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When needs must;Hands on

Jack Kenny looks at the training needs assessment CD-Roms for teachers and assesses their impact

Next year will be the one that focuses on training for the National Grid for Learning. Schools are now receiving CD-Roms from the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) that will work in association with the training programme of the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) to help assess teachers' training needs so that schools can target their allotment from the national training programme more effectively.

Considerable amounts of money have been spent on these materials; approximately pound;1 million was spent on materials that were later aborted. But the ICT:Identification of your training needs CD-Roms are worthy of praise - well-structured and with clear navigation, they are far less intimidating then the paper materials already circulated.

The primary disk covers English, mathematics and science and the secondary disks look at English, art, business studies, design and technology, geography, history, information technology, mathematics, modern foreign languages, music, physical education, religious education, science and home economics (Scotland). They are available for PC and Mac; at the moment you have to specify which you require but future copies will operate on both Macs and PCs.

A teacher should be able to work through each subject in about 40 minutes. But it is possible to gain a great deal more from the disk if you look at allied curriculum areas. The disks are intended to be used by everyone, but even so, a new user will have to concentrate and will probably require extensive help. Some IT co-ordinators have complained that too much ICT knowledge will be required from users.

The curriculum examples are well chosen but too much time is taken up with class teaching methods. Some of the video clips are too brief: you have only just had time to settle into the line of thinking and attune yourself to the speaker's voice when it stops. And I am sure that some teachers will criticise the use of an electronic whiteboard in some of the disk's primary examples as being unrealistic since they are still comparatively rare resources in schools.

But the main fault of the program is that it lacks a precise analytical tool. The dilemma that has bedevilled the TTANOF training from its start is the conflict between the training a school requires and that which an individual requires. This would not be such an issue if the methods used to report teachers' findings about their own needs were rigorous.

Instead the software simply lacks the sophistication to compile the needs of a group of teachers in a way that will summarise them for the school. The responses teachers are asked to make will be diverse and will require considerable interpretation and it is difficult to see how a teacher's needs will be translated into the action necessary to satisfy them. It would also have been useful for teachers to be able to map their progress as the training gets under way.

The materials are a welcome attempt to empower teachers to ask some searching questions of the trainers. It is just a pity that they were not structured with greater rigour.

If you have not received the disks or need extra copies please phone the TTA Publications Unit on 0845 606 0323. The New Opportunities Fund's website provides a wealth of useful information andits catalogue can be downloaded from the site at

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