Computer scheme is a farce

28th April 2000 at 01:00
I AM disgusted, but unsurprised, that the Department for Education and Employment has suddenly decided to end the Computers for Teachers Scheme at the end of April. The uptake has been too great for the limited "pot" of subsidy money so this is presumably its solution to the problem.

I am an information and communication technology co-ordinator in a junior school and I have already purchased and received my computer. However, I have been assisting several of my colleagues with purchases and have run into the following problems.

1) We assumed that the tax and national insurance on the subsidy would be paid by the Government - then we discovered that it wouldn't so several colleagues decided that it wasn't worth it and then the DFEE backed down and agreed to pay it, but failed to amend the Computers for Teachers' website until long after The TES had announced it!

2) The scheme was originally published as running for three years, not for four months a year for three years! Unfortunately those whom the scheme targets - people on or about to commence training who do not have a computer - were not informed of the new deadline until Friday via an advertisement in The TES. This was the last day of term and we do not return to school until after the last order date of April 30.

Now some of my colleagues who wished to purchase a computer under the scheme this year (o they can practise at home during our training next term) are unlikely to make the deadline and will have to manage without.

3) The Computers for Teachers' website is out of date and the offers are now so diverse and complex that what would appear to be a good offer is actually not as great as it seems.

One supplier is apparently offering 0 per cent finance on a good basic package, but when we rang them it transpired that this offer is only available on an executive upgrade. We were told that the National Grid for Learning will not allow them to explain this on the site - very helpful.

Another colleague simply did not understand the diversity of options available (Gb, Kb, modem speed etc does not mean very much to many non-ICT specialists) and would not have bothered to pursue the offer without advice from me.

4) The suppliers are now so inundated with requests for information and orders that they cannot even answer calls! One supplier's switchboard operator apologetically told us to try again today when we rang on Friday and today it has taken three hours to get through to someone.

My verdict on the Computers for Teachers scheme - another great idea which has turned into a bureaucratic farce and will not help those it was meant for. What a shambles!

Louise Neve

ICT co-ordinator

Manor junior school



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