BETT '99 diary

12th February 1999 at 00:00

The pound;230 million scheme to train teachers for the National Grid for Learning, one of the vital elements in the Government's pound;1 billion project, has already hit a snag. The first stage - to analyse teachers' training needs - should have started last month with the distribution of a CD-Rom to all schools to conduct the analysis.

However, when staff at the Teacher Training Agency, responsible for the exercise, were shown the CD during the BETT technology show last month they were not happy. Now the agency plans to circulate written forms instead. It expects the CD, if it ever appears, by the summer.

The reliance on paper has led teacher trainers to question the agency's decision to award the pound;1 million contract for the CD-Rom to a computer company (ICL) rather than an institution specialising in teacher education. The agency remains tight-lipped about what was wrong and ICL is refusing to comment, but it is understood that it blames the TTA for "moving the goalposts".

The agency insists that the training programme will not be delayed and expects the first schemes to go ahead in April.


"Can you describe your assailant?" the police asked a tortoise that had just been mugged by two snails. "No, it all happened too fast," replied the tortoise.That was just just one of the gems from humourist Barry Cryer who provided the entertainment at the BETT show's revamped educational technology awards last month.

Apple's celebrated iMac was the winner of the secondary equipment award at the event, held in the Park Lane Hotel in London. This relaunch of the awards elevated them to education's equivalent of the Oscars, although educationists have already dubbed them the Betties.

The organisers, the British Educational Suppliers Association, EMAP Education and 'Educational Computing and Technology' magazine, sent 70,000 nomination forms out to schools. Then a panel of judges, including myself, sifted through them to draw up a shortlist for schools to vote for (by post or electronically). They received 1,400 votes.

Great efforts were made to keep the process fair. But if you don't think anyone in education would cheat, think again - one nomination was weeded out for unfair canvassing. The organisers will be just as vigilant next year and welcome advice.

BESA website: Full awards list, page 24.


Can you imagine a time when you can only get on to the school network by providing a fingerprint? It's already here. Two firms at BETT'99 were showing this emerging security technology. The computer giant, Compaq, which is stepping up its presence in education, and Total Memory and Media Ltd, which reckons its U,are.U system can cut 40 per cent of support calls for forgotten passwords.


Leaving Olympia after a hard day's work on her stand, an exhibitor said to me: "I can't wait to rest my feet. It's been a whirlwind. I haven't stopped talking to people all day." Now she knows how teachers feel, I thought.

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