Two out of three lack computer basics

Tes Editorial

Two out of three lecturers and managers say they lack essential computer skills needed for effective further education teaching.

A five-year training programme has been approved by the Further Education Funding Council following the Further Education Development Agency's survey of 15, 000 staff in 327 colleges.

Half of those surveyed said better skills would help cut workloads. Three out of four said they would like to use information technology more widely at work. But further research by FEDA shows that only 1 per cent of staff have a computer set aside for their own use.

The recent FEFC inquiry into the IT needs of colleges showed a continuing distrust of technology. Training and development work was given top priority in an #163;84 million list of proposals.

Colleges will be disappointed that the five-year programme will attract only #163;5. 5m, some of which must come from commercial sponsorship. But most managers admit that in a time of belt-tightening, this was all they could hope for.

Stephen Crowne, FEDA chief executive, called the survey "startling". It suggests that the training problems run far deeper than even Sir Gordon Higginson, chairman of the FEFC inquiry, feared.

"The findings of our survey show that a programme of staff development and training in information and learning technology is urgently needed if the sector is going to take advantage of new technologies and compete in a modern economy, " said Mr Crowne.

The survey results suggest that although managers have cut staff and teaching hours, creating more economic IT-based learning resource centres, they have failed to plough savings into essential retraining and staff development.

Only 27 per cent of staff said their managers encouraged them to use IT at work, while 30 per cent said the equipment was "inadequate". Only 34 per cent agreed that learning technology was well integrated with their work.

Six out of 10 replies were from women and FEDA is to carry out additional work to see if the skills training offered is biased against women.

The FEDA concluded that there was a real desire for IT training but colleges were failing to give adequate support. It has designed a staff development and training programme alongside the National Council for Educational Technology.

The FEFC will pay #163;1.9m and the balance will come from FEDA, the NCET and commercial sources. Colleges will be invited to bid for "demonstration projects", to spread good practice. A range of training workshops will also be provided for managers, lecturers and support staff.

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