Teachers furious at subsidy snub

9th February 2001 at 00:00
Government plansrestricting funds to secondary maths teachers spark outrage, writes Chris Johnston.

Thousands of teachers remain furious over the decision to restrict the Government's pound;15 million computer subsidy scheme to those teaching key stage 3 maths.

Many who missed out last year had anticipated claiming the pound;500 rebate to help them buy a PC in the second phase. Their hopes have been dashed by the decision, announced by learning and technology minister Michael Wills last month, to restrict the cash.

The Computers for Teachers website says the focus on maths recognises "the importance of maths teachers and the need to support them in making the subject more attractive for young people". A DFEE spokesperson claimed this did not mean that non-maths teachers were any less important and that the scheme would help another 17,000 teachers to get their own computer.

Mr Wills said the first scheme was an incentive to get teachers to sign up to the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) ICT training. As more than 237,000 have now done so, he said it was no longer needed.

However, the Government still expects teachers to become confident and competent classroom technology users and research shows that personal access to a PC is vital for this to happen.

Steve Bacon, general secretary of computer advisers' association NAACE, said the scheme was a good policy and there was evidence that the 28,000 who were helped last year now use ICT much more effectively in their teaching.

However, he said the focus on one group of teachers was disappointing and that NAACE would pressure Mr Wills into allocating more money to future phases of the scheme. "Computers are a valuable professional tool and not just a toy," Mr Bacon said.

The National Association of Head Tachers' Chris Thatcher said teachers who applied and missed out last year were led to believe they would get another chance this time. "There is a lot of disappointment and I am not saying that key stage 3 maths teachers don't need the subsidy, but there are a lot more who need it too," he commented.

Mr Wills said there was no reason why the scheme should be run the same way this time as it was last year.

Primary teachers in particular felt very let down, according to Mr Thatcher, head of Potter's Green primary in Coventry. Graham Keeling of the Earl of Dysart primary in Grantham, Lincolnshire, is one of the many angry teachers. He said the rebate "was no answer but it made a few of us feel just a little bit better. Its withdrawal is simply a kick in the teeth and probably one of the worst moves ever made by a government department."

Jim Milne, of Mosspits junior school in Liverpool, said the decision was "a slap in the face for the primary teachers who have started their NOF training in good faith, giving up their own time, because they were led to believe they would be included in this year's scheme". Karen Willder, a NOF trainer for primary teachers with the University of North London, commented: "This is just another blow to their morale."J Mr Thatcher said the Government should explore other ways of helping teachers to get a computer, such as leasing schemes. Education technology guru Professor Stephen Heppell said teachers should be exempted from paying VAT on PCs.

Further education lecturers are eligible for a subsidy, but they must wait until a scheme is set up later this year by the new Learning and Skills Council. Eligible teachers must register by February 23.

See Letters, page 29

Computers for Teachers www.cft.ngfl.gov.uk

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