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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 13:34 GMT
Boosts for online learning
entrance to the BETT show
Details were given at the BETT educational technology show
Pupils could soon be using the internet to learn Japanese in one of a series of computer initiatives announced by the Learning and Technology Minister, Michael Wills.

Experimental courses for 11 year olds moving to secondary schools will include video-conferencing with Japanese youngsters, he said at the opening of BETT 2001 educational technology trade show at London's Olympia.

michael wills at the Bett 2001 show
Mr Wills said ICT - used effectively - raised standards in the classroom
Maths and Latin will also benefit.

Mr Wills also gave details of how 400m out of 1bn set aside by Chancellor, Gordon Brown, last year for new technology would be spent.

In 2001-2, 245m would be made available to help schools in England buy more computers and get internet connections, followed by about 139m in the next two years.

Laptops for some teachers

The government has set a target of one computer for every eight pupils in primary schools and one for every five in secondary schools. Currently, the ratios are one for 12.6 and one for 7.9.

Computers have the potential to transform teaching and learning

Technology Minister, Michael Wills
A further 17,000 maths teachers will be given up to 500 to buy their own laptops, at a cost of 15m, after 28,000 got the grant last year, Mr Wills said.

For the first time there is to be a similar scheme to provide subsidised computers for teachers in the further education sector, including sixth form colleges. Details have yet to be finalised

There were complaints last year that the hugely popular "computers for teachers" initiative applied only to schools.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said he was angry that this year's schools scheme was being limited to those teaching maths.

He accused the government of reducing the scope of the scheme for "cost-cutting" reasons.

Educational benefits

Mr Wills also launched Gridclub, a "fun educational" website for seven to 11 year olds.

Part of the government's National Grid For Learning, it is intended to raise educational standards and enable young children to use the internet safely by developing their own online "hobby clubs".

Mr Wills said criticism that computers did little to raise standards in schools was misplaced.

Research by the government computer agency Becta showed there was a "consistent trend" of 11 year olds doing better at schools with up-to-date ICT (information and computer technology) facilities, he said.

"The weight of evidence now emerging on ICT in the classroom, boosted by the report published today, sends a clear message that ICT raises standards," Mr Wills said.

"Computers have the potential to transform teaching and learning."

There will also be a pilot competition for the development of online teacher training materials in literacy and numeracy for primary teachers and selected subjects for secondary school teachers.

Online lesson plans

"Teachers can save vital time and effort accessing lesson materials through the internet," Mr Wills said.

"We will be launching a pilot via TeacherNet in March to produce at least 1,000 lesson plans with useful linked resources accessible on the web.

"Over 200 lesson plans are already available through the Standards website. The pilot will provide new materials in a number of areas of the curriculum through the TeacherNet portal launched last October.

"Teachers will directly benefit in the classroom from these resources produced by their colleagues and peers."

There will also be pilot schemes to advise schools on buying and using ICT, and to provide technical support for small schools - a big problem area for schools with limited staff but increasing amounts of technical equipment to maintain.

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