UP TO 10,000 teachers in more than 700 schools will get laptops for less than pound;10 a month under a rival initiative to the Government's scheme.
The Technology Colleges Trust has launched the alternative - which still requires teachers to contribute hundreds of pounds towards a computer, even with a rebate of up to pound;500 before tax.
Nigel Paine, chief executive of the Technology Colleges Trust, said teachers at schools affiliated to the trust would be able to lease laptops for around pound;8 a month.
A small number of technology companies are involved, so teachers will have a choice of machines. Apple computers and PCs will be available. A prospectus has been drawn up by the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency.
If the scheme, to start before the end of February, is successful, Professor Paine said it could be made available to teachers at any school. The Department for Education and Employment is nterested in the idea, he said.
A growing number of schools are giving laptops to their teachers to help them become confident computer users and improve information flow.
About 220 teachers at the 17 schools involved in the Southend on Sea education action zone have already been given their machine, while the remaining 205 will get one before the end of the month.
Andrew Hutchinson, chair of the information and communications technology group for the zone, said those involved believed the benefits produced by giving laptops to all teachers justified spending a significant proportion of the funding on computers. Some of the estimated pound;340,000 cost was being met by ABK, a firm which leases equipment to schools.
Giving teachers completing the Lottery-funded computer training personal access to a machine will make it much easier for them to put what they have learned into practice, Mr Hutchinson said.