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Bett2000 Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 13:40 GMT
Teachers offered 500 for computers
computer room group
Teachers need to be comfortable with the technology
By BBC News Online's Sean Coughlan at Olympia

Teachers in England are being offered a 500 subsidy towards buying computers so that they can be as confident with new technology as their pupils.

The Learning and Technology Minister, Michael Wills, speaking at the opening of the BETT2000 educational technology show in London, announced that all teachers who were taking part in information technology training schemes would be offered a subsidy of half the value of equipment, up to 500.

michael wills
Michael Wills: Stressed need for technological 'social inclusion'
The 20m scheme links the discounts with the government's efforts to make teachers more familiar with information technology, spearheaded by a training programme funded by 230m from the lottery-supported New Opportunities Fund.

The discount is a little more than had been expected. But teachers will have to be quick: the amount on offer is enough for only about one in eight of England's 400,000 teachers, on a first come, first served basis.

Mr Wills also announced the beginning of a project to give schools high-speed connections to the internet, with the launch of eight regional broadband consortiums, involving 80 local education authorities.

This will be supported by 37m from the government's standards fund, said the minister, and represented the first steps towards linking all schools to such networks.

Whole courses via the internet

In a speech that emphasised the changes that technology would bring to schools, Mr Wills also announced a 5m project to provide lessons through the internet and CD-ROMs.

As part of the government's drive to raise standards in the early years of secondary school, the 11 to 14 age group would be the first to use these screen-based courses, which would deliver elements of the curriculum using interactive technology. The first pilots of the scheme have been promised for September 2000.

The advance of the internet and information technology should be used to "liberate teachers to teach", Mr Wills said, and he promised that the government would use new technology to reduce the burden of administration on school staff.

In two or three years, he said, the government would have phased out the use of paper as the main means by which schools received official advice and information, with a switch to online information systems.

'Digital divide'

The importance of social inclusion was also emphasised by the minister and the danger of new technology creating a "digital divide" between the computer haves and have-nots.

"We will fail unless all our people are given the chance to take advantage," he said.

There was a real danger that technology could create new barriers which would compound existing disabilities and disadvantages.

Mr Wills said schools and governments had to work hard to ensure that the potential benefits were shared among the many rather than becoming the preserve of the few.

The Department for Education says the 'computers for teachers' subsidy will run until 2002 but may end earlier if demand is such that the funds are used up before then.

A leaflet explaining all the options is available from the freephone number 0800 036 6500. Details are also on the new Computers for Teachers website.

See also:

15 Mar 99 | UK Education
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