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The New Opportunities Fund ICTtraining is under way but most schools are still faced with choosing a provider. And many of them are extremely ignorant about the scheme and what it has to offer. Worryingly, others are being misinformed by their local advisers. A great deal of time at BETT 2000 will be taken up trying to persuade teachers to take a particular path, but it is not as simple as that. These are big decisions: large schools will have around pound;50,000 to spend.

Problems are already beginning to arise. In order to give schools choice, the whole scheme was made competitive. A competitive training scheme needs a strong regulatory body that will ensure that rules are observed. If that is not done, teachers could lose out in the rush of companies to acquire as much of the Lottery cash as possible. There is evidence that this is already happening. Some providers are complaining that the scheme is not being well policed and that rules are being ignored.

A list of new providers has been approved and that makes the task for schools more difficult. The temptation to follow anyone with a strong opinion who sounds as though they know what they are talking about should be resisted. Find out what you need. Do an audit of the staff. One sheet of A4 with the right questions will tell you all you need to know. Armed with this, you can see what has to be done.

From the beginning of the initiative the TTA (Teacher Training Agency) envisaged the LEA role as minimal. That has not pleased LEAs and some have started to play a major role. LEAs who are accredited providers have a particularly difficult dilemma when they invite schools to make a choice. Some providers have offered LEAs inducements if the LEA can secure the allegiance of schools. There is nothing illegal about this strategy but it does raise some questions. In some cases, this means that an LEA will receive a sum of money for each teacher who is persuaded to take part and the LEA can spend this on hiring extra advisory staff to support the scheme. There are other variations on this approach. One provider is giving cashback to schools.

The decision about which provider to use is the school's and not the LEA's. Schools have to ensure that any advice they are given is unbiased and objective. Training does no have to be completed until 2002 so the wise schools will spend the first year listening to the experiences of those who decided to start early.

BETT will give a unique opportunity to talk to a number of providers as well. Use it well. Prepare your thoughts before you go to BETT.

Points to consider * What kind of training is on offer? Distance learning? Face to face? Mixture of both?

* Describe to them where you want to be in 2003 and ask how they will get you there.

* Remember that you can use a number of providers. You do not have to choose just one * Look especially at the providers who are offering training targeted on a curriculum area.

* Ask them to describe the unique features of their scheme.

* Look carefully at the materials. Ask if they were developed in house or bought in. Are they backed by research?

* Do they offer real accreditation rather than a certificate of completion?

* What level of resourcing will you need to work with a particular provider?

* Test out providers who are offering training for all curriculum areas. Are they going to do them all well? Ask how one provider can satisfy the needs of all teachers and all departments.

* Don't be railroaded into using a provider that you are not happy with. Remember that a school can use a number of providers.

* Will any additional school money need to be spent?

* Find out if a provider is happy to share the training work in your school with other providers.

* What level of competence will staff need before they can profit from the course?

* Discover how much of the training will be in the teacher's own time.

* Does the provider have an agreement with your LEA? Why? What do they both hope to gain? What is in it for you?

* What happens after the training? Ensure that curriculum developments will take place that will use the new skills acquired by staff.

* Ask around at BETT, you will be surrounded by knowledgeable people: local providers, national providers and subject providers. Listen to recommendations from as many sources as possible not just your LEA.

* Listen carefully to all advice but remember - the choice is yours.

New Opportunities Fund Stand: TC34

TTA Stand: B100 0171 925 3758

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