'Face to face' is key

1st November 2002 at 00:00
Although NOF has failed in its original goal, Jack Kenny says many have benefited and the lessons learned may well be invaluable

The biggest training initiative for UK teachers will end officially in March 2003, but some schools will carry on. NOF training (funded by the New Opportunities Fund) gave pound;230 million for the training of all teachers in the use of ICT - that's around pound;450 per teacher. Although finding praise for the scheme is difficult, it's by no means impossible.

The Priory School in Slough was the only school chosen as a provider. The quality assurance report on them was clear: "The Priory School is an exemplary trainer. The training is highly motivating to teachers and fully meets or exceeds the expected outcomes of the initiative."

Jacqueline Laver, deputy head of Priory at the time of the training and now head teacher, accounts for the success. "Teachers went out from here to deliver the training, all of which was face to face. Teachers need supportive people. They appreciate being taught by people who understand how they feel," she explains. "The training was based on the needs of the teachers and we treated them as individuals."

The sad thing is that most of the things that have gone wrong were predicted at the start. Now the post mortems on the whole scheme have started bearing out the original criticisms. Recently Ofsted published their findings. "NOF training remains unsatisfactory in its overall effect," it says. "Training in around six out of every 10 secondary schools and half of the primaries has so far failed to tackle adequately those issues relating to the quality of ICT use in classrooms."

"In spite of this poor overall picture, there have been some improvements. NOF training is most successful where senior managers in schools take an active interest in teachers' progress, where there is effective peer support and where groups of teachers meet for part of the training."

Tim Tarrant of the Teacher Training Agency is upbeat about the programme. "Many teachers have finished their training and we want to build on their experience," he says. "The important thing is to learn lessons that can be applied in the future and to bring the programme to a closure. Early findings about the type of training that was effective are particularly interesting."

Tarrant has been responsible for the NOF programme of training at the TTA, particularly the quality assurance procedures. Summaries of the findings were eventually published on the NOF website. He feels that the position has improved significantly in the last year now that ICT systems in schools have bedded down and trainers have continued to improve and adapt their models to meet the needs of schools. Teachers are now better placed to take advantage of the new developments, such as Curriculum Online, and there are also opportunities for them to consolidate their ICT skills using training programmes such as Intel's Teach to the Future.

The target for the TTA until the quality assurance finishes in April 2003 is to review the progress of every school with the training providers. Its aim is that 75 per cent of the 390,000 teachers signed up for NOF will complete the training. Tarrant argues that although it will be some time before we can measure the impact of the training, there are already gains evident in many schools, there is now an unprecedented willingness for teachers to engage in ICT and there have been many people trained to help and support their colleagues. He feels that it is possible to suggest that some models of continuous professional development have more impact and validity than others. The TTA has commissioned a report on this and the lessons to be learned from NOF.

With Curriculum Online imminent, we need a teaching profession that is ICT literate and teachers who can use ICT to teach. It was hoped that NOF training would do that. For many, it still remains to be done.

DfES- The DfES programme builds on experience gained from the NOF initiative although the new material will develop other areas of the curriculum. www.dfes.gov.uk

National College of School LeadershipBecta- A national programme has been developed by NCSL and Becta to help headteachers focus on their role in leading ICT in their schools. www.ncsl.org.uk

INTEL Teach to the Future - This is a free, training skills-based course that will help teachers integrate ICT into their teaching of the curriculum. www.intel.comenglisheducationteach.htm

* Ahead in Essex

In conjunction with Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS), Essex LEA has run training materials in schools. This covers use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. Essex ran the pilot with two primary schools and three secondary and found that children as young as 11 could learn these skills and pass the online tests. They now have 11-year-olds passing the equivalent of GCSE level exams! Further details from richard.cole@essexcc.gov.uk


* Turning heads

ICAA (International Curriculum and Assessment Agency) has planned a two-day course for senior managers and head teachers on the theme of managing schools for the future. The course is designed to assist schools in identifying the ways in which ICT will change and affect teaching, learning and school management and to develop a vision of the future. Further details from ICAA, Tel: 01962 735801 www.icaa.com

* NOF lessons

* LEAs are not always good partners with trainers

* A robust ICT infrastructure is necessary

* Trainers need to respond quickly to problems

* High staff turnover widens the training gap between schools

* SEN trainers and specialist library trainers have both been a major success

* E-learning alone fails to connect with teachers

* Secondary schools don't respond well to the whole school approach

* Schools must be clear about purpose of training

* Trainers need own quality assurance procedures

* There has to be effective support within the school - the school must be directly involved

* The trainer must understand the issues within the school

* Not enough subject-specific knowledge was made available

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