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Broadband body urges change in strategy

Schools need to change management strategies to help them exploit fully the potential of ICT and broadband networks, according to a new report that highlights the barriers stopping Britain from becoming a world leader in broadband use in education.

Schools that had broadband access were discovering innovations that allowed learners more flexibility and improved management and administration, but the Broadband Stakeholder Group, a government advisory body, identified a number of problems that must be rectified before use of broadband becomes widespread in the 40 per cent of schools with a high-speed connection.

These include a need: to motivate teachers and heads so broadband became an educational "pull" not a technology "push"; to overcome inconsistencies in the use of broadband between schools; to unite fragmented funding streams for broadband projects, and ensure they are sustainable in the long term.

Keith Todd, chairman of the stakeholder group, said: "The education sector is not yet fully exploiting the potential of ICT. Broadband represents a challenge to traditional methods of teaching, learning and administration and needs effective change management processes to ensure educational organisations are compelled to use broadband."

The report recommended that a central online resource should be created to show schools how to fully integrate broadband into teaching and ensure teachers had effective technical support in the classroom.

It also called for guidelines on how funding could best be pulled together to support broadband projects and ensure they were sustainable for at least three years.

The group believes broadband in education can play a major role to achieve the Government's goal of a connected Britain. "The widespread and systematic use of broadband in education will be a significant driver for residential broadband demand and take-up. To achieve this, universal access in all learning institutions is required," the report stated.

In November, Prime Minister Tony Blair said all schools would get a high-speed connection by 2006.

However, Dr Gordon Ross of consultancy said the report emphasised communications and technology at the expense of information. "The focus should be on information strategy, user requirements, and management of change, rather than on technology and networking per se," he said. (See letter page 28.)

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