12th May 2000 at 01:00
How many schools do you know that serve fresh langoustines for school dinner? Rothesay primary school on the Isle of Bute does. More importantly, the school has another claim to fame - it was one of the first schools into the NOF training through the Scottish Council for Educational Technology (SCET) and the Learning Schools Programme (LSP - ie RMand the OU) and now the headteacher, Roddy McDowell, is in demand to address conferences on the mainland via a video-conferencing link.

It is an interesting road which started on a beach. Johnny Bute, that's what the Marquis of Bute likes to be called, lives on the island and keeps a watchful eye on his domain. Bute has a beautiful coastline and it was while Roddy McDowell, whose hobby is sailing, was clearing some of the rubbish from the beaches that he got talking to the Marquis. That talk led to a regular, motorised clean-up operation and also to some new computers for the school. Semi-feudal it might be but it works for the children, and the ensuing skills might be a way of ensuring that many more of them will be able to find employment without having to go to the mainland.

Bute was once a tourist centre for industrial Glasgow and was badly hit by cheap foreign holidays. Already there is an important Telecom Service Centre (TSC) call centre on the island staffed by local people and this emphasises the eed for ICT skills.

Roddy McDowell has built links with that as well. Rothesay Primary School has a number of new Macintosh iMac machines courtesy of the Marquis, the local council and the call centre and McDowell wanted to make sure that they would be well used. In spite of the fact that there is no compulsion nationally for all teachers to do the training, McDowell feels strongly that children have an entitlement to ICT in all of their work. "For children it should not be a lottery. We would not allow teachers to pick and choose about literacy. The anarchistic approach just won't work. I said to my staff, no one will force you to get ready by a certain date. We will provide enough training and you will have the opportunity. The whole school approach to ICT training is the only one that will work."

McDowell was insistent that his school would be early into the NOF training. He went to SCET, working with the LSP, and determined that the style of training would be the one that would suit the school. The bulk of the early training has been absorbed by Bernie Leitch who passes on to the staff the skills to use ICT as a teaching tool, practical ideas and approaches to apply in their own teaching. In consultation with LSP she has devised a personal route through the training to support individual needs plus a whole battery of stimulus ideas.

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