Are you sitting comfortably?

6th April 2001 at 01:00
People often ask us why TES Online returns to the theme of helping teachers who are only just getting to grips with the technology. What about the exciting new technology? Shouldn't we move on and assume that teachers are doing the same? During this transitional period our answer has been consistent - teachers are the most important key to successful ICT in schools and colleges. Until most of them are comfortable with ICT, we have to stay with those starting out as well as the sophisticated surfers.

That's why our cover feature (p10) is aimed at the starters, with support for the core curriculum. (Next month we will focus on the national training scheme and show how to get the most out of it.) However, we will eventually reach a point where there is less for beginners and the reason is simple - the programme will move on.

In journalism this happened a relatively long time ago. Our contributors have sent their stories in by email on disc for a number of years. And would you take seriously a journalist who was not able to use the Internet for research?

The vital difference for teachers, however, is that they are not just expected to use the technology in much the same way as they would a telephone; they must use it in their everyday teaching with pupils who might well know a lot more about it than them. For the inexperienced it can be a daunting prospect. Many approaching rtirement might execute a subtle sidestep. That's why we can't move on - just yet.

Anyone working for a local authority should take careful note of the Ofsted report on the performance of LEAs in supporting schools ICT (pp 24-25). There are mitigating reasons why it is so deeply critical, but no one is saying it is not accurate. The trouble is that, until a proper ICT strategy is in place and the duties and responsibilities of LEAs are made clear, there are plenty of places for those responsible to hide.

Don't forget that we are talking about councils - many of them weren't in good shape even before battle lines were drawn up by Margaret Thatcher. And it's not as if they don't have problems with other services. Ask a council tenant. The estate is scruffy and dirty and you know that the caretaker's never there. But as soon as tenants get a list of the caretaker's responsibilities it suddenly gets cleared up. Surprise, surprise.

The Ofsted report points to the need for a national ICT strategy, and apparently this was generally accepted at a recent meeting of the computer advisers' organisation, NAACE, many of whose members are the very people referred to by Ofsted (for better and worse).

If such a strategy was in place, I don't think we would be hearing of missing millions from effective heads like Marion Brooks (right).

Merlin John, editor of TES Online

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