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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 00:07 GMT
School reports going electronic
School pupil looking at computer
There will a drive for more school information to be put online
The traditional school report is to be replaced by an electronic version delivered by e-mail, Schools Minister Jim Knight is set to announce.

Parents are to be promised much more up-to-date information about their children's progress, on the desktop.

This will include "real-time reporting" on pupils' work and behaviour in all secondary schools in England by 2010.

Mr Knight wants to get technology "at a good price" for low-income families who have no access to a computer.

Speaking at the BETT educational technology show in London, the schools minister says the real-time reporting will "break down barriers" between school and home.

I don't see why the government shouldn't be able to get technology at a good price for low-income families
Jim Knight
He will say that electronics such as computers and mobile phones should be used to give parents information about their children's school work.

This would give parents access to "frequently-updated information on children's achievement, progress, attendance, behaviour and special needs wherever, whenever they want, using password-protected, secure, online systems".

Primary schools in England will be expected to provide a similar service for parents by 2012.

'Security risks'

But there have been warnings from teachers about "Big Brother-style monitoring of everything a child does at school".

The Professional Association of Teachers says "personal contact must not be replaced by cold, electronic data" and it warns about the "data security risks" that will be created for schools.

I'd rather not have more of my children's information put onto computers
Vicki Shepherd

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, raised concerns about whether too much information would be generated - for both parents and teachers.

"We would also have concerns about adding to teachers' workloads. Providing reports is part of their job, but it should not be made into a daily occurrence," she said.

The National Union of Teachers said until it was clearer what was meant by "real-time reporting" that it would "treat this aspiration with caution".

'Digital divide'

Mr Knight says using the internet and mobile phones will help build links with "hard to reach" parents and will "deepen the school-parent relations".

There will also be efforts to make sure that children from more deprived backgrounds do not lose out because of a lack of computer equipment at home, with a pilot scheme examining ways of reducing this "digital divide".

There are a million children living in homes without access to a computer, says Mr Knight, who intends to negotiate with providers.

"I don't see why the government shouldn't be able to get technology at a good price for low-income families," he says.

As an example of a school already using technology to connect with parents, the minister pointed to Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham, where "parents have secure, online access to up-to-the-minute information about many aspects of their children's life in school".

Cramlington Community High in Northumberland encourages parents to e-mail teachers to discuss children's progress, and the Cardinal Wiseman Catholic Technology College in Birmingham has a website with an "e-portal" for parents.

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