD-Rom for ICT co-ordinators, he called it Everything but the Kitchen Sink. No name could better sum up White's all-embracing approach to the teaching community.
As an ICT Advisory Teacher for Darlington local education authority (LEA), White is based at Darlington's Alderman Leach Primary School, where he runs the E-learning Centre, a one-stop shop which offers advice, support and electronic learning materials to primary and nursery schools. His three-year record of achievements was described by the awards judges as "fantastic... the service he gives is a model of what an LEA should be doing with all its schools."
All 41 of the town's schools have signed service agreements with the centre, using National Grid for Learning (NGfL) funds to secure six days' curriculum support per year, plus unlimited, on-the-spot technical assistance.
White says: "Our helpdesk doesn't answer queries on the phone, as that would mean teachers having to do technical work - and we don't believe they should be responsible for that. Our technicians can be at any school in 20 minutes. The arrangement does reduce the NGfL funding available for hardware and software, but our schools have realised that it is no good just putting in equipment. Without curriculum and technical backup, that is a waste of time."
White is renowned for his ability to attract a following, with schools clamouring to sign up for new projects - success which the former ICT co-ordinator attributes to his willingness to listen. "It is important not to go into schools with your own agenda. If you are open to their needs, you win respect and are allowed to bring in some ideas of your own."
He believes strongly that if a school is to make the most of ICT, all staff need support and training. "Our courses include training for secretaries, and for classroom assistants, particularly at key stage 1, when it is often the assistant, not the class teacher, who is delivering the ICT."
The centre runs conferences for heads and a forum for ICT co-ordinators. And as a follow-up to professional development courses for teachers, White and his colleagues work side by side with them in the classroom. "It's by far the most important thing we do," says White. "Courses are great, but people don't always have the time to put what they have learned into practice. So we teach alongside the teacher, and after a demonstration lesson, we suggest what the next steps should be. That has a big impact."
His all-inclusive approach was demonstrated 18 months ago, when, with the E-Learning centre designated an approved provider to the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) program, White asked schools about their training needs.
When they said they needed help in implementing the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) scheme of work for ICT, White and two colleagues set to work and spent half a term creating an entire exemplification package - lesson plans, hints, tips, activities and resources for every module, published on paper and online. So well was it received that the package is now on the market, selling to schools and LEAs across the country.
Current initiatives include a whole-class teaching scheme based on electronic whiteboards, and the Headlight Schools project, which explores new strategies for helping children develop ICT skills and helps teachers employ ICT across the curriculum. In the second phase of the project, nominated pupils from 18 schools have completed professional development courses at the centre, and now act as ICT mentors for their schoolmates. "It's so motivational, it's wicked," says White.
Mike Partridge is team manager of Stockport LEA's ICT Unit