Vouchers scheme alone will not plug skills gap

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
Shaun Pye, below, checks out a special offer on IT training.

Tesco's latest computers-for-vouchers scheme has met with mixed responses, with some critics insisting that teachers are still not receiving the information technology training they need to make use of subsidised equipment.

Tesco, the first of the supermarket chains to introduce vouchers for schools to redeem for computer hardware and software, has now added IT training to the package. Schools which claim a computer this year using Tesco Computers for Schools vouchers (each representing Pounds 25 spent at Tesco) will receive training worth Pounds 80 from Xemplar, the educational ITcompany.

Rachel Morrison, a spokeswoman for Tesco Computers for Schools, said: "The money will pay for one teacher to spend two hours, hopefully one-to-one, with an Xemplar computer trainer during the autumn term. This is not aimed at IT teachers but at ordinary history or geography teachers, for example. They will be asked to bring along their computer and shown how to configure it, set up the printer and load up the software.

"We expect 5,000 places to be taken up this year. Obviously the scheme started out as a sales promotion but this shows that we understand the real problems facing teachers in IT."

Christina Preston, an IT educationist, said: "As the Stevenson report (from Labour's working group on IT) indicated, IT training for teachers is extremely high on the priority list. This practical measure will help to get computers out of their boxes and into staffrooms and classrooms."

But reaction from teaching unions was muted. Richard Margrave, spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "It is interesting that Tesco has now identified the key challenge. But two hours of training will just about show someone how to attach the plug and turn the computer on."

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "There are 25,000 schools that need teachers trained in IT. Why is it being provided by a supermarket? There are also suggestions that training should come from National Lottery money. We think money for essential training must come from the Government."

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