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The majority of schools still have to choose their providers for the national ICT training scheme for teachers being organised by the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) and funded with lottery money from the New Opportunity Fund (NOF). They will not be helped by the culture of secrecy that still obstructs schools from finding out what the quality assurance has discovered about providers. The BETT show gives you a unique opportunity to question a range of providers. The TTA has told us that all the providers who were approved in the first round (in the "big red book" that was sent to all schools) will have been quality assured by the end of 2000.

Graham Foster, head of planning and resources in education and training at the unitary authority in Telford has considerable reservations about the whole scheme. "It is an impossible task for schools to evaluate the range of providers and to relate all that to the schools' needs or those of individual teachers. In Telford we have developed an authority wide approach with Capita that nearly all the schools have signed up to. We want to ensure that the content of the training relates to the real needs of this area. We want to provide support through mentors. We also want good quality assurance. We have to structure the training so that it meets the needs of our schools and teachers."

Here are some lines of enquiry so that you can ensure that training meets the needs in your school:

* Ask any prospective training provider how they were rated by the TTA quality assurance team and if they had to change their course or their materials. If they were given a clean bill of health they will probably be only too pleased to tell you.

* Will their teaching style suit your learning style?

* Will the technology in your school be able to cope with increased staff use both during and after the training?

* How is your school planning to use the new skills that staff will acquire?

* Has the provider considered what comes after the NOF training?

* How do they propose to assist those teachers who have no skills at all?

* Will the provider be able to cope with the varied levels of ability in your school?

* Discover if a corse is heavily dependent on distance learning with massive amounts of documentation. How will colleagues cope with that?

* If they are using hands-on training, what are the size of the groups?

* Do they have their own quality assurance? If so, what are their procedures and what are their results?

* What will the training enable you to do that you cannot do now?

* Try to ensure that the authors of the materials have substantial experience of your phase?

* What is the length of the training?

* Will teachers have to spend substantial amounts of their own time to complete the training?

* Ask to see the materials and try to judge on their density, the user friendliness and the appropriateness.

Finally, TES Online would like to enlist your help in removing the curtain of secrecy from this initiative. Schools who are quality assured through OFSTED have the results published for all to see. We do not see why NOFTTA training providers should be any different. A great deal of money is being spent on this initiative and schools need factual information in order to make sensible choices. Write to us to tell us of your experiences with training providers, why you made the choice that you did, what you experienced, what you found good or poor. We are just as interested in positive experiences as negative ones. Please give your contact details and email address. All responses will be treated as completely confidential unless you tell us otherwise. Email:

Facts and figures from the TTA

As of August 2000, 161,139 teachers have trained so far:

* There are 489,000 full time equivalent teachers in the UK.

* 328,000 teachers have yet to train. As far as quality assurance is concerned, 25 evaluation focus weeks have now taken place no providers have completed QA procedures or processes and13 providers have been re-evaluated. NOF has a consultation document on future programmes available on the Department of Culture , Media and Sport's website There is unlikely to be an extension of the programme. NOF aims to ensure that all schools make use of their entitlement by the stated deadline of 31 March 2002.

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