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Friday, October 22, 1999 Published at 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK


Free laptops for new headteachers

There will be a laptop for each of this year's 1,200 new headteachers

New headteachers have been promised a laptop computer each, as part of the government's campaign to encourage schools to make greater use of online resources.

At a conference for new headteachers in London, the Prime Minister Tony Blair and Education Secretary David Blunkett announced a £3m scheme to provide 1,200 new headteachers with laptops.

The computers will allow headteachers "to share ideas of good practice, to improve their skills and training and get involved in discussions on induction and training opportunities via an interactive website," said Mr Blunkett.

Connecting the laptops to the internet will give headteachers access to the growing range of online materials provided by the government - including the resources for teachers in the National Grid for Learning and from the National College for School Leadership.

The National Association of Head Teachers is backing the laptop scheme, saying that it is one of the most cost effective ways to improve the quality of headteachers and to raise their awareness of new technology.

The provision of laptops for new headteachers is the latest stage in the government's encouragement of information technology use among teachers.

A pilot scheme testing the usefulness of lending laptops to teachers, and a subsidy for teachers wanting to buy laptops, have previously been launched by the government.

Looks good - but of limited use

The Department for Education's study of the use of multimedia portables found that those aspiring headteachers who had them were "overwhelmingly positive" about the initiative.

One of the major reasons they liked having them was that it enhanced their professional image among staff, students and school governors.

The would-be heads also said it allowed them to prepare better designed teaching materials and increased confidence and interest in information technology among other teachers.

But e-mail and the web were use infrequently due to a lack of confidence, understanding, and time.

And the laptops did not save them time because they had to learn how to use them, although they did then feel better organised and more efficient.

They were very impressed by the software supplied - but also clearly overwhelmed by it and not well-enough trained to use it to anything like its full potential.

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