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Books lose their appeal to shiny new tech

They are supposed to be the guardians of educational standards but inspectors just cannot help but be won over by shiny technology.

Research suggests they are far more likely to be impressed by a school's flat-screen monitor or computers' processing speed than the collected works of Shakespeare or Chaucer in its library.

The fact that spending on books is more likely to improve pupils' academic performance seems not to have registered with the Office for Standard in Education, according to academics.

An analysis of Ofsted reports found that inspectors were more than seven times more likely to comment on the quality of a school's ICT equipment than on books. And what inspectors say, it seems, goes. So instead of the traditional class swot's apple for teacher, schools are trying to win over inspectors with their Apple Macs.

The desire to impress their assessors leads the average school to spend three times more on information and communications technology than on books. But the researchers say spending on technology is not a significant factor in raising overall school results in examinations.

"A bandwagon for IT has been reinforced by the growth of competition between schools. Schools are anxious to demonstrate they perform well against the standards set for them and are often preoccupied with their Ofsted inspection reports," their study says.

It points out that almost half of UK students have to share textbooks and that the average school has just 11 books per pupil.

With schools and inspectors blinded by new technology it is left to parents to do things by the book.

A survey published last year by Norwich Union, the insurers, found that parents spend pound;37 on books for each child of secondary-school age - almost double the median pound;20 per pupil spent by schools.

Allocating school resources: Does the inspection regime cause ICT to be emphasised at the expense of books? by Steve Hurd, Jean Mangan and Nick Adnett s.j.hurd@open.ac.uk

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