The national providers These have an almost irresistible appeal to many schools. Most are one-stop shops, but there is a need for caution:
* How many of these consortiums and groupings were involved in curriculum training before this initiative came along?
* Are they going to be equally strong in all curriculum areas?
* Can they ensure quality is maintained across the UK?
* Do they understand the uniqueness of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?
If you want to use a national provider ensure that everyone on the staff is happy.
LEAs or councils The advantage of an LEA is obvious - you probably know them. You will be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and even if you cannot you can listen to the local network of teachers and heads. The other advantage is that they will continue to be on your doorstep and they will understand local conditions. If you know they are the best that your pound;450 can buy then your quest is over; if you are not, you still have a rich choice.
Subject associations Many teachers will be keenly attracted to the sharply focused curriculum groups such as CILT, RENET, Science Consortium and the Scottish Science Consortium because in many ways this is what the training should be about. It is a matter of regret to many teachers that more groupings were not successful in gaining approval.
egional providers A regional provider has to prove that it has better material than the national providers, and strategies that will be better than the local providers. Do enquire about materials and their way of working. If anyone is offering you money back, look at the deal carefully. Where are they economising?
Librarians are often concerned that they are treated as also-rans or poor relations. The answer is to choose a specialist provider with library credibility. The needs of librarians are very different from the needs of teachers and choosing a specialist provider shows that they are valued.
Special needs (see page 19) Distance learning
The attraction of distance learning is that quality can be conveyed to many people, and distance learning is a feature of much of the training. At its best it will mean that a great deal of time and effort has been expended on getting the material and the delivery right. At its worst it could leave teachers confused and with no one to answer questions for days at a time. The quality of the mentors is crucial and that is difficult to assess until training is under way. Complain early if standards are not what you expected. See the quality of the written material.
Primary teachers are often concerned to ensure that their training is not diluted secondary material and many will go for people who claim to focus the training precisely on the primary curriculum. Most of the primary specific providers are also local people, and that could be an added advantage.