Don't mention the election

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Users of teachers' websites say they are baffled as to why the Government shut down around 100 discussion forums on teaching in the run-up to the election.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency was forced to suspend its 90 online forums after the election was announced. Similar action is being taken by such websites as Teachernet and Governornet.

The agencies acted in response to guidance from the Cabinet Office, which has recommended that all government-funded organisations should suspend online discussion groups until after May 5.

The move has frustrated regular users of the Becta forums, who say their discussions were always educational rather than political.

Ruth Newbury, a special educational needs co-ordinator at the independent Kings school in Ely, said she had visited a forum on SEN daily to discuss issues such as autism. "Politics is the last thing we would discuss - it's sheer education," she said.

Becta said that, since receiving complaints from teachers, it had approached Howell James, permanent secretary for government communications, who agreed to let the agency relaunch 50 of the 90 forums this week. The agency will be allowed to run the discussions providing it monitors them closely to ensure that all comments are teaching-related.

Teachers turned away by the government websites will be welcome in The TES's online discussion forums at

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