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Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Hi-tech help for special needs
Computer keyboard
Communications technology is to be used in schools
Voice-recognition software and devices controlled by eye and mouth movements are to be developed for use by special needs pupils.

The Schools Minister Jacqui Smith has announced a 10m scheme to develop communication devices for children with physical disabilities.

This will include scanning and speech synthesiser equipment and hand-held spell checkers - and in some cases, pupils will be able to keep equipment for use in work when they leave school.

The money will be spread across two years, with 3.5m in 2002-2003 and 6.5m in 2003-2004.

"There have been tremendous advances in communication technologies in recent years," said the minister.

"And it is right that we should seek to exploit these new technologies - both hardware and supportive software - to help children with communication difficulties."

"As well as helping young people to access the curriculum and learn alongside their peers, this project will aim to ease their transition from school into employment or further or higher education," said the minister.

"In some cases this may mean that a particular piece of equipment goes with the young person, and the concept of 'personal' equipment will be at the heart of this work."

The project, paid by the Treasury's capital modernisation fund, will be managed by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.

Last week the government announced that defence researchers would be commissioned to adapt military technology to be used in schools.

Technology developed for use by jet pilots, which tracks eye movements, is to be customised for use in diagnosing dyslexia in young children.

It is believed by researchers that children with dyslexia might show signs of unusual eye movements, which can be detected by equipment developed for jet pilots.

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See also:

20 Mar 01 | Education
Jet pilot technology for dyslexia
13 Mar 01 | Education
Disabled pupils 'challenge barriers'
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