7th November 2003 at 00:00
During the summer an announcement for a pound;25m interactive whiteboard initiative was placed in the European Journal - open information about a large, and largely welcome, allocation of public money.

But inquiries about this from TES Online to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) were met by a stonewall. Then, at the end of September, education minister Stephen Twigg "launched" a pound;25m whiteboard project for London schools (news, page 4) at the Education Show in Olympia.

Three questions, then. Are ministers authorising multi-million pound payments before their civil servants and press officers understand, and can discuss, the policy justifications? Is it normal for civil servants to manipulate information on public spending decisions to earn ministers political cachet at public events? And how should teachers in conurbations outside London feel about this?

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) demonstrated its commitment to good practice when it appointed award-winning teachers to its own board. Some of these were practitioners selected through its own 2003 ICT in Practice Awards. How odd then when Becta was given its higher profile and increased budget that the DfES should purge virtually all practitioners from the Becta board.

Odder still, captains of industry (many mystified) were invited in to give the board "prestige". What are these newcomers supposed to know about ICT in education that award-winners like Heidi Fawcett, head of St Mary's Primary School, Glasgow (pictured), do not? And what message does this send to the teachers whom Becta and the DfES exhort to excel with ICT?

There could be hard times ahead for the conference circuit. The special needs exhibition, Transform 2004, due to be held next year at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, has been cancelled due to lack of sponsorship. Despite massive government investment in ICT, trading conditions are still difficult. Another cancellation is the Bridging the Digital Divide conference on open source technology due to be held in Birmingham in October.

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