Howells' pledge on learning grid

13th June 1997 at 01:00
Training for teachers is the key to making the best use of the Internet and other new technology, teachers have told the Department for Education and Employment.

Dr Kim Howells, junior education minister, was greeted at a conference in Cambridge for more training in computer skills.

He told his audience: "The whole question of training and retraining teachers so that they can develop information technology skills is a very important commitment.

"We don't see any point in providing them with materials if they can't use them. We're going to provide a lot more training otherwise it's not going to work."

Chrissie Barclay, head of Icknield primary school in Cambridgeshire, told the conference she had a Pounds 300 budget for IT at her 230-pupil school and relied on supermarket deals for equipment. "What I really want is the time to train teachers properly," she said. "We need time for teachers to sit down in front of the screen and get used to it."

Julian Pixton, managing director of software firm Logotron, said many claims made about computers in schools were overblown. Too much emphasis had been placed on technology and not enough on learning, he said.

"There seems to be an assumption that any use of IT in schools has got to be good. It isn't true. The agenda has been dictated too long by technologists. Don't let them set the agenda or you will end up with confusion. IT should be used only as part of the curriculum."

He said that arguments from the "hardware lobby" that assumed all schools should have a high level of up-to-date equipment was flawed.

The calls for better training echo the recommendations of the Stevenson Commission, set up by the labour leader Tony Blair while still in Opposition. Dennis Stevenson called for a formal programme for teachers and trainees if young people were to be taught to become comfortable and competent with IT.

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