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Unions 2000 Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Puttnam's 'beat Disney' call
Lord Puttnam told heads of the need to use new technology
By Gary Eason at the NAHT conference in Jersey

The film producer turned teachers' champion, Lord Puttnam, says educators must embrace new technology - and match the way it is used in movies and computer games.

Lord Puttnam, chairman of the new General Teaching Council for England, said education was the key to success in the new, knowledge-based, digital economy.

New technologies offered "boundless opportunities" - but films such as Disney's Dinosaurs distorted the facts.
Carol Adams
Carol Adams said teachers needed a sabbatical to re-charge
"We need to realise precisely what the consequences might be if we fail to offer alternatives to Walt Disney's version of history," he told the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers.

The challenge facing teachers was to use the technology increasingly available in schools to "ignite the imagination of young people on our own terms".

Internet bubble

People should not be fooled by the bursting of the bubble of a few companies - the internet was here to stay.

The "twin evils of cynicism and complacency" could prove to be the country's undoing if it failed to realise its undoubted potential.

The Confederation of British Industry was predicting a shortage of 330,000 skilled information technology workers by 2003, he said.

There was a danger of Britain being left behind as countries such as India used their education systems to "intelligently place" themselves to take advantage of economic changes.

"We cannot afford to turn our backs on the learning potential offered by digital technology," he said.

He attacked those "siren voices" who dismissed the knowledge economy as "some sort of Blairite mumbo jumbo".

Sabbatical for teachers

There was no false choice between literacy and computer skills, nor did technology mean the importance of teachers was being eroded.

The way information technology was used in the classroom would be a priority for the General Teaching Council, he said.

Its chief executive, Carol Adams, set out the council's aims when it starts work in September, to promote and regulate the teaching profession and advise ministers.

She stressed that the 64-member council was on the side of teachers. It would hold regional meetings to listen to what teachers wanted it to do.

A proposal which went down well with the audience of heads and deputies was for teachers to have a sabbatical, allowing them to spend time in other schools or universities or industry.

The money this cost would probably equate to the amount currently spent on sickness absence, she said to applause.

Ms Adams said later her idea was that after, say, five years in school teachers would get to spend a few weeks or a term away.

"People need a break to broaden their horizons," she said.

The biggest cost would be covering for the teachers in their absence, and she hoped funding would be available to make the scheme happen.

Industry had been tremendously supportive of initiatives such as the literacy hour and might want to sponsor the sabbaticals, she suggested.

See also:

03 Dec 99 | UK Education
09 Feb 00 | UK Education
13 Apr 00 | UK Education
28 Oct 99 | UK Education
11 Apr 00 | UK Education
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