Another good idea gone bad

26th January 2001 at 00:00
Once again the Department for Education and Employment shows its adeptness at turning a good idea like Computers for Teachers into a fiasco that disillusions some of the most dedicated in the profession.

Tony Blair promised teachers support as well as pressure. So the decision to restrict this year's pound;500 computer subsidy to key stage 3 maths teachers is a slap in the face for the thousands of others who have done what they were urged to do: to devote their own precious time to train in information and communications technology in order to qualify for the sort of essential professional equipment insurance salesmen take for granted.

Judging by the TES postbag, even former chief inspector Chris Woodhead never managed to demoralise so many in one fell swoop. This is a crushing disappointment to those who missed out last year and does nothing to encourage good people to stay in teaching. Primary teachers, now on track to meet all of David Blunkett's targets, feel particularly hurt that they are discriminated against.

Ifthe Government really wants a modern, efficient and can-do profession it must give it the tools for the job and avoid these morale-sapping blows. Teachers are criticised by OFSTED for not using ICT more in their teaching and urged to use computers to reduce the additional burden of bureaucracy. A free or subsidised laptop for all is not an unrealisable goal. Teachers understand that it may take a few years but not when the money is suddenly hijacked for some other Government priority.

David Blunkett has been let down by bad staffwork at every stage of this botched scheme. Demand was completely underestimated last year and the administration so chaotic that teachers ended up being compensated for delayed payments. Then it seemed for a while that most of the subsidy would be clawed back in tax. Scottish teachers get a fairer deal but the Welsh none at all.

Mr Blunkett should find other funds to create secondary maths incentives and open up the subsidy again this year to every teacher who has done what he asked.

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