Computers for all - as long as you teach maths...

9th February 2001 at 00:00
The TES postbag has been inundated with letters from teachers upset at the restrictions placed on the computer subsidy scheme. Here is a sample.


On hearing about the offer from the DFEE here is an open letter to those holding the purse strings:Today I accessed the NGFL website to find the latest information about the Computers for Teachers scheme 2001. I was shocked to find that the scheme is now only available to key stage 3 teachers of mathematics. When I rang the helpline number I was informed that I was the 400th person to express my displeasure. I will outline my reasons for doing so below.

When this government was elected to the ringing tones of "Things can only get better" a majority of teachers were really pleased to see a change. However, is there a teacher in the land who would not express total disgust at the way we have been treated since? The workload imposed by the followers of Thatcher and Major is as nothing to the huge increase imposed since. We are a very unhappy group of people desperately trying to do a good job for the children in our care while "the powers that be" dump load after load of manure on our heads.

I have visited my own MP to express my feelings on this issue. She seemed unimpressed simply because she knew there is no opposition and that the Labour Party will get in again at the next election. Having no viable opposition does not mean you are right. It simply means you have to take more care to do the right thing.

When the Computers for Teachers scheme was announced in 2000 we, as staff, looked at it very carefully. We priced up similar machines on the high street and realised that those on offer with the scheme were inflated in price, but still gave good value for money after the refund. Of the two teachers that bought a computer in 2000, one chose to use the scheme and one chose to purchase from the high street. Many other staff decided to wait for a year to plan what they were going to do. We realised that the offer could go up or down. Yet we did not expect it to be withdrawn from 95 per cent of all teachers!

We made plans, saved money, changed our telephone provider, all in anticipation of January 2001. Well thank you so much!

I have been in charge of ICT in two schools over the last 10 years. I have spent over pound;3,000 of my own money on a BBC computer, an Acorn computer and a Power PC. This last is now five years old and in need of replacement. I cannot access the Internet using a free phone line and my time on line is lengthy due to the slow modem speed. Oh yes, I bought a faster modem but that was four years ago and things have moved on. And why did I bother to spend all this money? So that I can access the latest educational ideas and materials on the Net. I even use sites in the US on a regular basis. All at my own expense. Usually I spend pound;25 per month on the Net, 90 per cent of which is school-based. Over the years I have spent many hours per week developing ideas in my own time at home for use in ICT. With the rapid changes over the last few years I have fallen back and now need to upgrade my equipment and my skills.

Now, just for once, I thought that I might get pound;250 back for being a good boy.

This morning I was in school at 7.45am creating a database for our Year 34 children to explore. At lunchtime I took a guitar class and helped some children search the Internet for weather data from Alaska that we could use for numeracy work on minus numbers. Until 5pm I was helping colleagues set targets for our children in literacy and numeracy. I also found time to teach a full workload and do two playground duties. Playground duty and guitar classes are only once a week, but the rest is a normal day.

Teachers all over the country are working to breaking point. They are miserabe and unwell. The money-back offer for computers was no answer but it made a few of us feel just a little bit better. Its withdrawal is simply a kick in the teeth and probably one of the worst moves ever made by a government department. As NOF training swings into action many teachers are going to consider purchasing a new computer. In thegeneral scheme of things pound;300 to pound;500 per teacher is very little.

One final thing: I have actually been advised not to send this letter as it may affect my prospects. Even I didn't think things were that bad!

G P Keeling Earl of Dysart Primary School Grantham, Lincolnshire


I am disappointed to see the Government restrict its Computers for Teachers 2001 offer to key stage 3 maths teachers only. As the deputy head of a Group 3 junior school in Huntingdon, I am aware that there are many teachers that need a good incentive to purchase a computer and they had been waiting for the second round of this initiative in order to do so. They are going to be disappointed that they do not qualify, because the government does not feel that what they do is as important as a KS3 maths teacher, or indeed that they need a computer to do their job.

We have recently been bombarded with ICT initiatives that will enhance the teaching in our schools. Just before Christmas all KS2 teachers were given the Grammar for Writing document with a CD-Rom. An excellent resource, but they can only use it at school as they do not have a computer at home. The ICT in the Numeracy hour resources followed. Again they have to become familiar with the resources at the end of a long and tiring day. An ideal situation for encouraging teachers to develop ICT for themselves and their children.

We are also undergoing our NOF training. My staff were particularly looking forward to purchasing a subsidised computer after the first session. The training is quite demanding and it was one way of encouraging them to do it.

How can this Government possibly expect to attract good people into the profession when the ones they do have are treated so unfairly? The Government should do the right thing and open up this subsidy for all teachers.

Tony Collins Earls Barton Northampton


I am delighted that you have looked into this matter. It is somewhat ironic that Lord Puttnam's recent speech indicates: "By and large, the integration of the technology into daily classroom practice isn't happening any thing like fast enough." Not particularly surprising when teachers cannot plan effectively.

Dr Shaun Kirby Folkestone, Kent


Why, why, why is the Government no longer funding the purchase of computers for all teachers? The NOF training is running for three years (I am attending a course that is running in the second year). Why then am I not able to access the funding that was offered to my colleagues who attended the training in the first year so that I can acquire a computer to practice my skills?

Ann Hitchins Effra primary school Lambeth, London


The news on the 2001 subsidies is crushing. As a part-timer, Imissed last year's round since its unheralded withdrawal coincided with my non-teaching days and school holidays. Ihave soldiered on since then on a forward promise of the scheme's reintroduction this January. Now I learn that Iam debarred from applying as Ido not teach KS3 maths. Ironic isn't it that teaching KS3 ICT does not qualify me?

Presumably, the expectation is that Iwill fund my own computer out of my part-time salary, or find it out of my husband's salary or out of my threshold payment - should Imanage to cross it. Bear in mind that this will be a part-timer's portion of a threshold payment.

Jane Breed Clophill, Bedfordshire

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