Headlines: January 9th, 2003

Schools need to make the best possible use of technology to make ICT integral to children’s learning experiences according to the Schools Standards Minister, David Miliband.The importance of technology was one element of his strategy for teaching in the new century, outlined at the North of England Education Conference. In other areas he called on teachers not to stand in the way of reforms which would see a bigger role for teaching assistants. There is resistance to that from teaching unions but it has been welcomed by UNISON which represents a quarter of a million school staff.

On technology the Minister told delegates, “Teaching needs to make best use of all available technology. A hundred years ago this meant a desk and a chalkboard. Today it means palm-tops, the Internet and the dazzling possibilities of digital media.”

He said in 1997 the challenges facing the government had been to cut the price of Internet connections, spread hardware, train teachers and develop software. “There has been significant progress in all four areas but much more is needed if ICT is to become not just a bolt-on but integral to the learning experience,” he said.

Mr. Miliband went on, “ We need to see a step change in the quality of the educational tools available to the teacher, with genuine savings in time and workload as it becomes the norm for every teacher to plan, teach and mark using a laptop. We need to exploit the potential to new technology to improve assessment, testing and examination. And we need to use ICT through email to link school and home, teacher, pupil and parent.”

On assistants he said the vision of more personalised teaching meant a chance to do things differently with lessons being delivered under the leadership of qualified teachers but not using only qualified teachers.

UNISON’s Senior National Officer Christina McAnea welcomed the idea of a proper career structure for assistants. “Teaching assistants have a wealth of experience and expertise that has largely been under utilised and under valued,” she said. The union says three in ten assistants are already being used to take whole classes without teachers being present.