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On the training ground;Cover feature;National Grid for Learning

According to the Department for Education and Employment's latest data, 68 per cent of primary and 66 per cent of secondary teachers feel confident about using information and communications technology (ICT). The figures last year were 65 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.

That aside, the findings suggest at least one third of teachers lack confidence in using ICT. Therefore, to fight the skills gap, the Government has allocated pound;230 million of National Lottery funding to help teachers and librarians acquire ICT skills.

The New Opportunities Fund (NOF), which administers the Lottery funding, has designated around 50 approved training providers for teachers including Anglia Multimedia Professional, Longman, Staffordshire ICT for teachers and the Learning Schools Programme, a joint venture between RM and the Open University. Vanessa Potter, a NOFspokeswoman, says the aim is for each school to have a choice of between five and 10 training providers in their area. Additional training providers will be announced next month. "Some of these will fill in some of the gaps we had in the first round, such as special educational needs and the Welsh language," says Potter.

In addition some local authorities have used Standards Funding to provide training. Walsall has provided training for its 130 schools, much of it using RM's Windows Box Internet PC, and requires two teachers from each to attend courses and learn how to use the Internet and create web pages. Joy Owen, Walsall's primary co-ordinator and one of the trainers, says: "We've given all 2,000 teachers their own email address and we've standardised email addresses, so it's easy to contact colleagues. Email has been very successful and many teachers are using it."

NOF is working closely with LEAs, and Potter says that schools should have hardware in place before staff start their courses. Many of the course materials are online or on CD-Rom, so much of the training is done on-site. The first NOF training courses began last June, with teachers from around 60 schools taking part. NOF says that by the end of spring 2000 term, some 56,000 teachers should have received training. All very commendable, but that still leaves around 400,000 teachers to be trained by the end of summer 2002.

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