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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 13:58 GMT
Pupils lack online access, say Lib Dems
child using PC
The Lib Dems want to encourage "computer whizzkids"
Even though schools are connected to the internet, there are still too many pupils for each online computer, say the Liberal Democrats.

Research carried out by the party suggests primary schools had an average of 56 pupils to each computer with internet access and secondary schools an average of 46 pupils.


Every child must have the chance to become a computer whizzkid. We cannot allow the digital divide to spread from home to school

Richard Allan, MP
Over 25% of primary schools had just one or two computers with internet connections, the Liberal Democrats say.

Schools were "increasingly being stuck with outdated equipment", the survey claims, with 44% of primary schools using computers which are more than three years old and 18% using computers which were more than five years old.

The survey claims 27% of primaries spent over 1,000 or more on computer maintenance each year.

Where equipment was not repaired, 10% said the reason was lack of funding, 15% said there was no staff member available to fix the problem and 34% said the equipment was too old to make the repair work worthwhile.

2002 target

But recent statistics from the Department for Education showed that 88% of schools were connected to the internet, with the government well on track to meet its target of all schools being connected to the internet by 2002.

While the Lib Dem research acknowledges that these official figures were "technically accurate", it suggests they were "perhaps somewhat misleading".

Information and communication technology (ICT) provision was improving, it concedes, but it was "intermittent and far from ideal".

"It is also apparent that schools are struggling to keep up with the changing pace of ICT provision, both in terms of maintenance and repair," the research concludes.

'Disadvantaged'

The findings were revealed by the party's education spokesperson and chair of the House of Commons Information Select Committee, Richard Allan.

"There is no point in the government hitting its target of getting every school online if there is only one connection per 50 pupils," Mr Allan said.

"Children will leave school disadvantaged unless schools and teachers have the funding, support and expertise to repair and maintain IT equipment.

"Every child must have the chance to become a computer whizzkid. We cannot allow the digital divide to spread from home to school," he said.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Education
Schools 'on track' for online target
21 Sep 00 | Education
City-wide school computers scheme
13 Jan 00 | Bett2000
Pupils embrace web for work and fun
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