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Teacher Support

1 Only the brave trespass on the subject of the teaching profession without acknowledging:

First - and most fundamental - the crucial importance of teachers in ICT. It is a sad contemporary reality that teachers are under respected and under revered. We do not make that mistake. If we wish to ensure that our children and our country reap the benefits of ICT we must cherish our teachers and do everything we can to help them to take it on board.

Second, if ever there is an example of the risk of "death by a thousand initiatives" it is teacher training! It is difficult to blame and easy to sympathise with the consistently critical - and exhausted! - feedback we have received about the number of knee jerk changes made to teacher training. Changes should be made to the training of teachers to encourage the use of ICT only if Government has a genuine and clearly stated belief about the huge importance of ICT.

2 The objective should be for all teachers to have competence in ICT and to be confident in its use. To bring this about, action is needed on teacher training, both initial and in service, along with other supporting measures.

3 One general theme that dominated virtually all feedback on this subject was the need for teachers to have regular access to ICT in a hands-on way. We state this before listing what perhaps will be a rather obvious menu of actions that a Government can take. We do this to underline the crucial point that improving formal training courses, while important, is only part of the answer.

4 This important caveat aside, the key areas in which Government should produce detailed plans premised on precise targets are:

Nothing more and nothing less is needed than for the Government of the day to put this at such a priority that all teachers have a basic ICT grounding as part of their initial teacher training and that among the criteria for successful completion of an initial training course should be appropriate levels of competence in the use of ICT. Until and unless Government insists on this it is difficult to see how the TTA - beleaguered by requests on all sides - can sensibly respond.

Assuming some automatic ICT training for all teachers, this will ensure that after 10 years, approximately 55% of teachers have a basic training in ICT on the basis that the current size of the profession and the average turnover rate of 8% remains steady. This, however, does not achieve a sufficiently far reaching transformation. To it will need to be added ...

In service training

In service training is the key to improving skills and confidence in the use of ICT within the teacher force. To repeat, training on the job in a way that will enable teachers to become competent in and receptive to ICT is critical. An incoming Government must cause the TTA to devise a programme which will ensure that this is done for all teachers as a matter of urgency.

In addition, there are other initiatives which can support teachers to train "on the job", namely ...

Getting computers into the hands of teachers.

Where teachers have access to a computer of their own, they rapidly become competent and above all confident at using it.(1) Any time spent at home with a computer is invaluable in staff development terms. We suggest that Government should contemplate some form of income tax allowance regulation to allow full tax breaks for teacher ownership.

Ensuring that an increasing number of teachers have access to a computer at home will also help mitigate the problem of how teachers can find the non contact time to prepare for contact teaching.

Setting up an external network

A network using dedicated Web sites on the Internet where teachers can exchange, improve and swap ideas about software will contribute dramatically, at minimal cost, to increasing teachersŐ confidence, as well as skills, in using ICT to teach.(2)

In our view a network of this kind will be an essential element in teachers" continuous professional development. We therefore endorse the proposal recently flagged up by Tony Blair for what he called a National Grid for Learning. This has many applications. As more teachers become ICT literate and enthusiastic, the effect of a relatively modest investment on the part of Central Government in providing the means for them to exchange their own software, improve it and exchange it again will be enormous.

We put as a "footnote" to this section a suggestion made to us by several people, namely

Training of school advisors and inspectors

In order for bodies, such as OFSTED, to carry out their functions effectively, they too need to be properly trained in ICT. All advisors to and inspectors of the education service need to be equipped to recognise and appreciate effective use of ICT in schools. It will cost little to ensure that a far greater critical and potentially creative facility is built into the inspection system. This will not only benefit the schools: in addition, well-informed reporting by OFSTED will be essential information to Government about the progress of its strategy.

5 Finally, we should draw attention to a constant underlying theme of much of the evidence and feedback we have received; namely that the time is right for an independent review of the examination system in the light of the changes in ICT. Such an independent review should examine inter alia how word processing skills, so valued by employers, can be used in examinations and tests; and how the possibilities of ICT can be harnessed for more effective assessment. It should also tackle head on some of the very tricky problems of veracity and originality posed by students being able to reproduce and change their own and others' work.

Cross references to McKinsey:
(1) Engaging Teachers, (2) Improving Software Supply

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