Give teachers first byte

10th November 2006 at 00:00
Peter Wright teaches in West Lothian

It was the best of weeks. It was the worst of weeks. The week in question had been preceded by five days of holiday. Worse, it was initiated by an authority in-service day.

As usual, there had been little consultation with staff regarding the day's contents and the manner in which they should be delivered. Past experience indicated that we should fear the worst Our fears proved to be well-founded. One of the deputes began by telling us about the latest version of the authority's reporting system. This time, apparently, they had got it right. There would be no more frozen screens.

No more lost data. We had lift-off.

Last I heard, as at the end of the week, "Houston, we still have a problem." Solved? Don't be silly!

Next up came another depute, focusing on the Additional Support for Learning Act. The staff learnt that virtually any child might be defined as having an additional learning need, which the school is obliged to provide for. Additional resources? Don't be silly!

Then we learned of the new management system which has been brought in to replace Phoenix. It has the additional advantage of period-by-period registration. Terrific. Goodbye handwritten registers. Goodbye kids wandering around with paper discrepancy slips. A teacher can simply record the pupil's status at the start of the lesson and then access the computer to check on a pupil's record when writing a report or checking homework.

Er, no. Classroom teachers such as myself have not, so far, been given the necessary permissions. We still have to go to the office and ask one of the office staff for a printout. So we have to keep written records still.

Trust classroom teachers? Don't be silly!

Next came an invited speaker. The subject was mental health. The irony was not lost on the staff. We learned everything we needed to know about mental health. So much for the worst. What of the best?

The week ended on a high: a session on interactive whiteboards. There was a good turnout. The training was hands-on in parts. Every byte of information was of direct practical use. Three hours flew by.

Afterwards, one teacher compared it to in-service in their school and how such occasions might be improved. I have the answer for that: let classroom teachers do it. Will "they"? Don't be silly!

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