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Warning over strings attached to laptop cash

Teachers will have to train in their own time to qualify, reports Warwick Mansell.

THOUSANDS of teachers will have to take up to 40 hours' training in their own time to qualify for a cut-price computer from the Government, unions have warned.

Ministers last week launched the pound;20 million Computers for Teachers scheme, which offers a limited number of applicants a subsidy of up to pound;5,000 for a new machine.

But to qualify, all teachers must first have registered for computer training funded by the National Lottery's New Opportunities Fund. One in 10 teachers has so far done so.

The pound;230m training scheme does not fund supply cover while teachers are on a course - meaning most teachers will have to train after school if they want the discounts.

One union described the offer as a cynical "inducement" to teachers to boost flagging numbers on the courses. Another said it was unfair that the discounts had been launched with nine out of 10 teachers unable to apply as they had not signed up for training.

Olwyn Gunn, education secretay of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said few schools had been able to afford supply cover. Some courses required a 40-hour commitment. "The subsidised computers could be seen as an inducement to teachers to sign up for the training. This is not a good way of being positive about ensuring that teachers are trained properly," she said.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said it was "unfortunate and unfair" that the discount scheme had been launched with 45,000 teachers in a position to apply, and the rest not.

A Department for Education and Employment spokeswoman said: "The original design of the scheme recognised that teachers would have to invest their own time for training."

The DFEE also confirmed this week that the subsidy would incur income tax and that teachers would pay VAT on computers purchased under the scheme. Together these account for more than pound;338 of a pound;500 subsidy on a pound;1,500 computer. The TES is campaigning for all teachers to get a free laptop.

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